London: Formula One is set for a series of firsts after publishing a revised eight-race schedule on Tuesday that will see Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Britain’s Silverstone circuit each host two grands prix without spectators in July and August respectively.
The season, which originally envisaged a record 22 races, has been stalled since the March 15 Australian opener was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first race of the year will now be in Austria on July 5 with a second, designated the Grand Prix of Steiermark (Styria) after the region in which the Red Bull-owned circuit at Spielberg is located, a week later.
It will be the first time a circuit has hosted two championship races in the same season, the first time a season has started in Austria and also the first time a race has been held behind closed doors.
The 10 teams will then travel east to race on a third successive weekend at Budapest’s Hungaroring on July 19 before returning home, all under carefully controlled conditions.
Silverstone, which hosted the first F1 world championship race in 1950, is scheduled for the British Grand Prix on August 2 followed by the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on August 9.
A two-week quarantine is due to come into force in Britain for most arrivals in the country from June 8 but Formula One is set to be part of an exemption for elite sports events.
Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya will then host the Spanish Grand Prix on August 16 to complete the triple-header before another break and then two more back-to-back races at Spa in Belgium and Italy’s Monza on August 30 and September 6.
Formula Two and Formula Three races will also be held over the same weekends.
“We are pleased to be able to set out our opening eight-race calendar today and look forward to publishing our full calendar in the coming weeks,” said Formula One chairman Chase Carey in a statement.
“While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do,” he added.
Formula One is hoping to host between 15 and 18 races with the season ending in Abu Dhabi in December after also racing in Bahrain.
Four races have been cancelled so far — Australia, Monaco, the Netherlands and France — while China, Azerbaijan, Canada and Vietnam are awaiting rescheduling.
Races in Singapore, Russia, Japan, the United States, Mexico and Brazil remain uncertain.
“The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority number one, with Formula One and the FIA having a robust and detailed plan to ensure our races maintain the highest level of safety with strict procedures in place,” Formula One said.
The following is some reaction to the news:
“We take on this challenge unique in the history of F1, and we are looking forward to both weekends. Spielberg will see exciting races — and therefore send a strong sign of feasibility to the whole world.” - Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
“It’s a fantastic venue and we are pleased to be starting our championship campaign 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.” - Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
“While clearly it won’t be the same without the fans in the grandstands — and we’ll sorely miss their enthusiasm and support — it’s entirely sensible to start the season behind closed doors.” - Racing Point principal Otmar Szafnauer.
“We’re going to go racing. That’s awesome. Very happy to hear that we finally get some dates and we can go racing... I can’t wait to go racing, to see the team again, feel the car... it’s going to be a bit different than it was before for a little while but we go racing.” - Haas driver Romain Grosjean.