The first round of the 2020 F1 season in Melbourne is set to go ahead in less than two weeks’ time despite the threat of the coronavirus, which has now prompted race cancellations in four different countries.More than 86,000 infections have been detected in over 50 countries, causing over 3,000 deaths, mostly in China.
Moto GP’s season-opening race in Qatar, which was due to take place this weekend, and its second round of the championship in Thailand, have both been struck from the calendar. Replacement dates for the events have not been announced.
A statement from the International Motorcycling Federation explained the Qatar race cancellation was due to the country enforcing new restrictions on travel from Italy, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases. “Italy clearly plays a vital role in the championship and in the Moto GP class – both on track and off – and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition,” it said.
Visitors from Italy were still being admitted to Australia as of Monday morning but a further escalation in restrictions could pose problems for Formula 1. The Australian government revised its official travel advice for Italy over the weekend. Australians were previously told to avoid certain parts of the country, but since yesterday are being warned to “exercise a high degree of caution” throughout the whole of Italy.
Australia raised the restrictions on another country affected by coronavirus last weekend. Travellers are being advised “not to travel” to Iran, another coronavirus hotspot, and anyone arriving to Australia from the country is required to “self-isolate for 14 days”.
Were Australia to impose similar restrictions on Italy, it would present complications for any F1 personnel based in the country, such as Ferrari or AlphaTauri staff. Last week AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost said it would be “unfair” if a race went ahead without any absent teams.
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His Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto said they are “trying to get assurance on what will be the situation” from the FIA and Formula 1 on arrangements for the season-opening race. “We know that they may be difficulty as well for people coming or arriving from Italy,” he said. “Certainly in that situation we need to understand what may happen in case there are any problems with that.
“Obviously we as Ferrari are trying to protect as much as we can, our employees. As F1 and FIA is trying to make sure that everything will run smoothly. So I think the plans are kept as they are at the moment so Australia will be present in a couple of weeks’ time. Bahrain straight after. But the situation is changing continuously and I think we need only try to keep monitoring and have a chat with them.”
Formula 1 cancelled its April date for the Chinese Grand Prix last month. It is trying to reschedule its visit to the Shanghai International Circuit later in the year.
Among the other series to have cancelled races due to the coronavirus are Formula E and Japan’s Super Formula championship. No races have been cancelled in Europe yet, but the DTM has relocated its mid-March pre-season test from Monza to the Hockenheimring. A combined pre-season test for International GT Open, GT Cup and Euroformula Open at the Circuit de Catalunya, scheduled for later this week, will also not go ahead.
Other major races have gone ahead. Australia’s Supercars championship, which is due to support F1 in Melbourne, held its season opener at Adelaide last month. The World Superbike Championship opened at Phillip Island in Australia last weekend, and Formula E raced in Marrakech.
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Major races cancelled or postponed due to Coronavirus
|March 6 – March 8||Moto GP||Qatar Grand Prix||Losail International Circuit||Qatar|
|March 21 – March 21||Formula E||Sanya EPrix||Sanya||China|
|March 20 – March 22||Moto GP||Thailand Grand Prix||Buriram International Circuit||Thailand|
|March 21 – March 22||Super Taikyu||Round one||Suzuka||Japan|
|April 4 – April 5||Super Formula||Round one||Suzuka||Japan|
|April 17 – April 19||Formula 1||Chinese Grand Prix||Shanghai International Circuit||China|
|April 17 – April 19||Porsche Carrera Cup Asia||Shanghai round||Shanghai International Circuit||China|
|April 17 – April 19||Chinese Formula Four||Shanghai round||Shanghai International Circuit||China|
Formula Renault Asiacup has stated its event supporting the Vietnam Grand Prix will not go ahead, though the Hanoi event promoters had not confirmed the races would be part of its roster of support events. The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia or Thailand Super Series races supporting the grand prix are still scheduled to take place.
Quotes: Dieter Rencken
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