As countries in Europe and around the world begin to ease their lockdowns following the global COVID-19 pandemic, Formula 1 has announced a revised calendar, approved by the FIA for the first eight races of 2020 season, starting with the Austrian Grand Prix at The Red Bull Ring on the weekend of July 4th and 5th.
In line with other sports, it is expected that the Grand Prix will be closed events, meaning that no fans will be able to watch the races live but will have to be content with watching them on television. That said, it is very much hoped that as soon as it is safe to do so, fans will once again be able to enjoy the thrills and atmosphere of being at the race circuits and watching the Grand Prix live.
Formula 1 has been working closely with each local race circuit, the FIA and all ten Formula 1 teams to create the revised race calendar and put in place detailed plans to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.
Because the COVID-19 situation is changing all the time, the remainder of the season’s calendar will hopefully be published in the coming weeks and Formula 1 is hoping to hold somewhere between 15 to 18 races in total, with the season ending later than usual, in December.
Currently, the race calendar will see the second round taking place on the weekend of July 11th and 12th again at The Red Bull Ring in Austria and be named the Formula 1 Pirelli Grosser Preis der Steiermark. The third race will be the Hungarian Grand Prix, taking place at The Hungaroring on the weekend of July 18th and 19th.
The British Grand Prix will take place at Silverstone on the weekend of August 1st and 2nd and then a week later, Silverstone will again be the venue for the Emirates Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. The sixth round will be the Spanish Grand Prix on the weekend of August 15th and 16th at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Belgian Grand Prix will then take place on the weekend of August 29th and 30th at Spa-Francorchamps, with the Italian Grand Prix and sixth round taking place a week later on the weekend of September 5th and 6th at Monza.
The second half of the season is proving to be a little trickier to confirm, as potential host countries around the world are in different stages of the coronavirus pandemic and the easing of lockdowns.
In a recent interview with F1, Ross Brawn said that “Things are moving fast, but we still have time,” We have lots of different options and we’re very confident we’re going to have a great second half of the season, but there is no point making the statement yet as there are still some moving parts we need to put together.
“There is a contingency to have an extended European season with another one or two races if needed. I think Bahrain and Abu Dhabi will be the backstop of the season from what we can see at the moment. That gives us 10. We’ll find at least five or six good races in the middle.
“We recognise that venues where they have to build a track, such as Baku or Singapore, need more notice than permanent tracks. Every aspect has been considered, and I think we can have a very good second half of the season. There will be some races which don’t happen, might be some races we put in, but there’s lots going on.”
Some new European circuits are currently being looked at as possible race venues for the second half of the season, such as Ferrari-owned Mugello, Imola, Portimao in Portugal and Hockenheim in Germany.
As to be expected, a range of new protocols will need to be introduced from the Red Bull Ring races onwards in response to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety. As a result, some teams are scheduling private tests to get back up to speed again. Mercedes completed their shakedown last week at Silverstone with Valtteri Bottas behind the wheel of the team’s 2018 car, the Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ on Tuesday and Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel on Wednesday, as the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team practised protocols ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix next month. Racing Point, Renault and Ferrari are planning their own test sessions in the coming weeks.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs by Steve Etherington courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team