Start, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2019

F1 season opener still on as more series cancel races due to Coronavirus

2020 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

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.

Races in China, Japan, Thailand and Qatar have all been cancelled due to the spread of Covid-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. 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.

Start, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019
F1 hopes to reschedule its Chinese round
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.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

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.

Start, Formula E, Sanya, 2019
Formula E’s Sanya race was called off
“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.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Major races cancelled or postponed due to Coronavirus

DatesSeriesEventLocationCountry
March 6 – March 8Moto GPQatar Grand PrixLosail International CircuitQatar
March 21 – March 21Formula ESanya EPrixSanyaChina
March 20 – March 22Moto GPThailand Grand PrixBuriram International CircuitThailand
March 21 – March 22Super TaikyuRound oneSuzukaJapan
April 4 – April 5Super FormulaRound oneSuzukaJapan
April 17 – April 19Formula 1Chinese Grand PrixShanghai International CircuitChina
April 17 – April 19Porsche Carrera Cup AsiaShanghai roundShanghai International CircuitChina
April 17 – April 19Chinese Formula FourShanghai roundShanghai International CircuitChina

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

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

39 comments on “F1 season opener still on as more series cancel races due to Coronavirus”

  1. All the numbers I’ve seen so far show two key factors:
    The death chances are no higher than regular flu.
    It is all around the globe already.
    So you won’t be able to stop it. And it seems is not necessary. But you can try to delay it to learn more about it.
    Is that what WHO and the governments are trying to do?

    1. @OnlyFacts!

      The death chances are no higher than regular flu.

      This is absolutely untrue and spreading this type of misinformation only adds to the problem. Here is a quote from a recent article on The Guardian: ‘If borne out by further testing, this could mean that current estimates of a roughly 1% fatality rate are accurate. This would make Covid-19 about 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu, which is estimated to kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year globally.’ Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/02/worse-than-the-flu-busting-the-coronavirus-myths-face-masks-vaccine-covid-19

      1. Also the fact that majority of people are acting as carriers(weak symptoms even if infected) with elderly, kids and people with weak immune system being at risk of more serious infections as those carriers keep spreading the infection.

        1. Kids are actually not a risk at all, at least for the moment being. They are the group (0-9 years old) least affected by it.
          References (based on the current and limited data regarding children):
          https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/
          https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html

          1. Thats good to hear, generally kids along with elderly and sick that are a high risk group.

          2. Yes, for many diseases is true because their imune systems have not fully developed yet. But this is a bit like getting the measles or chickenpox; when it happens in your childhood you usually survive and handle it quite well (some kids don’t though, I know) but when you get in adulthood tends to be much more complicated and serious (the symptoms). And actually getting COVID-19 as a kid (< 10 yo) is a "good" thing as they will develop resistance for future occurrences (some scientists/doctors have been saying covid-19 can become a common seasonal thing from now on, just like the flu season). Newer human-coronaviruses that will appear is a different story though…

      2. Actually it could be similar to the flu. The death rate at the moment is based on tested cases only. There could be many more thousands who don’t show any symptoms or just think its a cold so will never be tested.

      3. @gsagostinho The fatality rate is reduced by the week. There were talks of a 5% fatality rate in January, now it’s already 1%.

        1. @paeschli And if it reduces to a similar risk to flu, then the part where a lot of nations already have cases (the only continents I’m not sure have it are Antartica and South America) measn that the pandemic restrictions will likely be eased. Especially since many of the preventative measures are exactly the same as flu (which is already calculated into insurers’ risk percentages).

      4. According to the New England journal of medicine the fatality rate is likely to be no worse than a bad flu season and the reported 2% rate is likely too high and inconsistent with lab findings and what doctors know about the rate of asymptomatic cases.

        1. Looking at the most recent data I could find, there was only country with Corona virus fatalities where the claimed deaths / cases was 1% or less, and that was South Korea (0.6%). The Diamond Princess is around 1% (7 dead vs 706 sick people). Aside from those two situations, no other country (I’m including Diamond Princess in this) has less than 1% of dead / sick. The average of those countries that have reported at least one death is 5% of those infected die.

          1. As an aside, the only country that holds an F1 GP this year that hasn’t reported anyone sick with Covid-19 is Hungary. Every other country has reported having at least one sick person.

          2. By my calculations, the 5 “F1 GP” countries with the most infections (excluding China) are:
            Italy, 33.6 (infections per million people); Bahrain, 29.9; Monaco, 25.7; Singapore, 18.6; and Japan & Diamond Princess, 16.2. Currently Australia has 1.3 infections per million people.

    2. The estimates are that this is 10 to 20 time dealer than the flu, which I understand to also be a lot less serious due to vaccines preventing many vulnerable people from catching it.

      Your comment is completely false.

      1. *10 to 20 time deadlier

    3. Bryan A Hopkins
      2nd March 2020, 21:22

      Flu fatality rate is .01%
      Coronavirus fatality rate is 2.0%
      Major difference!!

      1. Of tested cases only.

        Reality is that many more don’t show signs and haven’t even been tested.

        1. I had Flu last year, felt like siht, sore throat, very weak, aching joints, stuffed up nasal passages, etc. but I never felt sick enough to call an ambulance or fit enough to visit my GP.
          I had previous experience, many people have similar experiences but do not make it into the statistics. Would I stay home and keep warm and rested this year ? No I would not, I would be calling the health services for testing immediately. Take this virus seriously, remember, It killed a young Dr. who was aware of exactly how serious it was.

      2. I think 0.1% for flu is more correct…….

  2. I think we’ll be lucky to get enough races run this year for it to qualify as a fair championship. I think F1 promoters are waiting to see what the bigger global events do, if the Olympics or Euro 2020 football are postponed, expect a surge in other sports events doing the same.

    1. Taffy (Carlton) Smith
      2nd March 2020, 13:51

      FIFA, IOC or Japan can afford to cancel their events. I’d be surprised Liberty or half the field could suspend their efforts and survive (prescient insurance policies aside).
      I’d rather see races at closed tracks or even repeat visits to the same track than a nullified season.

    2. @emu55 The minimum number of rounds to count for the World Championship is 8. Given there are 21 races, and this is unlikely to still be causing restrictions at the back end of the season, I think we will definitely get a championship. More likely, there will be a small(ish) number of cancellations (1-7, bearing in mind we’ve already effectively had 1) and the rest of the season will continue as planned (meaning between 15-21 races actually run). Given that 16-race calendars were common until 15 years ago, I think such a season could be declared valid, without needing to find ways to increase the race count.

  3. Have the teams that could be effected by quarantines or travel bans thought about moving personnel out to ‘safer’counties? I know how inconvenient that would be for their families but it may solve the problem of some staff not being allowed to enter other countries.

    @Only Facts! It seems you are dealing alternate facts.

    1. I suspect that would be about as effective as a dog chasing its tail, move to a “safe” country and it only takes one undected carrier to spread it around to a larger number of people before that country isn’t safe and you move again. Also, last time I checked I haven’t seen a large number of facilities lying dormant which would have everything an F1 team would need to develop their cars through the season so as F1 depends so much on in-season development it would put any nomadic teams at a massive disadvantage.

    2. @johnrkh This only works if you can keep them out of the dangerous countries for 14 days. Ferrari and Pirelli* already can’t do that for Australia, unless they’ve kept its test teams away from Italy, and it’s getting hard to predict which nations will block what even a few days into the future. That information is necessary to make flight and accommodation bookings.

      * – I’m more worried about Pirelli because there’s a cluster of quarantined villages/towns not that far from the city. While Ferrari will be hit by the restrictions, I’ve not seen anything to suggest that Maranello is at especial risk (beyond the somewhat elevated risk of being in North Italy in general).

  4. My take on this issue is that travel restrictions are going to increase this current week and there will be staff impacted for sure. And that not even considering the possibility that some people in the F1 “circus” or from the closer circus will be tested positively. Either the authorities create special cases for these “special events” or we’re gonna have a seriously disrupted season (the first half)…

  5. So the first two motogp’s of the season have been cancelled due to travel restrictions with people from Italy……. (including the Ducati team and some of the riders)

    Surely it will be the same for the AUS GP with the 3 Italian teams?????

    1. @gubstar

      Qatar has been cancelled due to travel restrictions by Qatar, which are not in place at the moment in Australia.

      Thailand’s race has been postponed by the Thai government, but they have made no mention of travel restrictions, just that they won’t be able to hold the GP on the original date.

      1. I suspect that some countries who have a wider problem with the virus would rather place restrictions on large, high profile events like these than risk the health not only of the attending fans but also the teams/sports-people involved, at this stage its a sensible safeguard while they tackle the infections and try to get it under control.

  6. maybe all the drivers can jump into their teams sims and compete against each other that way. No health issues and probably cheaper. I joke of course. It wouldn’t be fair on Ferrari or Alpha to hold a championship round without them but also unfair on the fans to cancel the event for those two teams. Certainly wouldn’t want a 2005 Indy like experience though.

    1. that’s not a bad idea actually Phil. There are esports out there, perhaps liberty would rather host something in iracing for example with all the real F1 drivers at a circuit they might miss and broadcast that rather than loose TV revenue. Maybe fill the field with a handful of iracers to generate interest…. and hope they don’t win :)

  7. Neil (@neilosjames)
    2nd March 2020, 19:06

    In a month or so it’ll probably be everywhere, and there’ll be little point in having travel restrictions.

    Wouldn’t surprised me if we got one or two ‘behind closed doors’ races, though.

    1. I could imagine a few races closed to the public where just the teams are at the track. Empty grandstands would be weird tho.

    2. @neilosjames If that happens, the promoter will want their money back from Liberty, because that’s the only way they get the money they need to help pay for the race to happen. Cancellation and non-payment of fees would be the more likely, I think.

  8. Cancel anything is an enormous stupidity.

    Let the hysteria end. Now.

    1. Don’t be so shortsighted. People’s lives are more important than sporting events. Better informed people than you and I are making important and difficult decisions to limit the global spread of a virus.

  9. Even if we accept it will eventually spread everywhere, gatherings of people will cause large outbreaks and put a pointless strain on health services so, annoying as it is, I don’t think F1 will have a choice.

  10. Just saw the news that even Vietnam has imposed quarantine for all passengers from Italy.

  11. There’s another problem within the sport which is TV crews.
    The races may go ahead but will the TV crews be there? German RTL have said they will not sent any of its staff to Vietnam and other broadcasters may follow. If the UK gets added to the list of restricted travel countries it would be a bit awkward and its not beyond the bounds of possibility.
    The F1 economy is going to take a bit of a bashing this year – they may not even need the budget cap in 21…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.