Belgium ban on mass gatherings puts F1 grand prix under threat

Formula 1's hopes of getting its 2020 season underway this summer without trouble have been dealt a blow after Belgium's decision to ban all mass gatherings until 31 August

Belgium ban on mass gatherings puts F1 grand prix under threat

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first nine grands prix of the 2020 Formula 1 season have already been either postponed or cancelled, with June's French Grand Prix set to be the tenth race to be pushed back.

On Wednesday, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmes confirmed that all mass events in the country, such as festivals and large sports events, will be prohibited until 31 August.

That would include the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix, which was pencilled in for 30 August.

The inability to have spectators will be a huge blow to the circuit, which has been a sell-out in recent years with 250,000 fans attending across a weekend, in no small part thanks to the large following of Dutch racer Max Verstappen.

F1 has talked about holding some grands prix behind closed doors, but it is not yet clear if that would even be an option under the Belgian restrictions, as the sport would still need several hundred people to attend to run the cars and event.

"We heard the prime minister's decision. Public health is the most important thing," Stijn de Boever, commercial director of Spa Grand Prix, told Autosport.

"Over the next couple of days we will ask a lot of questions and consider our options."

"You know the options as well, a different date or a closed event. Even without spectators we would have a lot of people on site to organise the event. What is a mass event? Does that mean 500, 3,000 or 5,000 people?

"What is certain for me is that Formula 1 will not take place on the scheduled date with a large number of people."

Spa is not ruling out an event behind closed doors if it doesn't fall under the mass event ban, but only if its commercial arrangements with F1 can be revisited to compensate for the lack of fans.

"It's an option, but obviously on a different financial basis," de Boever added.

"Commercially Formula 1 has to survive as well. They need to race.

"It's an option we are calculating now. It's not a no from us, it's an option. We hope to have more answers soon."

Last week, FIA president Jean Todt said he hoped F1 could still get a calendar put together if racing resumed in July or August.

"Once we know we can start, I think we could really see two-to-three grands prix a month," Todt told Autosport.

"If we start in July/August and go to December, we have six months, from five to six months, multiplied by three and it gives you one option.

"But don't forget we may face situations where one organiser can host the event safely but eventually feels: 'I don't want. I don't feel in the mood to host the event'.

"So ultimately this kind of situation may occur.

"An event is a celebration, and it's what I mentioned earlier: we may be in a situation where everything is put together to do it but there is no real feeling to celebrate."

Following the announcement, a statement from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit said it was still awaiting confirmation of the decision's impact.

"The National Security Council has decided to ban mass events until 31 August," the statement read.

"The Circuit remains attentive to the next communication of the National Security Council.

"We will inform you as soon as possible of any new developments."

shares
comments
The day Schumacher “made everyone look silly”
Previous article

The day Schumacher “made everyone look silly”

Next article

Seidl: F1 will survive COVID-19 crisis, but not all teams certain to

Seidl: F1 will survive COVID-19 crisis, but not all teams certain to
How studying Schumacher helped make Coulthard a McLaren F1 mainstay Plus

How studying Schumacher helped make Coulthard a McLaren F1 mainstay

Winner of 13 grands prix including Monaco and survivor of a life-changing plane crash, David Coulthard could be forgiven for having eased into a quiet retirement – but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, in fact he’s busier than ever, running an award-winning media company and championing diversity in motor racing. Not bad for someone who, by his own admission, wasn’t quite the fastest driver of his generation…

Could F1 move to a future beyond carbonfibre? Plus

Could F1 move to a future beyond carbonfibre?

Formula 1 has ambitious goals for improving its carbon footprint, but could this include banishing its favoured composite material? PAT SYMONDS considers the alternatives to carbonfibre and what use, if any, those materials have in a Formula 1 setting

Formula 1
Aug 6, 2022
How Russell has proven he deserves to be Hamilton's Mercedes heir Plus

How Russell has proven he deserves to be Hamilton's Mercedes heir

He’s fast, he’s smart, and he’s already shown he’s not going to let Max Verstappen intimidate him. George Russell won’t say it, but LUKE SMITH says he’s ready to take the lead at Mercedes when Lewis Hamilton moves on to a quieter life. And – whisper it – Mercedes and Lewis are starting to think so too

Formula 1
Aug 5, 2022
The traits that fuelled Alonso's unexpected Aston Martin move Plus

The traits that fuelled Alonso's unexpected Aston Martin move

Fernando Alonso’s bombshell switch to Aston Martin sent shockwaves through Formula 1, not least at Alpine that finds itself tangled in a contract standoff with Oscar Piastri. Not shy of a bold career move and with a CV punctuated by them, there were numerous hints that trouble was brewing

Formula 1
Aug 4, 2022
The elements Ferrari must resolve to first save face, then win championships Plus

The elements Ferrari must resolve to first save face, then win championships

OPINION: Ferrari's Formula 1 title hopes look all but over after another strategic blunder in last week's Hungarian Grand Prix denied Charles Leclerc the chance to fight for victory, while handing it to chief rival Max Verstappen. The Scuderia now faces intense scrutiny over what it must now do to finally become a genuine factor in championship battles

Formula 1
Aug 3, 2022
The clues about Hamilton’s F1 retirement plans revealed after Vettel’s decision Plus

The clues about Hamilton’s F1 retirement plans revealed after Vettel’s decision

OPINION: Sebastian Vettel is set to leave Formula 1 at the end of 2022 and will, rather shockingly, be replaced by Fernando Alonso at Aston Martin. But what about the final chapter of the other driver that defined the post-Michael Schumacher era? In Hungary, Lewis Hamilton spoke about his future in the context of Vettel’s upcoming departure, which offered clues on how long it will last

Formula 1
Aug 2, 2022
Why all signs point to F1’s Monaco special relationship continuing Plus

Why all signs point to F1’s Monaco special relationship continuing

OPINION: With more potential venues than there are slots in future calendars, rumours have been circulating that the Monaco Grand Prix could be a casualty of F1’s expansion into new markets. But MARK GALLAGHER thinks this is highly unlikely

Formula 1
Aug 2, 2022
Hungarian Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022 Plus

Hungarian Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022

The Hungarian Grand Prix race result, after a dry race held without safety car conditions, bore little resemblance to what was anticipated after qualifying. While certain drivers were nullified by some iffy strategy calls, others shone to grasp opportunities afforded to them in the last F1 race before the summer break

Formula 1
Aug 1, 2022