Belgian Grand Prix in doubt after mass events ban extended
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 August 31.
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 August 31. That would include the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix, which was pencilled in on August 30.
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 superstar 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.
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 Motorsport.com.
“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.”
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