F1 ready to unveil eight-race European start to season from 5 July | Sport

Formula One has mapped out a blueprint for an eight-race, behind-closed-doors European leg to kick off the season, the Guardian can reveal. The plan – drawn up by the sport’s owner, Liberty Media – is likely to be announced next week, although with the caveat that a second coronavirus wave in the UK could wipe out any chance of racing taking place across the continent.

Liberty’s blueprint would involve a 5 July start for the 2020 season, with two grands prix in Austria, followed by another two at Silverstone, and then one in either Budapest, Hockenheim or Barcelona. The final three races will be held at Spa and Monza, in August and September, in a combination yet to be decided. There are no plans for a return of the Dutch GP.

F1’s European calendar is now dependent on changes subject to whether the British government imposes a 14-day quarantine on entry into the UK, a decision on which is expected by the end of this week. F1 is pushing for an exemption to the quarantine for its teams and personnel. If the restriction is enforced, the two races at Silverstone will not take place, with Hockenheim likely to become the alternative venue.

Should coronavirus reassert itself in the UK and lockdown be reimposed, the season in Europe would be over before it has begun, given that seven of F1’s 10 teams are based in the UK and would therefore be unable to operate. “That is a major worry for everyone involved,” said an F1 source.

F1 teams are entering the end of an extended shutdown period. With racing planned to resume on 5 July there is now some urgency for the calendar to be confirmed so that the required preparations can begin. That is likely to happen as soon as a decision is made on UK quarantine rules.

“By the time the F1 shutdown finishes there will be a firm calendar, because people will have to know what they are doing when they get back to work,” the source said. “Certainly by the end of next week I expect everything to fall into place for the European calendar.”

The schedule for any remaining races outside of Europe remains under discussion, with F1 hoping to hold up to 16 races. In what is likely to be a busy second half of the season, Canada and Singapore remain under consideration, before proposed meetings in Azerbaijan, Russia, China, Japan, the US, Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

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