LONDON (Reuters) – Formula 1 could start the season behind locked doors and be without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the glamorous sport will likely have to decrease considerably to get the green light for racing.
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Formula 1 F1 – Australian Grand Prix – Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia – March 13, 2020 General view of the starting lights after the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix due from the novel coronavirus. / Photo taken on November 10, 2018 / REUTERS / Loren Elliott
Across Europe, the ban on mass gatherings and public events was extended in July and August, even as countries begin to break strict restrictions that have suspended sports activities.
The Formula 1 season remains at a standstill, with seven races postponed so far and the organizers are talking about a reduced schedule that could extend until January.
The BBC reported Thursday after an online team boss meeting that the final plan was to start in camera in Austria on July 5 and then run two races at Silverstone, a place of reception for seven of the 10 teams.
Racefans.net suggested that Silverstone could participate in three races in four weeks and on different configurations.
Formula One chief executive Ross Brawn said earlier this month that drastic measures are under consideration.
“We are looking at the logistics of a closed race, how would we get people there, how to protect them, how to secure them, who would we allow in the paddock,” he said. “Each permutation is under discussion.”
Austria has declared that it will not oppose a race without spectators if the travel restrictions are lifted and other safeguards put in place.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the Austrian Red Bull-owned circuit in Spielberg could be ready very quickly.
“The prospect of being able to run a closed-door race is entirely achievable,” he told Sky Sports Television.
“I think there is going to be a step-by-step route to full grand prizes and there are some circuits with which they talk about crowd-free events, potentially focusing only on TV events for now with a limited number people. ”
WHAT IS A MASS EVENT?
The rules of Formula 1 stipulate that each of the 10 teams may not have more than 60 people “who are associated in any way with the operation of the cars” in the paddock.
Then there are the Pirelli tire fitters, FIA technicians, other key suppliers, Formula 1 employees, broadcasters and the media, as well as hundreds of track and medical personnel.
Broadcast staff ranges from 40 to 45 people, typically for UK Sky Sports television, half that number for Sky Italia and eight for Sky Germany.
“Operational staff is pretty much defined by regulation,” McLaren team director Andreas Seidl told reporters on Wednesday.
“I don't think it will be much different from normal racing events, because we just need everyone to run the cars, maintain them over the weekend, run them and make the pit stops . ”
Formula 1 sources said detailed conversations were underway with the teams to strip the numbers, with media access likely to be restricted to ensure safe spacing. Team marketing and sponsors should stay away.
The feasibility of a “ghost race” just for television also depends on the interpretation.
“Even without spectators, we would have many people on site to organize the event,” said commercial director of the Belgian Grand Prix Stijn de Boever, whose country on Wednesday banned mass rallies until the end of August.
“What is a mass event? Does that mean 500, 3,000 or 5,000 people? ”
The hope in Formula 1 is that the realization of some races, even without an audience on the ground, opens the possibility of a real championship if the Asian and Middle East races can continue later in the year.
Alan Baldwin's report; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar
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