LONDON • The French Grand Prix yesterday became the third Formula One race to be cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic, making it the 10th race to be hit in a season that has yet to get under way.
"Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French state making it impossible to maintain our event," said the race managing director Eric Boullier.
F1 chairman Chase Carey said it was disappointing but "we fully support the decision taken by the French authorities in France and look forward to being back at Paul Ricard soon".
France has banned major events until the middle of July and has also imposed travel restrictions amid a nationwide lockdown that started on March 17 and ends on May 11, leaving the authorities with no choice but to pull the plug on the Le Castellet race on June 28.
Next month's showcase race in Monaco has already been scrapped, while the Australian season-opener in Melbourne was called off just before practice was due to commence last month.
There had been a record 22 races on the calendar this year and although that will no longer be the case, the sport still hopes to put on 15 to 18 races, with a minimum of eight needed for a championship to be valid.
The season is now expected to start in Austria on July 5 in what could be a double-header without spectators.
The country's authorities eased its lockdown measures last week, allowing some non-essential businesses to reopen and raising hope F1 can kick-start its disrupted campaign at Spielberg's Red Bull Ring.
The next race after that will be the British Grand Prix, and with seven of the 10 F1 teams based in England, there is a greater possibility that Silverstone can also proceed to host the race.
While organisers have not been able to confirm with any degree of certainty that the grand prix will go ahead, they revealed that the July 19 event will be a closed-door affair if it does happen.
"I am extremely disappointed to tell you that we are unable to stage this year's British Grand Prix in front of the fans at Silverstone," said Stuart Pringle, the circuit's managing director, yesterday.
Grands Prix on the original F1 calendar this season. Ten of those have been either cancelled or postponed owing to the virus pandemic.
"We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear, given the current conditions in the country and the government requirements in place now and for the foreseeable future, that a grand prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible.
"Our obligations to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing and delivering the event... means that this is the best, safest and only decision we could make."