by Steve Martindale
The French Grand Prix has become the 10th race of the Formula 1 season to be cancelled due the ongoing health crisis. The cancellation of the race, which was due to take place on 28th June, had been seen as inevitable following the government’s announcement of a ban on all mass gatherings until mid-July.
The statement calling off the race said that organisers “take note of the impossibility to maintain the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France on 28 June”, and French Grand Prix managing director Eric Boullier said in a statement that eyes “were turning towards the summer of 2021”.
Despite the bad news for racing fans, there is growing speculation that the French Grand Prix could be rearranged for August or September as part of a delayed start to the racing season, potentially behind closed doors. Many believe that F1 may return with a Grand Prix in Austria, which was one of the first European countries to end lockdown, and Silverstone is known to have been in talks over holding the British Grand Prix behind closed doors.
“Our view is probably a European start will be favourable and that could even be a closed event. We have a race with no spectators. That’s not great, but it’s better than no racing at all,” said F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn. “We have to remember there are millions of people who follow the sport sat at home. A lot of them are isolating and to be able to keep the sport alive and put on a sport and entertain people would be a huge bonus in this crisis we have. But we can’t put anyone at risk.”
“Travel for the teams and travel for everyone involved is going to be one of the big issues,” Brawn continued. “You could argue once we get there we could become fairly self-contained.”
Under the sport’s regulations, eight races are needed to make a full championship and Brawn said that means the cut-off date for starting the season is October. “Eight races is the minimum we can have for a world championship, according to the FIA Statutes,” Brawn added. “We could achieve eight races by starting in October. So if you wanted a drop dead point it would be October.”
Elsewhere, F1 bosses have taken a series of measures to try to further protect the sport from the worst effects of the global health emergency and help the teams get their cars back on the track. These include two-day race weekends – with Friday practice being abandoned – to allow teams to race on consecutive weekends, as well as postponing a major rule change by a year from 2021 to 2022 and forcing teams to race the same cars next year as this.