LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One says the UK government’s quarantine plans would rule out a British Grand Prix and affect tens of thousands of F1-related jobs if exemptions are not granted for sport.
Ministers have said they plan a 14-day quarantine for most people arriving in the country in the coming weeks to try to prevent a second peak in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Formula One is planning two grands prix without spectators at Silverstone, which this year marks the 70th anniversary of hosting the first world championship race, immediately after two in Austria in early July.
“A 14-day quarantine would make it impossible to have a British Grand Prix this year,” a Formula One spokesman said on Tuesday.
“It has a major impact on literally tens of thousands of jobs linked to F1 and the supply chains. If all elite sport is to return to TV, then exemptions must be provided.”
Seven of the 10 Formula One teams are based in England and plans for the season, which has yet to start due to the pandemic, would be disrupted by teams being forced into two weeks’ quarantine every time they return from abroad.
Formula One plans to hold the Austrian races within a controlled ‘bubble’, with all team members tested repeatedly for the virus, travelling on charter flights and avoiding contact with anyone outside the paddock.
“We would be travelling back to the UK on F1-only occupied aircraft and all staff would be tested, making a quarantine totally unnecessary,” said the spokesman.
Austria is one of Europe’s least affected countries by COVID-19 but everyone going on to Silverstone would be similarly isolated.
Quarantine also threatens English soccer clubs’ progress in Europe if still in force once matches resume.
Manchester City and Chelsea are in the Champions League while Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers remain in Europa League contention.
There was no immediate comment from the Premier League or the clubs concerned.
Asked in parliament on Monday about exemptions, transport minister Grant Shapps said that while it would initially be a blanket approach, the government was in “active discussions” about what more it could do.
“We should, indeed, consider further improvements. For example, things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection,” he said.
Formula One has yet to publish a revised 2020 calendar but chairman Chase Carey has said venues not previously due to host races are being considered as part of contingency planning.
That could mean Germany’s Hockenheim, which has been in discussions with F1, following on from Austria to overcome the quarantine restrictions if Silverstone is ruled out.
There could then be more races on successive weekends in Europe before the teams have to return to England again.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by David Goodman and Christian Radnedge)