Coronavirus: Formula One postpones both Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix

Formula One has postponed both the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, meaning the first four races of the 2020 season have been called off over coronavirus.

A decision was taken at the last minute to cancel this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, just hours before first practice was due to get underway on Friday morning.

With fans still arriving at the circuit gates, Formula One eventually issued a statement to confirm the event had been cancelled, having held emergency talks with all 10 teams late on Thursday night following McLaren’s withdrawal after a team member tested positive for Covid-19.

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With the second round of the season scheduled for next weekend in Bahrain, all of those forced into self-isolation – which includes 14 other members of the McLaren team – would not be able to travel to the Middle East, while the third round of the season was due to take place in Vietnam for the first time. However, Hanoi’s close-proximity to the Chinese border on top of the strict travel restriction imposed by the Vietnamese government left F1 no other option than to cancel the opening four races – with April’s Chinese Grand Prix postponed back in February.

It means that there are no plans to start the season until the Dutch Grand Prix on 1-3 May at the earliest, with officials currently unable to confirm a schedule for 2020 at the timebeing.

An F1 statement read: “Due to the continued global spread of Covid-19 and after ongoing discussions with the FIA, and race organisers a decision has been taken by all parties to postpone the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Vietnam Grand Prix due to take place on March 20-22 and April 3-5 respectively.”

But despite the Dutch Grand Prix being scheduled to begin on Friday 1 May, F1 added that there is no guarantee that the season can begin then given the changing state of the pandemic.

FIA President, Jean Todt, added: “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.”


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F1 received a large wave of criticism for their delay in announcing the cancellation, with 12 hours passing between McLaren’s withdrawal and the statement confirming the race had been cancelled. However, the sport’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn defended the process given the number of different bodies involved in the talks, and stressed that a new calendar will be drawn up for 2020 that will attempt to reschedule as many of the cancelled races as possible.

 

 

“We are taking stock of the situation now and what we have learned from this weekend,” said Brawn. “We have to be realistic about when that can start again, which is what we’re working on at the moment.

“We have plans to rebuild the season and try and accommodate as many of the lost races as we can.

“I think people have to show some tolerance now in terms of how we build the season, for the rest of the year. I think the team is in the right place to realise that is necessary.”

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