PLANS are being made to host two grands prix at Silverstone this year in order to make up for races cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisers of the British GP said that they have been in talks to host either two races on the same weekend, or for it to be a double header — where two races take place on consecutive weekends.
Formula One is hoping to host 19 races this season in a heavily condensed and amended calendar. The August break has been foregone in order to squeeze in more races. If 19 races were to take place, that would be only three less than the 22 planned before the Covid-19 crisis took hold.
“We have been in regular contact with [F1], and have been asked could we hold a race or two and could they be behind closed doors,” Stuart Pringle, the circuit’s Managing Director, told The Guardian. “The answer is absolutely, we are open to looking into anything and everything.”
Whichever format is decided on, it is almost certain that the race would take place behind closed doors, without spectators, due to government guidelines on large gatherings and social distancing. Silverstone has said it will make a final decision regarding whether to let an audience attend at the end of April.
Last Thursday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he fully recovers from contracting Covid-19 himself, announced a three-week extension to the lockdown. “If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made,” he said.
The government is now under pressure to publish plans for an exit from the lockdown. Plans voiced include letting younger people who do not live with parents out first, as well as an app that would alert the user if they came into contact with someone infected with the virus.
Even if the government eases the lockdown to the point that the British Grand Prix could go ahead with spectators, the organisers may still decide to host the event behind closed doors in the name of public health.
The French Grand Prix is supposed to open the amended season. However, the race at Circuit Paul Ricard, currently slated for June 28, is expected to become the 10th race to be postponed or cancelled this year. This would make the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5 the first race of the season, two weeks before the British Grand Prix on July 19.
The talks with Silverstone are part of a larger attempt by F1 to completely overhaul the race calendar. As well as racing in August, the FIA has announced that the season will likely continue after the planned end date of November 29. At least eight races have to take place in order for the season to be classed as a world championship.
McLaren boss Zak Brown revealed that he thinks as many as four teams could disappear from the grid if F1 doesn’t collectively make the right decisions during the lockdown period.
Claire Williams, deputy team principal of the Williams F1 team and daughter of F1 legend Sir Frank Williams, told Sky Sports that “going racing is actually critical this year” for the struggling independent team. However, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner told The Guardian he believes F1’s owners would step in to prevent any team going under.
During the pause on real racing, virtual F1 races are being held using the official F1 game as a platform. Ferrari wunderkind Charles Leclerc has won the last two races, last night thrilling fans with a racelong battle with Red Bull driver Alex Albon at the virtual Chinese GP.