Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton in action at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AFP file

Dubai: There were good reasons to cheer for motorsports fans as Formula One announced a plan to start it’s delayed 2020 season with the Austrian Grand Prix in July without fans - while it will end with a Gulf swing of Bahrain (earlier postponed in March) and the traditional finale in UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.

The first race at the Red Bull Ring would be on the July 3-5 weekend, according to Chase Carey, chairman and CEO of F1 before the juggernaut moves on with races in Asia and the Americas. The French Grand Prix at the southern Le Castellet circuit in June has been, however, cancelled, becoming the 10th race to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although this morning it was announced that the French Grand Prix, due to take place in late June, will not be going ahead, we are now increasingly confident with the progress of our plans to begin our season this summer. We’re targetting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on July 3-5 weekend.

Chase Carey

‘‘September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races,’’ a statement from Carey said.

The British GP is set to follow Austria on July 19 and organisers said they are talking to the government about the viability of holding it without fans.

F1's finances have taken a hit with so many races called off, and smaller teams especially face an uncertain future. This has led to several discussions about reducing the budget-cap level.

A budget cap of $175 million was agreed last year but teams want it lowered to $150 million for next year -excluding driver salaries and engine costs. McLaren, however, wants it reduced to $100 million, an initiative which Ferrari opposes.

‘‘We will publish our finalised calendar as soon as we possibly can. We expect the early races to be without fans but hope fans will be part of our events as we move further into the schedule. We still have to work out many issues like the procedures for the teams and our other partners to enter and operate in each country. The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority one and we will only go forward if we are confident we have reliable procedures to address both risks and possible issues,’’ he said.

‘‘The FIA, teams, promoters, and other key partners have been working with us throughout these steps and we want to thank them for all their support and efforts during this incredibly challenging time. We also want to recognise the fact that the teams have been supporting us at the same time that they have been focusing enormous and heroic efforts to build ventilators to help those infected by COVID-19.

‘‘While we have been moving forward with our 2020 plans, we have also been working hard with the FIA and the teams to strengthen the long term future of Formula 1 through an array of new technical, sporting, and financial regulations that will improve the competition and action on the track and make it healthier,’’ he added.

Revised 2020 Formula One calendar

(After cancellation of French Grand Prix)

Cancelled - March 15: Australia (Melbourne)

Postponed - March 22: Bahrain (Sakhir)

Postponed - April 5: Vietnam (Hanoi)

Postponed - April 19: China (Shanghai)

Postponed - May 3: Netherlands (Zandvoort)

Postponed - May 10: Spain (Barcelona)

Cancelled - May 24: Monaco

Postponed - June 7: Azerbaijan (Baku)

Postponed - June 14: Canada (Montreal)

Cancelled - June 28: France (Le Castellet)

Still planned

July 5: Austria (Spielberg)

July 19: Great Britain (Silverstone)

August 2: Hungary (Budapest)

August 30: Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)

September 6: Italy (Monza)

September 20 Singapore (Marina Bay)

September 27: Russia (Sochi)

October 11: Japan (Suzuka)

October 25: United States (Austin)

November 1: Mexico (Mexico City)

November 15: Brazil (Sao Paulo)

November 29: Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)