Austrian health minister gives OK to crowd-free Formula 1 races

Tanya Simon
June 1, 2020

The opening rounds of the delayed 2020 Formula 1 world championship might have a radically different format when racing finally gets underway in July.

Austrian health minister Rudolf Anschober said the two races had been approved after the Formula One organizers had "presented a comprehensive, professional security plan" to prevent the spread of COVID-19. After a one-off event at the Hungaroring, another brace of consecutive races are tentatively scheduled for Silverstone in August. For the other race at the same circuit, the usual three-part qualifying session would be used to decide the grid.

It would take the place of holding the traditionally stand-alone qualifying single lap speed trials.

The idea is that a 30-minute qualifying race will replace regular qualifying on the second weekend, with the starting order based on the reversed championship order.

F1 hoped to get the heavily-delayed 2020 season off the ground with back-to-back races in Austria in early July before returning to Britain for another double-header event at Silverstone, but the plans were dented by the introduction of the United Kingdom government's new quarantine rules which will force global arrivals to observe a 14-day quarantine period from June 8.

Austrian health minister gives OK to crowd-free Formula 1 races

Reverse grids are an attempt by Liberty and the FIA to add interest to the second weekend at the same venue at a time when TV companies have questioned the value of the double-header races.

Reportedly in a show of hands, only one team disapproved of trialing the format, that team apparently being Mercedes, but a formal vote will take place next week. Grid penalties such as those for a gearbox change after FP3, will be applied to the main race on Sunday.

A recent change of F1 sporting regulations gives F1 and the FIA considerably increased powers to make rapid changes to the sport's format in response to the fast moving events surrounding the coronavirus.

Spielberg's Red Bull Ring is due to start the season on July 5 with a second race there, also without spectators, a week later.

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