British F1 race ‘not a given,’ says Silverstone boss

Formula One plans to start the season with two races behind closed doors in Austria in early July. (Reuters file photo)
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Updated 03 May 2020

British F1 race ‘not a given,’ says Silverstone boss

  • Formula One insiders have spoken of teams staying at secure hotels
  • Any races will need government approval, with countries in various stages of lockdown

LONDON: This year’s British Grand Prix “is not a given” even without spectators and the decision depends on others, Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle said on Saturday.

Formula One plans to start the season, put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, with two races behind closed doors in Austria in early July before potentially two more at Silverstone.

Any races will need government approval, with countries in various stages of lockdown with restrictions on movement and mass events.

Silverstone is keen to help the sport back on track but announced this week any race could only go ahead without spectators.

“The end of April (decision deadline) for us was if we had to start putting up temporary infrastructure for hospitality and dealing with the public and stuff,” said Pringle.

“We are only working on fixed infrastructure (now) so it’s an awful lot less.

“I’m confident we could operate well within F1’s decision-making cycle,” he said of any new deadline. 

“I think they are the ones who have got to make the decision.”

Formula One’s managing director Ross Brawn said the sport wanted to create a “kind of biosphere” at circuits.

That would involve getting everyone who entered the circuit tested and cleared for the coronavirus and then keeping them in a controlled environment.

“Austria fits that bill very well. It’s got a local airport right next to the circuit, where people can charter planes into. It’s not too close to a metropolis, it has a great infrastructure around it,” Brawn told an F1 podcast.

“There will be no motorhomes, but there will be a full catering facility laid on that the circuit has.”

 

Home security

Formula One insiders have spoken of teams staying at secure hotels with no interaction with local residents and no media access.

Pringle said Silverstone, a home race for seven of the 10 teams, could offer security.

“In the discussions within sport, about restarting in the UK, there’s been talk about the need for sites to be a bit like an island. To be controlled. We can achieve that,” he said.

“We have all the facilities we need inside the circuit with the exception of a complete hotel. We have a half-built hotel, if that helps anyone.

Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield in central England, has a 222 hectare site with a nearly 8km perimeter fence.

The Wing building is some 400m long and can deliver 4,500 sit down lunches simultaneously with its own kitchens and five separate halls.

“We’d comfortably cater for everybody associated with putting it on,” said Pringle. 

“We could separate people and shifts ... we’re ideally placed.”

Silverstone is already used to teams using the circuit for private testing, away from prying eyes.

Pringle also made clear that everything had to be done so as not to put stress on policing or divert medical resources away from the fight against the coronavirus.

“I’m very clear we cannot be any sort of burden or the slightest impact on that. And if we are this isn’t going to happen,” he said.


Mind games begin ahead of the return to Saudi football as Hilal boss Lucescu challenges Nassr coach

Updated 9 min 47 sec ago

Mind games begin ahead of the return to Saudi football as Hilal boss Lucescu challenges Nassr coach

  • Victory in this Riyadh Derby will take the three-time Asian champions nine points clear of Al Nassr with just seven games remaining
  • There has been good and bad news for Al Nassr as Brazilian centre-back Maicon Pereira has arrived in Riyadh from Galatasaray and has been cleared to play

DUBAI: There may have been no football in Saudi Arabia for five months but the mind games are in full flow as ahead of the crucial top of the table clash in the Saudi Pro League on Wednesday, Al Hilal boss Razvan Lucescu has told Al Nassr coach Rui Vitoria that the pressure is all on him.

In the first game since March when the season was suspended due to coronavirus, Al Nassr in second, six points behind the leaders with eight games to play, can’t afford any slip-ups in the Riyadh Derby if they are to successfully defend the title they won last season.

“We are six points ahead and the opponent is under more pressure as they know they have to reduce the difference,” Lucescu told reporters at the pre-match press conference to the eagerly-awaited Riyadh Derby that will take place with no fans in the King Fahd International Stadium.

That points gap means that the smart money is still on Al Hilal to take league title number 16. Victory in this Riyadh Derby will take the three-time Asian champions nine points clear of Al Nassr with just seven games remaining.

Not only that but Al Hilal have looked to be in better shape than their challengers in recent warm-up games with a 2-2 draw with second tier side Al-Shoalah following a 4-0 win over Al Riyadh.

“We have been looking forward to this game for a long time,”  Lucescu, who took Al Hilal to the AFC Champions League title in 2019, added. “The league suspension has been long and it has not been easy but we have focused on the mental side of things and aim to return strongly.”

The Romanian has been boosted by the return to fitness of Brazilian star Carlos Eduardo who has recovered from last week’s knock. With the league’s leading goalscorer Bafetimbi Gomis signing a contract extension in July, Lucescu is in a positive frame of mind.

“We know the way they play and we know that it will be a tough game …but everyone is affected by the long pause and we all start at the same level. We are just going to take it step by step and stay focused.”

There has been good and bad news for Al Nassr as Brazilian centre-back Maicon Pereira has arrived in Riyadh from Galatasaray and has been cleared to play. The former Porto star will be needed as fellow defenders Omar Hawsawi and Abdullah Madu could miss out through injury.

While Hilal may have the points gap, in terms of the personal battles between the two coaches, Vitoria has the upper hand. The Portuguese boss has yet to lose in three meetings with his Romanian rival in big games in Europe as well as Saudi Arabia.

In a final play-off to reach the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, Vitoria led Benfica to a 5-2 aggregate victory over PAOK, coached by Lucescu. After a 1-1 draw in Lisbon, the Portuguese powerhouse won 4-1 in Greece.

Earlier this season, Al Nassr inflicted Al Hilal’s only loss in the league this season so far with a 2-1 win at Hilal’s King Saud International Stadium in October with Moroccan forward Abderrazak Hamdallah getting both goals.

A similar result at Al Nassr’s home on Wednesday would breathe new life into the title race. Vitoria has stressed that recent friendly games were a chance to try out tactics and give players a run-out. Losses against Al Raed and Al Fateh however have given the Portuguese boss much to think about.

At the other end of the table.  Al Ittihad are just three places of the bottom of this 16-team league and in danger of the drop. The two-time AFC Champions League winners face a game on Tuesday at mid-table Abha where victory would provide the Jeddah giants with some much-needed breathing space.

The race for third and a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League is also a fierce one. Al Wehda are currently in the driving seat and host Al Shabab while Al Ahli in fourth and just two points behind host the struggling Al Hazem. Al Faisaly, Al-Taawon and Al Raed also have an outside chance of booking a place in next year’s continental competition.

All eyes will, however, be on the top of the table clash as Hilal can take a huge step towards the title. “I am happy with how the players have returned from the suspension and I am confident in  their abilities,”said Lucescu. “All we care about is winning the next match and that will help us win the league.”