Formula One has confirmed its rescheduled calendar for the European leg of the 2020 season with racing set to begin in Austria on 5 July. After 10 race cancellations because of the coronavirus, the sport has now settled on its plan for eight meetings in Europe, all of which will he held behind closed doors. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is included in the calendar for August but its confirmation remains subject to government coronavirus restrictions.
The season will open with two races in Austria at the Red Bull Ring, on 5 and 12 July before the teams head directly to Hungary for a third meeting on the 19th. The British Grand Prix will be one of two races then set to be be held back to back at Silverstone on 2 and 9 of August. However, while the circuit is prepared to host them they will only take place subject to the government relaxing the current 14-day quarantine on entry to the UK before that point or F1 being granted an exemption. The sport is expected to be given special dispensation to do so this week.
Negotiation with the government is ongoing to resolve this but it is understood that Hockenheim in Germany will stand in to host two races if restrictions remain in place. Barcelona will then hold the Spanish Grand Prix, the third meeting in another triple-header on 16 August.
Spa and Monza will conclude the European meetings with races set for 30 August and 6 September, the dates they originally held in the calendar. The second race in Austria will be named the Steiermark Grand Prix, after the region in which it will be held and the Silverstone race the 70th Anniversary GP, celebrating the sport’s heritage since the first championship was held in 1950.
“Due to the ongoing fluidity of the Covid-19 situation internationally, we will be finalising the details of the wider calendar and hope to publish that in the coming weeks with an expectation of having a total of 15-18 races before we complete our season in December.” F1 said in a statement. “We currently expect the opening races to be closed events but hope fans will be able to join our events again when it is safe to do so. The opening calendar will include holding two consecutive events at the same circuit one week apart as well as a number of back to back events.”
Chase Carey, F1’s CEO, welcomed the return of the sport. “While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do,” he said. “But we know the return of Formula One will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”
The first and only time F1 has previously held a triple-header of races was in 2018 when the French, Austrian and British grands prix were run one after the other. The sequence proved to be wearing on the teams and the intent was not to repeat it. However with time limited to achieve as much racing as possible this season, they have accepted multiple three-race runs. More are expected when the season visits Asia and the Americas.
F1 is targeting holding a total of up to 18 races when it confirms the flyaway events that will follow. Canada and Singapore remain under consideration, before proposed meetings in Azerbaijan, Russia, China, Japan, the US, Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
The teams will also vote this week on F1’s proposal to hold reverse grid qualifying at the venues hosting two back to back races, Austria and Silverstone. The concept is that a 30-minute race with a grid ordered in reverse championship standings would be held to decide qualifying positions for the second race. F1 and broadcasters are eager that the second race at the same venue is on some level distinguished from the first.
The idea is understood to have broad approval but that Mercedes are opposed. Mercedes have previously voted against F1’s attempt to trial a reverse grid format this year, objecting to the idea as a gimmick that detracts from the sport. They are expected to remain in opposition and unanimity across the ten teams is required for this rule change to go through.