By Neil Leverett
- 2020 Formula 1 campaign set to begin in Austria on 3 July with double-header
- Hungary to follow on 19 July, before fortnight break for back-to-back Silverstone races
- Hopes remain to conclude campaign with traditional end-of-season finale in Abu Dhabi in December
FORMULA 1 – As F1 prepares to begin the 2020 season at Spielberg in July, motorsport fans could be set for a possible 18 races before December’s still-scheduled finale.
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F1 emerges from extended hibernation
As world sport begins to emerge from the rubble of the still on-going coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1’s riches have not been immune from the grip of COVID-19 but as summer approaches, motorsport is ready to take its’ place in the calendar for the remainder of what has been a trying year.
Three months on from the Australian Grand Prix being cancelled mere hours from opening practice due to a McLaren team member testing positive, F1 is set to emerge from the tunnel of winter hibernation at the second attempt.
With the green light signalled for a return at the Austrian Grand Prix next month, the remaining six months of the year could offer a frenetic run of no less than 18 Rounds before December.
As teams prepare to descend on Spielberg in July then, what lies in store for what will be a greatly altered and surreal campaign?
Austria signals eight-leg Euro tour
Mooted as the light at the end of the tunnel back in April, the hopes for an Austrian resumption for racing is now a distinct reality – barring any acceleration of COVID-19 cases in the mountainous region.
Indeed, the weekend of 3-5 July will be the beginning of a rather dystopian F1 point of view, as the Red Bull Ring hosts the first race without fans in the storied history of the sport.
As likely World Drivers’ Championship contender Max Verstappen looks to begin his campaign in strong form on the circuit the Dutchman has won at for his home Red Bull Racing team since 2018, Spielberg will then host the Steiermark GP the following weekend.
In a race which will in essence be a one-off Grand Prix of Styria – named after the region of Austria – Hungary will then takes its’ turn in the F1 queue at the Hungaroring on the weekend of 17-19 July.
With concerns still remaining of how to prevent the further spread of coronavirus across Europe, the news that broke earlier this week that should a driver or team member test positive for COVID-19 racing would continue, will have raised more than a few eyebrows across the still virtual paddock.
But as reported by BBC Sport, F1 boss Chase Carey stated, there will not be a repeat of Melbourne’s cancellation – the first signal of widespread shutdown across F1.
As Carey says forthrightly:
“We will have a procedure in place that finding an infection will not lead to a cancellation.
If a driver has an infection, [teams have] reserve drivers available.”
Then comes of the turn of Silverstone for its’ time in the rather pale shade of limelight, with a double-header of races for British motorsport fans to whet arid palates this summer.
In what will be unprecedented for the historic British circuit – perhaps reflecting similar times – the Northamptonshire environs will host the first of two official British GPs, with the first on 2 August, before staging a second race the weekend after – to help adhere to the UK’s 14-day quarantine rules.
The follow-up race of which will now be a 70th anniversary running at Silverstone, which may also present teams with very differing circumstances with regard to car suitability and consistency in successive races.
With memories of Lewis Hamilton being carried through the crowd last year now seeming a lifetime ago, there will naturally be no repeat of said scenes, with no fan attendance measures in place.
The British double will then be followed by a trip to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Spanish GP, before Spa and Monza take the calendar through toward the autumn on their originally penned dates of 30 August and 6 September.
After nine races of the current season were cancelled due to COVID-19, the opportunity for a rearranged Asian leg in China, Vietnam – for its’ inaugural date – and Suzuka all now appear possible for October, with incidences of the virus in those countries now having significantly dwindled.
December pencilled for finale
Should all go according to plan in the opening eight races of a hugely uprooted 2020 season, a potential for a further ten more races before the end of the campaign lie ahead on the calendar.
As per BBC Sport, F1 chiefs remain confident of concluding the season in December, with Bahrain’s previously shelved stage pencilled for 6 December, before Abu Dhabi’s annual finale at Yas Marina in mid-December.
With the picture in Russia and the Americas less clear with their respective battles to combat coronavirus, the latter rounds there remain shrouded in much uncertainty. However, for the moment this is how the schedule looks as it stands for 2020 so far:
3-5 July – Austrian Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring)
10-12 July – Steiermark Grand Prix (Red Bull Ring)
17-19 July – Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring)
31 July-2 August – British Grand Prix (Silverstone)
7-9 August – 70th Anniversary Grand Prix (Silverstone)
14-16 August – Spanish Grand Prix
28-30 August – Belgian Grand Prix
4-6 September – Italian Grand Prix
When at one point Formula 1 in 2020 looked to be in considerable doubt to even begin, Austria now stands as a major beacon of hope going forward for the sporting fraternity to look to.
Though the landscape is literally set to take on a very different picture for the immediate future with little or no fan participation, Formula 1 will seek to lay a path in place, in preparation for the grandstands to be filled when safe to do so. But just when that is, remains to be seen.
The 2020 Formula 1 season begins behind closed doors at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix, taking place over the weekend of 3-5 July.
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