Just as sure as the unpredictable British weather, the Uk government announced new quarantine regulations last week. This has effectively sealed off any hope of Silverstone hosting any kind of race, Formula 1 included. The new rules mandates all visitors and British returnees arriving into the country must be placed quarantine for 14 days.
Although a small list of exemptions was granted, Formula One wasn’t on the list. This meant that non-UK based teams would require any member of staff to be kept in isolation once the rule comes into effect from 8th June onwards. Although the UK parliament has indicated that the review of quarantine rules would be revised every three weeks; the earliest being 29th June. Formula One cannot wait until late for a definite answer.
Planning and logistics for the world’s premier motorsports event is a huge undertaking, especially for the back-to-back event. With the proposed date for the two races (26th July and 2nd August) being less than a month away, it will be almost impossible to prepare adequately with the insufficient lead time.
“If all elite sport is to return to TV, then exemptions must be provided,” said an F1 spokesperson.
“A 14-day quarantine would make it impossible to have a British Grand Prix this year. Additionally, it has a major impact on literally tens of thousands of jobs linked to F1 and supply chains.”
Not giving up on the event, F1 officials have been in rigorous discussions with the UK government on potential dates and measures to be taken to ensure that Silverstone continues its 74-year streak of hosting the British GP. And earlier this week, new developments have occurred that might bring a glimmer of hope.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has reportedly responded to Formula 1 lobbying to create a quarantine exemption for the sport’s travelling personnel. This move was justified as it is meant to support the British motorsports industry, with F1 displaying strong commitment to carry on with the British GP as part of the 2020 season. Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle has indicated that there is potential for the British GP to be moved to a date in August.
“We’ve got our original dates that we’ve been holding and talking around in mid-to-late July, but actually we’ve got a degree of flexibility through August as well.
“I don’t think that finding a date for Formula 1 is going to be a problem, or indeed two dates. What we need is the green light from the government, and that will take time.” said Pringle.
“There’s quite a lot of planning that needs to account for the COVID-19 implications, and that’s new, uncharted territory for us. But everything runs out of a fixed infrastructure. We’ve got two permanent paddock blocks, so we’re not talking about putting up too many marquees or fan areas or anything like that.”
Pringle goes on to say that while pushing back the date to August would allow some leeway for the rules of quarantine to be relaxed, the best option would be to grant an exemption for F1 personnel.
“I think Formula 1 as a championship needs that exemption and needs to understand where it is because they’ve got to plan,” Pringle said.
“It’s a huge logistical operation, they’ve got to knit together a series of dates and get a freight plan that works and got to know what the impact on the personnel is. That requires some clarity.”
“I think there is cause for optimism, that if we were to go further to the right in the calendar, then it would make things easier.”
As the situation has yet to be firmed up, Formula One organisers have come up with a contingency plan in the event the British GP is inevitably called off. Liberty Media have reportedly been in discussions with race officials from Germany’s Hockenheim circuits as a potential replacement for the British GP. Although Hockenheim’s future in F1 has been in doubt for some time due to financial struggles.
The 2020 season is expected to commence with back-to-back Austrian Grand Prix races at the Red Bull Ring circuit on the 5th and 12th of July. Now, Hungary’s Hungaroring race track is set to host the race after the season opener. However, no date has been officially confirmed. Aside from the above circuits, Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps has also received the green light for the 2020 F1 season, although no date has been confirmed. In line with the ‘new normal’, all F1 events are set to be held behind closed doors without the presence of spectators.