British Grand Prix to go behind closed doors as Formula 1 plan to start season in Austria

This year’s British Grand Prix will take place without fans after Silverstone’s owners said that a race “under normal conditions is just not going to be possible” because of coronavirus.

In a letter to fans,Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle’s said that he was extremely disappointed to tell them that they (fans) would not be able to stage this year’s British Grand Prix in front of them at Silverstone.

“We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear given the current conditions in the country and the Government requirements in place now and for the foreseeable future, that a grand prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible.

Organisers have not yet postponed or cancelled the 19 July event.

Pingle said that it was the organisation's responsibility to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing and delivering the event including volunteer marshals and race makers and the fans.

“This is the best, safest and only decision we could make. We have consistently said that should we find ourselves in this position we will support Formula One as they seek to find alternative ways to enable F1 racing to take place this year.

“Following this weekend’s news from the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport we are now working with them on the viability of an event behind closed doors. Should this be possible, it will be of some small comfort for you to know that the 2020 Formula One Pirelli British Grand Prix will be available to watch live on Sky and Channel 4,” he said.

Silverstone said ticketholders can either transfer their booking to the 2021 Grand Prix or take a full refund. They add they will be giving thousands of tickets to next year’s race to NHS and other key workers after their efforts on the front line fighting coronavirus.

Formula One has also announced that the French Grand Prix, due to take place on 28 June, has been called off.

Eric Boullier, managing director of the French Grand Prix, said on F1’s website: “Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French State making it impossible to maintain our event.

“The eyes of the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet are already turning towards the summer of 2021 in order to offer our spectators an even more unprecedented event at the heart of the Region Sud.” Chase Carey, chairman and chief executive officer of F1, said that the organisation has been in close contact with the French promoter during this situation.

“While it is disappointing for our fans and the F1 community that the French Grand Prix will not take place we fully support the decision taken by the French authorities in France and look forward to being back at Paul Ricard soon,” Carey added.

Carey is hopeful the season can start in Austria on 5 July and believes a total of 15-18 races can be held, finishing at Abu Dhabi in December.

The cancellation of the French Grand Prix had been considered inevitable since President Emmanuel Macron expanded the country's ban on mass gatherings until mid-July earlier this month.

Austria is one of the first European countries to have begun to gradually ease its lockdown, and F1 bosses have been in talks with authorities in the country as to how a race might safely be held. The first four races at least would be behind closed doors - and it could be that many more will follow.