LONDON (Reuters) – British Grand Prix organizers have set an end of April deadline to decide whether the country’s Formula One race goes ahead as scheduled in July or becomes another casualty of the coronavirus.
The race, a highlight of a British sporting summer that looks likely to be wiped out by the pandemic, has been the best attended on the F1 calendar in recent seasons with a total crowd of 351,000 last year.
The Sunday turnout at the former World War Two airfield in central England was 141,000 in 2019, with the race close to home for seven of the sport’s 10 teams including six times world champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Britain’s Hamilton won at Silverstone last year for a record sixth time.
Britain has strict social distancing measures in place at present, with all sport on hold and the authorities asking everyone to stay at home except for essential travel.
Formula One’s season has yet to start, with two races canceled and six more postponed so far.
“Silverstone and Formula One remain in close dialogue regarding the ongoing situation and are assessing the feasibility of holding the British Grand Prix on 17th–19th July,” Silverstone said on Wednesday.
“We fully appreciate that other UK sporting events in July have taken decisions regarding their events,” the statement continued.
“But it is important to highlight that their logistics and sporting arrangements differ from Silverstone’s and, therefore, our timeline gives us until the end of April to make a final decision.”
Silverstone said the safety of all involved remained a priority.
The circuit is owned by the British Racing Drivers’ Club and requires some temporary infrastructure, although less than in the past, which depends on workers and contractors being available.
Formula One has said it hopes to resume racing in the European summer and is working on a reduced and rejigged calendar of 15-18 grands prix that could run into January if necessary.
The British and Italian Grands Prix are the only ones to have been held in every year since the world championship started in 1950, with Silverstone hosting the first.
Monaco, a glamorous fixture since 1955, has already been canceled for this year however. Italy’s race at Monza is scheduled for September.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed — which attracts a 200,000-strong crowd over the weekend before Silverstone — has been postponed.
The Euro 2020 soccer championship, whose July 12 final would have been at London’s Wembley Stadium, has been postponed to 2021.
The June 29-July 12 Wimbledon tennis championships are also expected to become a casualty of the virus, with a decision imminent.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)