British Grand Prix confirms it will go ahead in front of 140,000 fans

British Grand Prix gets the green light to welcome 140,000 fans to full-capacity Silverstone on ‘Freedom Day Eve’, in the biggest test yet of NHS Covid passes and largest UK crowd since the pandemic began

  • Government is testing covid certification at events this month and next
  • The NHS App has been modified to create a Covid Pass, which can display both vaccination status and the result of a negative lateral flow test
  • Other events  include Euro 2020 matches, The Open Golf Championship, Wimbledon and England’s One-Day International at Edgbaston

Next month’s British Grand Prix will take place in front of a capacity 140,000 crowd, Silverstone has confirmed, making it the biggest test of the new NHS Covid Pass.

The announcement paves the way for the largest UK crowd since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as part of phase three of the government’s Events Research Programme.

The grand prix takes place just one day before the delayed Freedom Day in England on July 19, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to end coronavirus restrictions.

Silverstone Grand Prix will go ahead in front of a capacity crowd one day before Freedom Day

In another significant step towards the return of normal life post pandemic, Silverstone will be allowed to sell out for the entire July 16-18 weekend.


The pilot events this summer will test covid certification using the NHS Covid Pass, which went live this week.

It is available through the NHS app, which has been modified so it can now show that a person has had both doses of the vaccine jab, a recent negative test or has had the virus in the last six months.

Previously, the app – which is different to the Covid-19 test and trace app – provided details of a person’s vaccinations, but it has been updated so that there is an option for them to enter test results to show that they do not have the virus or that they have been infected before.

Currently, only sports fans participating in the pilot events, like Wimbledon, can upload their test results. Ticket-holders are given a code that will allow them access to a new section of the app. 

This is intended to address concerns over discriminating against people who choose not to, or cannot, receive the vaccine. Those people can take a test to prove they are Covid free.

The race is one of the highlights of the British sporting summer as Lewis Hamilton’s rivalry with Max Verstappen intensifies in the former’s bid for a record-breaking eighth world championship.

The news will come as a major boost to Silverstone, with managing director Stuart Pringle understood to have stressed to Government officials that the circuit – which staged the first ever Formula One world championship event in 1950 – would go bust if fans were not permitted.

Both last year’s British and 70th Anniversary Grands Prix at Silverstone took place behind closed doors.

The Grand Prix is one of a number of test events, which are being used to investigate the effectiveness of NHS Covid Passes.

The others include, the Euro 2020 knock out stages, when 45,000 fans will attend England’s round of 16 games at Wembley on June 26 and 29.

The capacity will increase further to 60,000 for the semi-finals on July 6 and 7 and the final on July 11.

In addition, Wimbledon will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, with 20,000 fans each day, and a full house of 15,000 on Centre Court will watch the finals on July 10 and 11.

Edgbaston has been selected for a second test event after it hosted around 60,000 spectators over four days of Test cricket earlier this month. At that match, spectators had to prove they were covid free using a lateral flow test.

Now, the Birmingham cricket ground will stage the One-Day International (ODI) between England and Pakistan in the Royal London Series, on 13 July, in front of a large crowd, but the actual capacity is yet to be agreed.

In addition, Royal St George’s in Sandwich, Kent, will admit up to 32,000 spectators a day for The Open.

Max Verstappen’s third win of the season last week matched Lewis Hamilton’s (left) three

The Dutchman passed Hamilton on fresher tyres on the penultimate lap to take the victory

Silverstone made the case that their 70,000 grandstand seats at the former Royal Air Force base are scattered over 3.5 miles, while the event is not reliant on public transport with the large majority of spectators arriving in cars.

Ticket holders will be asked for either proof of a negative lateral flow test, taken within 48 hours of arriving at Silverstone, or be fully vaccinated. A modified NHS app allows this to be displayed on a spectators’ smartphone, but paper copies are also available.

The Cabinet Office is conducting a review of covid certification and is expected to announce its findings next month.

F1’s first-ever sprint race will also take place at Silverstone on the Saturday of the GP weekend.

All courts at Wimbledon will operate at 50 per cent capacity for most of the tournament, which kicks off in less than two weeks (2019 tournament pictured)

A new ‘NHS Covid Pass’ is available on mobile phones helping to unlock capacity crowds at Wimbledon and Euro 2020 matches. Pictured: England fans arriving at Wembley last week for the match against Croatia

‘This is something we have all been working towards for months and I cannot wait to welcome a full capacity crowd back to Silverstone this July,’ said Pringle.

‘Many of our fans rolled their tickets over from 2020 but they are now well-placed to enjoy what is sure to be one of the highlights of the summer.

‘My thanks go to the Culture Secretary (Oliver Dowden) and his team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for their tireless efforts on behalf of the sports sector, but also the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove and the teams in number 10 and the Cabinet Office for recognising what an amazing, safe opportunity the British Grand Prix offers to show the world how Britain has dragged itself back on track following the fight against the pandemic.’

England’s Summer of Sport

Key events after 21 June – the earliest date all restrictions can be lifted:

11 June-11 July: Football – Euro 2020 in various countries, including seven matches at Wembley

28 June-11 July: Tennis – Wimbledon

23, 24 & 26 June: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka T20s 

29 June, 1 & 4 July: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka ODIs

8, 10 & 13 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan ODIs

13 July: Athletics – Diamond League: Anniversary Games at London Stadium

15-18 July: Golf – The Open at Royal St George’s

16, 18 & 20 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan T20s

17 July: Rugby League – Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley

18 July: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix at Silverstone

4 Aug-14 Sept: Cricket – England v India five Test series 

6 August: Football – EFL season commences 

14 August: Football – Premier League season commences 

19 August: Cricket – Royal London Cup final

21 August: Cricket – The Hundred women’s and men’s finals

18 September: Cricket – Vitality T20 Blast semi-finals and final 

28 Sept-1 Oct: Cricket – Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s

3 October: Athletics – London Marathon

9 October: Rugby League – Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford

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