British F1 race 'not a given', says Silverstone boss

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - British Grand Prix - Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain - July 14, 2019 General view of a Union Jack flag being carried out on to the track by service personnel before the race REUTERS/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - This year's British Grand Prix "is not a given" even without spectators and the decision depends on others, Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle said on Saturday.

Formula One plans to start the season, put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, with two races behind closed doors in Austria in early July before potentially two more at Silverstone.

Any races will need government approval, with countries in various stages of lockdown with restrictions on movement and mass events.

Silverstone is keen to help the sport back on track but announced this week any race could only go ahead without spectators.

"The end of April (decision deadline) for us was if we had to start putting up temporary infrastructure for hospitality and dealing with the public and stuff," Pringle told Reuters.

"We are only working on fixed infrastructure (now) so it’s an awful lot less.

"I’m confident we could operate well within F1’s decision-making cycle," he said of any new deadline. "I think they are the ones who have got to make the decision."

Formula One's managing director Ross Brawn said the sport wanted to create a "kind of biosphere" at circuits.

That would involve getting everyone who entered the circuit tested and cleared for the coronavirus and then keeping them in a controlled environment.

"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," Brawn told an F1 podcast.

"There will be no motorhomes, but there will be a full catering facility laid on that the circuit has."


Formula One insiders have spoken of teams staying at secure hotels with no interaction with local residents and no media access.

Pringle said Silverstone, a home race for seven of the 10 teams, could offer security.

"In the discussions within sport, about restarting in the UK, there’s been talk about the need for sites to be a bit like an island. To be controlled. We can achieve that," he said.

"We have all the facilities we need inside the circuit with the exception of a complete hotel. We have a half-built hotel, if that helps anyone.

Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield in central England, has a 222 hectare site with a nearly 8km perimeter fence.

The Wing building is some 400m long and can deliver 4,500 sit down lunches simultaneously with its own kitchens and five separate halls.

"We’d comfortably cater for everybody associated with putting it on," said Pringle. "We could separate people and shifts... we’re ideally placed."

Silverstone is already used to teams using the circuit for private testing, away from prying eyes.

Pringle also made clear that everything had to be done so as not to put stress on policing or divert medical resources away from the fight against the coronavirus.

"I’m very clear we cannot be any sort of burden or the slightest impact on that. And if we are this isn’t going to happen," he said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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