Following the news that the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is cancelled and the postponement of the races in China, Bahrain and Vietnam, Formula 1 and the sport’s governing body have said they now ‘expect’ the 2020 season to begin at the end of May.
The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the Chinese event to be postponed. And then, during the build-up to Melbourne, a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus.
With that major health concern, the next race which was suppose to take place in Bahrain next weekend, and the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix, scheduled for the beginning of April, have been postponed.
A joint statement from Formula 1, the FIA, the race organisers and the relevant governments involved, said:
“Following the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation this week and the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, Formula 1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern.”
All parties said they were hopeful the races could be staged at a later date, and in light of the impact the virus is having, the statement added that it is expected the Formula 1 season can begin at the end of May.
“Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam and the local health authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve.
“As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the Championship in Europe at the end of May but given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”
Chase Carey, Formula 1 Chairman and CEO, said the safety of the fans and people working in the sport is the main priority.
“The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and it’s right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions.
“We are taking this decision with the FIA and our promoters to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Formula 1 and our fans. The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule, and we look forward to being back there as soon as we can. We are also looking forward to Vietnam’s inaugural race and bringing the spectacle of F1 to one of the most exciting cities in the world.”
FIA President Jean Todt added the following statement:
“Protecting people first. Together with Formula 1, the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Vietnamese Motorsports Association, and the local promoters, postponing both the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, as with the Australian Grand Prix, was the only possible decision given all of the information currently available to us.
“We continue to rely on the input and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments and will work with them throughout this unpredictable period to safeguard the fans, competitors and all of the motor sport community.”
With the four of the opening races cancelled, this year’s championship will feature fewer events. It’s a difficult situation for the teams, the race organisations and all the people running the show in managing the new schedule. Fingers crossed a solution is available. For fans of the sport, the excitement of seeing racing action will have to wait.