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Belgian, French Grands Prix in jeopardy as season opener in Austria looms

Austria vs France and Belgium. No, this is not a wrestling handicap match. We are simply breaking down two different approaches that may define the start of the 2020 season.

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Belgian, French Grands Prix in jeopardy as season opener in Austria looms
Fuente imagen: Jerry Andre - MotorLAT

More uncertainty is clouding the dawn of the 2020 F1 season, whose first nine races have been either cancelled or postponed due to the worldwide Covid-19 emergency. As the majority of European countries are still facing the hurdles and struggles of the so-called ‘Phase 1’ and preparing for the next step, it is time to face the restrictive measures each country is adopting.

The French GP is now under serious threat as no mass gatherings will be allowed until mid-July, and it appears that the Belgian GP is about to face the same destiny as the event at Paul Ricard. In fact, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmes extended the ban involving mass events until August 31st, the Monday immediately after the F1 race.

Rescheduling the event or holding it behind closed doors are currently the options evaluated by the organizers, according to Spa Grand Prix commercial director Stijn de Boever. However, even the possibility of hosting a participants-only race is still surrounded by countless doubts concerning the definition of ‘mass events’.

"We heard the prime minister’s decision. Public health is the most important thing," - he told motorsport.com - “Over the next couple of days we will ask a lot of questions and consider our options.”

“You know the options as well, a different date or a closed event. Even without spectators we would have a lot of people on site to organise the event. What is a mass event? Does that mean 500, 3,000 or 5,000 people?

"What is certain for me is that Formula 1 will not take place on the scheduled date with a large number of people.”

While France and Belgium run for cover long-term against the spread of Coronavirus, Austria might be the one bucking the trend, as the Government declared not to ‘stand in the way’ of the F1 race being held behind closed doors on July 5th.

The FIA and Liberty Media are working closely to remodulate the 2020 calendar, aiming to hold up to 19 races from July to December. In this case the Red Bull Ring would host the season opener, but the fluidity of the situation might imply waiting a little longer to get a green light to race.

“We don't want to stand in the way,” said Austrian sports minister Werner Kogler.

"This is a completely different situation than games in a stadium. Several people are affected. The minimum distance rules would have to be observed in the same way, of course. But that seems possible.

"I don't want to hide the fact that I'm in contact with the Styrian governor in this regard. This would be in the existing calendar in July”

"Ultimately, the sports federations must decide that for themselves. And that I was also in contact with Helmut Marko, who for his part plays a corresponding role at Red Bull and has acted as a mediator.

"I told him I would like to honour this, that we will forward all the applicable guidelines to the relevant motorsport associations as a service, so that they can see what is possible or not."

Travel restrictions may act as a hostile hurdle when it comes to organizing an international event, regardless of the number of subjects involved. Kogler mentioned the possibility of needing exemptions, which would be linked to isolation or health certificates.

"In principle, I have been told by Formula 1 itself that, from its point of view, this could actually work out. Even if one or the other goes into isolation first.

"But I do not want to interfere in that, I just want to know that the existing regulations are being applied. What is important for us is that the distance regulations must apply.

"And at some point, of course, it will also be a question of the people in this convoy, because tens of thousands are less favourable than thousands, I think, because with every number the probability increases that something will happen anyway."


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