Austrian Grand Prix in July could go ahead without fans, Latest Others News - The New Paper

Austrian Grand Prix in July could go ahead without fans

But travel restrictions could be an issue for F1 teams, says minister

The Austrian government is not opposed to this year's Formula One Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring taking place without spectators, Sports Minister and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said yesterday.

The first nine rounds of the Formula One season have been called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while the French GP, scheduled on June 28, will be the 10th race affected, after France President Emmanuel Macron extended its ban on mass gatherings to mid-July.

That leaves the Austrian race at Spielberg on July 5 as the next race on the F1 calendar.

"We don't want to get in the way," Kogler told reporters when asked if the government would allow the race to take place.

However, he said it was different to staging a football match without fans because of the number of technical officials involved.

The 10 Formula One teams each have around 60 people in the paddock on race weekends while Formula One staff, plus technical and safety officials as well as media and broadcast personnel, would bring the total attending the race to more than 1,000.

The number would increase if the usual support races also take place.

But Kogler added that travel restrictions could be a bigger hurdle than social distancing rules. "This must then be considered within the framework of the existing restrictions on entry and exit (into the country)," he said.

Austria, which has reported 393 deaths amid more than 14,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 - fewer than several of its larger European neighbours, will allow gradual loosening of its restrictions.

Kogler added that they would allow some sports compatible with social distancing, such as tennis and golf to resume from May 1.

Tennis federations had produced 10 safety recommendations, such as marking players' balls so their opponents do not touch them and different "behaviour at the net", he said.

Plans are also being made to restart Austria's top football league, with strict testing requirements and games being played without fans. - REUTERS