Formula One unveils eight-race schedule from July 5

The curtailed Formula One season will start with two races behind closed doors in Austria on July 5 and July 12, the organizers said on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Formula One unveils eight-race schedule from July 5

  • The Hungarian Grand Prix will be brought forward to July 19 before a two-week break

PARIS: The curtailed Formula One season will start with two races behind closed doors in Austria on July 5 and July 12 followed by six other grands prix in Europe, the organizers said on Tuesday.

Formula One said it hoped to have between 15 and 18 races in total, with the season being completed in December.

The F1 season was thrown into chaos with the cancellation of the traditional curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in March only hours before practice was due to begin as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world.

Last week, the Austrian government sanctioned the season-opening double-header at the Spielberg circuit after F1 organizers “presented a complete and professional plan” to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Hungarian Grand Prix will be brought forward to July 19 before a two-week break, followed by consecutive races in Britain and events in Spain, Italy and Belgium. All will likely be run without spectators while participants must adhere to strict safety protocols. Regular health tests will be conducted with the number of team members and race staff at the venue also reduced.

“While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do,” said F1 chief executive Chase Carey.

“But we know the return of Formula 1 will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”

F1 managing director Ross Brawn last month said the Red Bull Ring circuit’s remote location made it a “logical” choice to stage the season’s first two races.

With a local airport, the races can be held in an isolated environment, essential in the fight against the pandemic that has killed less than 700 people in Austria, and more than over 375,000 worldwide.

“Red Bull have pulled out all the stops to get the Austrian Grand Prix up and running, in order to support a safe start to the Formula One season,” said team principal Christian Horner.

“It has been a huge effort by all involved and the two events at the Red Bull Ring will be a blueprint for all other races to follow.

He added: “With the first eight races of the calendar now confirmed we have some positive momentum. As a race team and racers, we are excited to get going again and put on a show for our fans.”

Silverstone will host two races in Britain on Aug. 2 and 9, with the Spanish Grand Prix set for Barcelona on Aug. 16.

The Belgian and Italian Grands Prix will take place on their original dates of Aug. 30 and Sept. 6, completing the European part of the season. Each event will also include the Formula 2 and Formula 3 categories.

The blueprint for the rehashed season features further races in Asia and the Americas in September, October and November before finishing in the Gulf in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December.

The 2020 season was to have featured a record 22 races, now it is set to be the shortest campaign since 2009 with races in Australia, Monaco, France and the Netherlands cancelled.


Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

Updated 08 July 2020

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

  • The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded

SHANGHAI: The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars, state media said on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.

NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.

“When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Li Na appear?

“Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?”

The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.

Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately he is banned.” 

The 28-year-old is appealing against an 8-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

China has world champions in other sports, and finished third behind the US and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.

Table tennis player Zhang Jike, another three-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lin, said the Oriental Sports Daily.

But at 32 his best days are behind him and as far back as 2016 he signaled his intention to retire, before having a change of heart.

“When will the next Lin Dan and China’s next sports superstar appear again?” asked the newspaper.

“This question may not be answered in a short space of time.”