F1 could present overhauled, provisional 2020 calendar

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit de Spa-Francorchampsbe

While Liberty Media and the FIA are doing its utmost to provide an update about the revised 2020 calendar, the sport stresses that the fluid nature of the situation makes it difficult to determine the start of the season.

In light of the coronavirus crisis, Formula 1 has announced the postponements or cancellation of the first nine races of the 2020 season. While the COVID-19 continues to disrupt the championship, forcing it into lockdown, the sport intends to start the season at some point this Summer.

“Formula 1 is currently working with our Promoters on a revised 2020 calendar with the actual sequence and schedule dates for races likely to differ significantly from our original 2020 calendar. This will be published in due course.”

“As previously announced, we will utilise the summer break being brought forward to March/April to race during the normal summer break period, and anticipate the season end date will extend beyond our original end date of 27-29th November,” read a Formula 1 statement.

Continuing uncertainty around the start of the F1 season

Ross Brawn, F1 director for Motorsport suggested earlier that the sport considers starting racing behind closed doors because it looks now unthinkable that travel restrictions will be completely lifted across Europe in the near future. In fact, social distancing and the ban on mass gatherings also look to remain in place for the coming weeks, making it impossible for races the be staged with the attendance of fans.

Spain which was set to host the second European race in 2020 has also postponed its Grand Prix indefinitely. Maria Jesus Montero, Minister of Finance said on Friday that tourist activities will only take place in Spain when there is no danger anymore.

"Spain will not resume tourist activities until there is a guarantee of exceptionally safe conditions, both for our citizens and for our visitors", she said.

In contrast to Spain that has become one of the most affected countries in the world, Austria is keen on hosting a race even behind closed doors. After the Canadian Grand Prix has been postponed, France could stage the season-opening race at the end of June, although the race at Le Castellet looks under threat. Should the French Grand Prix be postponed as well, Austria could take over the role of hosting the first event in 2020.

Helmut Marko, advisor of Red Bull thinks that a race would be great for Austria even if it needs to be staged behind closed doors. However, the former racing driver warned that a race can only take place under the strictest conditions with the staff being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus regularly.

"A race in Austria would be the first major international event that would not take place digitally. For Formula 1 all this is very important too. Because nothing else is happening in the world, all pictures of Spielberg and Austria as a tourist country are going around the world. That would give an invaluable advertising effect," he is quoted as saying by Speedweek.

Although both the Belgian and the Italian Grands Prix are due to take place at the end of Summer, the fate of both events is uncertain. The Belgian Grand Prix was thrown into doubt on April 15 after the country extended a ban on mass gatherings until the end of August due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race at Spa is scheduled for August 30.

"The Circuit will await the next communication from the National Security Council," read a statement of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

The Italian Grand Prix is set to be held a week after the Belgian round, leaving several months before the scheduled date of the iconic race.

Italy remains one of the centres of the coronavirus outbreak despite the spread showing signs of decelerations in recent days. ACI President Angelo Sticchi Damiani says that the event can only take place when absolute safety can be guaranteed.

"We can no longer afford to make mistakes like in Australia, when the GP was cancelled with the public already at the track. That was a setback for everyone, from Liberty Media to the teams, to the local organisers. To start again and then be forced to stop would be a disaster," he is quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.