Formula One has postponed its upcoming races in Bahrain and Vietnam a day after cancelling the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The decision was made “to ensure health and safety of staff, participants and fans.” F1 expects to start the season at the end of May, when it hopes to hold the Monaco Grand Prix, but will continue to monitor and review the evolving coronavirus situation in Europe.
Bahrain was supposed to follow Australia’s March 15 race seven days later in a “doubleheader” — organisers had already decided the race would be held behind closed doors. But the events of the past 48 hours, which saw McLaren withdraw from the Melbourne race after a team member contracted the coronavirus before F1 pulled the plug completely, has forced the Bahrain race to take similar action.
Vietnam was set to host its first-ever F1 race on April 5 in Hanoi. But that has been in doubt for a while, given the country’s close proximity to China, where the coronavirus originated. The Chinese Grand Prix was supposed to be the fourth race of 2020, but in February organisers asked F1 to postpone the Shanghai event.
F1 CEO Chase Carey said: “The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and its 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.”
Although the Bahrain, Vietnam and China races have been postponed, the chances of getting all three run during 2020 look slim, especially given the ongoing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dutch Grand Prix of May 5 and the Spanish Grand Prix seven days later are the next races on the calendar, but the evolving situation over the coronavirus in Europe means both look unlikely.
The organisers of the Monaco Grand Prix have said their event is still due to take place on May 24, but with the caveat that it is monitoring the situation carefully (a situation that is deteriorating rapidly in neighbouring France). Azerbaijan on June 7 seems like a more realistic season opener, as it has just 11 active cases of COVID-19 as of March 13, but making accurate predictions about how that situation will evolve over the coming months is impossible.