Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

25 days from China’s cancelled grand prix, is the country really ‘getting back to normal’?

2020 F1 season

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Around the world, motor sport fans are adjusting to the realities of living through a pandemic.

Here in Britain, yesterday was our first under lockdown. We can only leave our homes to buy essential supplies and must observe strict rules on social distancing. Those of you in other parts of the world may have faced similar circumstances for days if not weeks; others may expect it will come to them soon.

China was the first country to experience the full implications of the situation many of us now share. Its grand prix was cancelled on February 12th, and at the time of writing over 81,000 infections and 3,200 deaths have been registered within the country’s borders.

But in recent days promising reports have claimed the rate of infection in China has slowed drastically. Over the week to yesterday, the World Health Organization’s figures indicate the total infections in China rose by just 631, or 0.7% of the total. Contrast those with the figures for the UK: 4,700 new infections, 70% of the current total.

On Monday, in a further sign of the changing situation near the track which was supposed to hold the fourth race on the 2020 F1 calendar, the government of Shanghai downgraded the city’s emergency level from one to two.

It’s important to be clear these are no more than encouraging signs at present. They do not mean the decision to call off next month’s race should be called into question. Given the situation at the time that decision was made, this was unquestionably the correct thing to do. Nor does these developments indicate a race could be safely held in 25 days’ time at the Shanghai International Circuit.

But the figures may offer some encouragement for those looking for signs of how quickly life could return to normal once the pandemic is beaten. As the first country to beat its brunt, China may serve as a benchmark against which we can gauge our optimism.

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As far as the remit of this site is concerned, that means nothing more important than when motor sport can be held again. Of course there are far more important things hanging on the developments of the coming weeks and months than whether a motor race can go ahead. Nonetheless, for motor sport fans like us, a return to normality also means a return to racing.

But there is a significant caveat: Just how real is the progress which has apparently been made in China?

The extent of the improvements may not be exactly what it seems. For example, the South China Morning Post recently cast doubt on how cases have been interpreted. By the end of February, it noted, “more than 43,000 people in China had tested positive” but “were not included in the official tally of confirmed cases, which stood at about 80,000 at the time” because they were asymptomatic.

China analysts have pointed to the lack of transparency surrounding the initial outbreak late last year, and the government’s eagerness to resume economic activity, and questioned whether the data on infections really shows the kind of progress which people want to see in their countries.

The full implications of both the available information on China, plus the country’s pressing need to ease restrictions on daily life which have gone on longer than elsewhere, make for a complicated picture. But the key point is we can’t necessarily assume based only on these signs of a change for the better that motorsport will resume in China any time soon.

As much as we are all hoping for life – and motor racing – to return to normal as quickly as possible, for now it remains a case of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

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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...

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14 comments on “25 days from China’s cancelled grand prix, is the country really ‘getting back to normal’?”

  1. Only a very naïve person would trust the Chinese statistics. They have been lying and now shamelessly and on purpose blame others for their incompetence. If the world was a bit different place, they would be sanctioned to oblivion and stripped of any rights to hold a sporting event.

    1. @pironitheprovocateur

      If the world was a bit different place, they would be sanctioned to oblivion and stripped of any rights to hold a sporting event.

      Sporting events is the least of Humanity’s concerns. If the world was a just place, they would be held accountable for the damage caused throughout the world due to their negligence, and prioritisation of China’s economy over the safety of every human being around the globe.

      1. they would be held accountable for the damage caused throughout the world due to their negligence, and prioritisation of China’s economy over the safety of every human being around the globe.

        Seriously? We don’t have a proven cure of vaccine yet, but sinophobia will never be either of them.
        Go and wash your hands for at least 20s.

        1. @coldfly unfortunately, in the current climate it appears that some nations are turning the spread of covid-19 into a political weapon.

          On the one side, we have those who use it to stoke further fears of China and to stir up resentment against them, although China is not alone in that respect – there are signs the extreme right have been spreading propaganda trying to claim covid-19 was a conspiracy by the Jews to make money from selling a vaccine, and some organisations encouraging members who contract covid-19 to deliberately try to spread it to Jews or to the police as a biological terrorist attack.

          On the other side, there have also been those within China spreading propaganda claiming their success in stopping the spread of the disease proves their own superiority over others, and indications of a co-ordinated misinformation campaign to hide the origins of the disease in China (such as individuals connected with the military spreading conspiracy theories that covid-19 was a biological weapon spread by the US in China, or others spreading campaigns mired in xenophobia that claim the disease originated in Italy and linking the idea of a physical infection to the idea of “infection of thought” from contact with foreigners).

          Just as this disease has brought out the best in some, from charitable acts to inspiring leaps in medical technology, so it has also brought out the worst in others who use it to spread misinformation and hatred.

    2. W.H.O head was naive to belive in China and he lead us into this mess. Hopefully at the end of it he pays for his mistakes for misleading the world.

      1. What choice does the WHO have in the matter? It can only give out figures it is given by the Chinese government. Where china is concerned, the figures should only act as a guide and no more.

  2. I’m currently working on China, and I should say that is pretty evident that the government is not rushing anything here. Its been three weeks since people have starting to work again, and every day you can see more people in the streets going or coming back from work. However there is a lot of people who traveled during the Chinese new year that are still in their native cities far away from the places where they work or study. As a far as I now, they are still not allowed to come back freely as China is trying to minimize any risk. Students can not come back to universities yet and its been two months since the quarantine started.

    Nowadays the main problem is located in the airports, where new infected cases have been reported. Any person who wants to come inside the country needs to do a quarantine in a previously designated hotel for 14 days and pay for it.

    While there is still the virus around the world, I should say that it does not matter too much if China is or not transparent with their counts.

    1. Thanks for some information from “inside” china there Anon. Off course you are right that unless the situation gets perfectly under control, it doesn’t make sense to even try holding an event where tens of thousands of people are expected to travel to from around the country and around the world.
      Either quarantine would eliminate any sense in travelling there for a long weekend, or it might risk becoming a new hotspot for another wave of infections.

      I guess the suspicion is right that many of those workers and students who are not allowed to travel back to their universities or work places might carry infections (even though they might not show symptoms of being sick) and that is exactly why they have to be carefull with lifting the restrictions because it might start a second wave if things get going too soon.

      Also, when we see that it took 2 months of huge restrictions in China, and Korea is also only just about stable currently, it’s unlikely that this will be under control worldwide anytime sooner than about 3 months from now, since restrictions in many other countries, including Australia and the USA and several European countries or Russia are (far) less strict and have only started, even if they step up measures in a matter of days from now.

  3. As a Chinese who live in US, have been to Chineses Grand Prix years ago, and has many family members and friends in Wuhan, I feel very disappointed seeing this article on RaceFans.

    To be clear, I am pretty used to any opinions from western about China. I do not blame anyone holding any opinions for or against China. They might be correct. They might be wrong but that is due to the limited information they can learn. I might be wrong too.

    However what makes me disappointed is WHY YOU PUBLISH IT HERE: your opinions here have nothing to do with racing. Then what information does this article provide readers about racing, about F1 Chinese Grand Prix? Nothing!

    If RaceFans turns out to be a platform for its editors and columnist to publish articles that “makes themselves feel good” (I, do not believe Chinese data) but provide no value to the readers, it will be a failure soon.

    If you want to say something about Chinese statistics or policies, find your own platform (blog, twitter, submit it to politics media). If you do it here, it only means you are unprofessional and you are doing harm to the community you have built, and eventually doing harm to your business.

    1. Most love the Chinese people. It’s the CCP they are unhappy with.

    2. Coronavirus which originated in China is the reason we cannot enjoy f1. Therefore it is important articles like this are written, especially as the Chinese GP was supposed to be coming up. The analytical skills that Keith has means it is appropriate to discuss the coronavirus in relation to when we may return or not return to f1 racing on this site.

      1. Firstly, the Coronavirus is a huge risk to all human kind. No matter you are a Chinese, a British, or a American, it just infects all. So It just pointless to point out where it originate. Secondly, there is no evidence of where the Coronavirus comes from yet. It just be initiallky reported by China. If what you say makes you happy, I get it. But it won’t help anyone to overcome this. Be safe, man. I’m a Chinese, all the suggest I can offer you is to protect youself carefully. Wash your hands and wear a mask. I don’t konw which team you like, but I hope we could argue something really fun after the Coronavirus. We may have many disagreements, but life is bigger than any other things.

      2. digitalrurouni
        27th March 2020, 20:03

        Any proof that it did NOT? I see so many articles about pangolins being consumed and ‘exotic illegal’ meat trade going on consumed by the Chinese elite. Heck when my brother and I were in Vietnam over New Year’s we were at a wildlife rescue sanctuary and the Vietnamese working there were not exactly showering praise about the Chinese demand for these animals. And then you read the virus came from pangolins and a variety of bats. Then you hear the Chinese goverment is working on legislation to ban such meat trade. And then you read about Chinese recommending drinking bear bile to cure coronavirus as reported by National Geography? One cannot help but point the fingers at China for it being the source of the dang virus.

  4. I am a Brit living in China (Chengdu, Sichuan province) and things are getting much better. We get daily govt information and statistics including a live map of areas with people who have Covid-19.

    Public transport is pretty much back to normal now and yesterday we received notifications that schools are reopening within the coming days (in Chengdu at least)

    Shangxi province opened their schools earlier this month.

    THE Chinese govt did everything possible to slow the virus down and it has worked well so far. Europe should have locked down earlier than this. But no point crying over spilled milk now. Let’s just get this thing beat and get back to normality. Which for me includes my dose of F1 which I dearly miss!

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