Scheduling challenge as Chinese GP postponed over coronavirus fears
Formula 1’s Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Shanghai on 19 April, has been postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The FIA, motor racing’s international governing body, said today that the decision, which had been expected, was taken "as a result of continued health concerns" after Juss Sports Group, the race promoter, requested a postponement.
The federation added that the Shanghai race, which would have been the fourth round of the 2020 season, had been called off “in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans," and that it and Formula 1 will "continue to work closely… to monitor the situation.”
It is unclear whether a date can be found later in 2020 for the Chinese Grand Prix. The new season starts with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 15 March and a record 22 rounds were scheduled.
The FIA said all parties will "study the viability of potential alternative dates later in the year should the situation improve."
The postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix was considered likely following comments from Formula 1 chief executive and chairman Chase Carey and a direction from the Shanghai Sports General Association suspending all sports events in the city while the virus continues to spread.
There are also doubts over the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, due to take place in Hanoi on 5 April. The city is 100 miles from the Chinese border, and latest figures show 15 confirmed cases of the virus in Vietnam.
Media reports in recent days have indicated that Formula 1 faces a challenge to find a free weekend to stage the Chinese Grand Prix.
The organisers of the Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for 27 September, have already ruled out exchanging dates, and the season is set to finish with nine rounds crammed into 14 weekends.
Almost all of the available slots in that time would commit teams to racing on three consecutive weekends, and present difficulties in terms of transporting equipment and the logistics involved.
The last time a Formula 1 race was called off was eight years ago, when the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled amid the Arab Spring political uprising in the Middle East and North Africa.
However, Formula 1 has followed Formula E, which had already called off its planned round in the Chinese city of Sanya in March.
Other sports to have postponed, cancelled or relocated events in China and Southeast Asia in the last month include athletics, soccer, tennis, basketball, field hockey and golf.
Formula 1 will be loath to cancel its Chinese round given it has long been regarded as an important growth market and is a key country for the competing car manufacturers.
In its statement, the FIA said it "looks forward to racing in China as soon as possible, and wishes everyone in the country the best during this difficult time.”