PARIS – Formula One will finally get underway with back-to-back races at the Austrian Grand Prix in July as part of an eight-race European swing.
The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg will host races on July 5 and 12, governing body FIA said in a statement on Tuesday.
The next race will be in Hungary on July 19 followed by consecutive races at the British GP at Silverstone on Aug. 2 and 9 after the British government exempted elite sports from an upcoming quarantine on foreign visitors.
Further races are scheduled for Spain on Aug. 16 and Belgium on Aug. 30, with Italy completing the European swing on Sept. 6.
“Over the past two months Formula One has been working closely with all partners, authorities, the FIA and the 10 teams to create a revised calendar that will allow a return to racing in a way that is safe,” the FIA said. "Due to the ongoing fluidity of the COVID-19 situation internationally, the details of the wider calendar will be finalized in the coming weeks.”
There will be no spectators allowed to attend, although there may be later in the year if health conditions allow it.
“It is currently expected that the opening races will be closed events,” the FIA said. "But it is hoped fans will be able to join events again when it is safe to do so.”
Four races have been canceled this season because of the coronavirus pandemic — the season-opening Australian GP, the Monaco GP, the French GP and the Netherlands GP.
F1 remains hopeful of holding 15-18 of the scheduled 22 races by rearranging the six that were postponed and finishing the season in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December.
“I want to thank every promoter and partner for their support and ongoing commitment to Formula One,” F1 chairman Chase Carey said. “We know the return of Formula One will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is excited about kicking off the season in Austria.
“We are pleased to be starting ... at our home circuit. It has been a huge effort by all involved and the two events at the Red Bull Ring will be a blueprint for all other races to follow,” Horner said.
"With the first eight races of the calendar now confirmed we have some positive momentum. As a race team and racers, we are excited to get going again and put on a show for our fans.”
Bobby Epstein, President of the Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas said he remains hopeful of hosting the U.S. Grand Prix later this year. It was held on Nov. 3 last year.
State orders from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allow professional sports events to include fans at up to 25 percent of stadium capacity, but that has been complicated by local rules limiting public gatherings.
The U.S. Grand Prix relies on fan attendance as a major factor in securing about $25 million in public money annually just to pay the F1 rights fee to hold the race.
“Very hopeful,” Epstein said. “There are still some uncertainties on what local ordinances will permit, in terms of attendance, but there should be more clarity over the coming month.”
The FIA and F1 are working together on a plan to have strict safety measures in place at the races.
As well as initially holding races without fans, other measures will be used to limit risk.
Any personnel attending a race will be tested for COVID-19 before traveling and must have a negative result. Regular testing will take place during the race weekend.
There will be a significant reduction in the numbers of people attending from teams, officials and suppliers. Those attending must stay within their own working group and not interact with other groups.
Travel restrictions will see charter flights used as much as possible and private transfers between venues, hotels and airports to prevent interaction with the general public.
Social distancing measures will be observed inside the paddock for activities such as the national anthem, the podium ceremony and media interviews.
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.
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