F1 set to start in Austria after coronavirus ravages season
Motor racing chiefs have confirmed the start of the 2020 Formula 1 season with an eight-race roar through Europe starting in Austria in just over a month.
The circuit should have vroomed into life in March at the Australian Grand Prix. But the event in Melbourne was called off at the last minute due to health fears as the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold.
The disease has accounted for another nine Grand Prix since then.
However, after conceding that the races will have to take place without spectators, organisers have anointed the Austrian Grand Prix on 5 July as the new launch point. The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg will hold a second event on 12 July.
That will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix on 19 July.
Two races are planned for Silverstone in central England on 2 and 9 August. But they will only happen if the British government removes the 14-day quarantine rule on people entering Britain or if F1 is granted an exemption.
18 race target
Barcelona will then hold the Spanish Grand Prix on 16 August.
F1 said in a statement: “Due to the 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.”
Spa in Belgium and Monza in Italy will conclude the European meetings with races on 30 August and 6 September respectively, the dates they originally held in the calendar.
Chase Carey, the F1 chief executive, added: “While we expect the season to commence without fans we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back. But we know the return of Formula One will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”
Jean Todt, the president of motor sport's governing body, the International Automobile Federation, echoed Carey in a tweet.
I welcome the restart of @FIA @F1 World Championship. Unprecedented #COVID19 crisis, unprecedented actions to resume the championship in the best possible conditions: congratulations to everyone who made this happen. Looking forward to the 1st race in Austria. I will be there! https://t.co/GzsrckRzcW— Jean Todt (@JeanTodt) June 2, 2020
Edge in the pits
But there may be a touch of social awareness added to the glamour and glitz when the vehicles screech into the paddocks.
Lewis Hamilton, the reigning world champion, dragged the sport into the political arena on Sunday.
On social media the 35-year-Briton, who is mixed race, bemoaned the silence of his fellow pilots since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.
The unarmed black man died after a white police office knelt on his neck despite having Floyd in handcuffs and on the floor.
Riots and protests have swept the United States since Floyd’s death and a host of international sportsmen and women have added their voices to the campaign for racial justice in America.
Seven drivers including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc responded to Hamilton’s lament on Monday on social media.
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