F1 change for 2020 season
FORMULA One is set to return to the track with back-to-back races at Austria's Red Bull Ring in Spielberg on July 5 and 12 after the government approved the move, according to reports from the country.
It comes after weeks of discussions on safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic with the F1, Red Bull Ring officials and local authorities.
AFP reported the Spielberg circuit had been given the green light for both the season opener and the race the following weekend.
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It will mark the first time in F1 history that races will take place at the same location in one season let alone a week apart.
"The two Formula One races on July 5 and 12 at Spielberg will be staged without spectators," said the Austrian Health Minister.
He added F1 organisers "had presented a complete and professional plan" to combat the spread of COVID-19.
F1 managing director Ross Brawn has long touted having a "biosphere" starting with the two races.
"One of the logistical challenges is getting everyone tested and cleared to enter the paddock and enter the racing environment," Brawn said in early May.
"And I think once we do that, it's very attractive to keep everyone in that environment, within that kind of biosphere that we want to create for another race.
"It's also pretty challenging to find the right sort of races early on where we can control the environment well enough.
"Austria fits that bill very well. It's got a local airport right next to the circuit, where people can charter planes into. It's not too close to a metropolis, it has a great infrastructure around it.
"There will be no motorhomes, but there will be full catering facility laid on that the circuit has. We can basically contain everyone within that environment.
"Therefore once we're there, it's appealing to have another race the following week."
The F1 is expected to reveal more of its plans for the European stage of the season on Monday according to Autosport.com.
There were also plans for 500 spectators to be allowed into the circuit according to Austrian motorsport outlet Die Motorprofis, although further information has not been released as yet.
The announcement comes after FIA Race Director Michael Masi said the Austrian Grand Prix was close to being confirmed.
"They have had a desire from day one to make this happen," Masi told Sky Sports F1.
"They have always had a can-do attitude at the best of times. They have been brilliant. Everything we've need and required, and working with the Austrian government to make this happen.
"The target of Austria on July 5 is becoming more and more reality by the hour."
On Thursday, F1 journalist Luke Smith reported the schedule for the European season appeared to have eight races in nine weeks with back-to-back races in Austria and Silverstone in the UK.
F1 has reserved the first two weekends in August for the British GP: https://t.co/ehHraFf17w— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) May 27, 2020
Latest provisional European schedule is:
Jul 5 - Austria
Jul 12 - Austria
Jul 19 - Hungary
Aug 2 - Britain
Aug 9 - Britain
Aug 16 - Spain
Aug 30 - Belgium
Sep 6 - Italy
The Formula One has not yet released a statement about the reports.
The F1 season was thrown into chaos with the cancellation of the traditional curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in March only hours before practice was due to begin.
It was one of 10 races either cancelled or postponed, yet F1 boss Chase Carey has insisted that a 15-18 race season is still possible.
But Silverstone's hopes of also staging back-to-back races after Austria are in the balance after the British government insisted that all arrivals in the country undergo a two-week quarantine period.
- with AFP