Formula 1’s 2020 Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, and organisers will attempt to reschedule it for later this year.
The novel coronavirus, which means it is a new strain that does not match one previously known, is related to SARS and has so far infected more than 45,000 people, killing more than 1100.
It has been declared an international public health emergency, and following a request from the local promoter F1’s Shanghai round has joined the growing list of sporting events in the country to be cancelled, suspended or moved – including Formula E’s race at Sanya on March 21.
The Chinese GP was due to take place on April 19, and is the first F1 race to be cancelled since Bahrain in 2011.
“In view of the continued spread of novel coronavirus and after ongoing discussions with the Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Sports of People’s Republic of China (CAMF) and Shanghai Administration of Sports, the Chinese Grand Prix Promoter, Juss Sports Group, has officially requested that the 2020 FIA Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix be postponed,” said an FIA statement.
“The FIA, together with the Formula 1, have jointly decided to accept this official request from the promoter and postpone the 2020 FIA Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, originally scheduled for 19 April.
“As a result of continued health concerns and with the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus as a global health emergency, the FIA and Formula 1 have taken these measures in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains of primary concern.
“The FIA and Formula 1 continue to work closely with the teams, race promoter, CAMF and the local authorities to monitor the situation as it develops.
“All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for the grand prix later in the year should the situation improve.
“The Chinese Grand Prix has long been an important part of the F1 calendar with many passionate fans. The FIA F1 community looks forward to racing in China as soon as possible and wishes everyone in the country the best during this difficult time.”
The absence of the Chinese GP leaves a four-week gap between the inaugural Vietnam race (April 5) and the return of the Dutch GP on May 3.
Exactly where China could be slotted back into the calendar remains unclear given the compressed nature of the schedule, which expanded to 22 races for the first time this year.
It is thought that a late-year date is the only realistic opportunity for the race to be held, unless F1 shortens its summer break.
The Vietnam race may also be at risk due to its shared border with China, although only 15 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the country.
Earlier this month, Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation CEO Le Ngoc Chi said in a statement given to The Race that his organisation was “actively monitoring the situation as it develops”.
“For now we don’t anticipate any significant impact on our April event,” he said.
“We will continue to work with our relevant authorities to closely monitor the situation.”
The last F1 race cancellation
By Edd Straw
The cancelled 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was due to stage the season-opening race on March 13 that year.
That decision was announced just 20 days before the race was due to take place, and came as a result of the anti-government, pro-democracy protests that erupted on February 14 – although Bahrain said it was still keen to stage the race later in the year.
In June, the FIA approved a calendar shuffle that moved the Indian GP to the end of the season with a December 11 date.
This allowed Bahrain to take over India’s original October 30 date.
But amid objections from teams for logistical reasons, as well as significant criticism on human rights grounds from inside and outside F1, this change was swiftly abandoned.
The Bahrain GP did return to the calendar in 2012 (pictured above) and has been an ever-present since.