|Cyril Abiteboul predicts the entire 2020 F1 season will be run with only a handful of fans|
(GMM) Cyril Abiteboul thinks Formula 1 should prepare for a whole season of 'ghost races' in 2020.
However, the Renault team boss is hoping for the best.
"We are preparing for a closed season, obviously with several economic scenarios for the circumstances, but we hope to be able to welcome a very small number of fans during the races this summer," said the Frenchman.
Austria will host the first spectator-less races starting next weekend, and F1 chiefs have warned that the entire initial European season could also take place behind closed doors.
"I don't have my own predictions," said Abiteboul, "but if we look at the evolution of the pandemic, it seems under control in Europe.
"However, we will probably have to wait to go through a complete cycle, a full winter, before finding promoters ready to take the risk and organize races with full stands," he admitted.
"That is why the main concern now is to protect the sport, protect Formula 1 in time for next year when we think that the situation will have returned to normal."
Abiteboul said even Formula 1's ghost races with a controlled environment, strict rules and on-site virus testing is a tough task at present.
"Between the ten teams, drivers, physios, Formula 1 and the FIA, all the stakeholders, that makes up 2000 people moving from one country to another. When you consider that we also have to deal with the various national authorities, this is one of the difficulties we had to face," he said.
"Even without the fans, without the sponsors, without the media, we are not a small organisation. We represent a large gathering of people.
"So we have to prepare with very strict measures and drastic rules in the background. If you think about preparing a car before qualifying with the social distancing, it's a real challenge.
"But fortunately we had a very good dialog and this is what will allow us to go racing," Abiteboul said.