Kurt Verlin
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F1 Gets Green Light for Austrian & British GP

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Brendon Hartley in Toro Rosso Honda
Photo: emperornie via CC

At the end of last month, Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey announced the 2020 season could be able to start on July 5 with the Austrian Grand Prix. Yesterday, the Austrian health ministry stated F1 would be able to go ahead with two crowd-less races at the Red Bull Ring circuit. Today, the British government also confirmed F1 would be able to do the same at Silverstone.

The plan to host two Grands Prix at whatever venue will allow it seems to be a strategy to squeeze in as many races as possible into the remaining half of the year, which would allow the sport to recoup much of its pandemic-related losses.

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However, broadcasters are concerned that viewers will lose interest in identical races. To help distinguish the second race from the first, F1 has submitted a detailed proposal to team principals outlining a reverse grid concept. The first race weekend would take place as usual, while on the following Saturday, the team would participate in a 30-minute race with a grid ordered based on reverse championship standings. The results of that sprint would decide the starting order of the second race, taking place the next day.

For the reverse grid idea to go through, all 10 teams would have to agree on it — but when a similar concept had been proposed last year, it was shot down by two of the top teams. “When you’re looking at the 100m final in the Olympics, you’re not making Usain Bolt start five meters behind just to make it an exciting finish,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said last October. It’s unlikely Wolff will have changed his mind by the time the teams vote on it.

Though crowds will not be admitted at the races in Austria and in England, numbers are still expected to exceed 1,000 when factoring in team personnel, medical staff, marshals, and other individuals involved in support series.

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To host races in either country, F1 will need to comply with parameters set by their respective governments. These include, for example, a cap of 80 staff per team, no more than 60 of which can be involved in the operation of the car. Regular COVID-19 tests will be conducted for those present in the paddock, and in Britain, those arriving in the country will need to be quarantined for two weeks, which creates a major scheduling obstacle for F1.

The British Grand Prix is one of only two events on the F1 calendar that has been part of the world championship each year since it began. Should the Silverstone races fall through, that honor will belong only to the Italian Grand Prix.