Coronavirus pandemic

British race 'is not a given'

Silverstone boss adamant that GP, even without fans, must not affect virus battle

LONDON • Formula One is banking on Silverstone to play an integral role in kick-starting a season that has yet to get under way, with potentially two races at the circuit following a likely double-header in Austria.

But Stuart Pringle, Silverstone's managing director, has warned it "is not a given" that the British Grand Prix can even be staged behind closed doors on July 19, as the decision depends on others.

With countries in various stages of lockdown and restrictions on movement in place owing to the coronavirus pandemic, races will need government approval.

There were more than 180,000 cases and 28,00 deaths in the United Kingdom as of yesterday.

F1 originally had a record 22 races on the calendar and while that will not be the case this year, the sport's owner Liberty Media still hopes to put on 15 to 18 grands prix, with at least eight needed for a championship to be valid.

For that to happen, Silverstone, along with the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria, must hold consecutive races and external factors will determine the viability of holding those races without fans.

"The end of April (decision deadline) for us was if we had to start putting up temporary infrastructure for hospitality and dealing with the public and stuff," Pringle told Reuters on Saturday night.

"We are only working on fixed infrastructure (now) so it's an awful lot less. I'm confident we could operate well within F1's decision-making cycle. They are the ones who have got to make the decision."

Insiders have spoken of teams staying at secure hotels with no interaction with outsiders and no media access, and Pringle confirmed that Silverstone could offer that level of security.

Seven of the 10 teams are based in England and Silverstone is a "home" race for them.

The former World War II airfield is a 222ha site with a nearly 8km perimeter fence and is already used to teams using the circuit for private testing. Its Wing building can also deliver 4,500 sit-down lunches simultaneously with its own kitchens and five separate halls, and having its own "biosphere" will be key to ensuring that races can proceed in a safe manner.

"In the discussions within sport, about restarting in the UK, there's been talk about the need for sites to be a bit like an island. To be controlled. We can achieve that," Pringle said. "We have all the facilities we need inside the circuit with the exception of a complete hotel. We have a half-built hotel, if that helps anyone.

"We'd comfortably cater for everybody associated with putting it on. We could separate people and shifts... we're ideally placed."

Pringle, however, made it clear that everything had to be done without having to put stress on policing or diverting medical and public resources away from the fight against Covid-19.

"I'm very clear we cannot be any sort of burden or the slightest impact on that. And if we are, this (race) isn't going to happen," he added.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2020, with the headline British race 'is not a given'. Subscribe