Virus forces cancellation of first 3 Formula 1 races

Leigh Copson:

The first three races of the 2020 Formula 1 season - the Australian Grand Prix, the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Vietnam Grand Prix - have all become casualties of the pandemic that has been wreaking havoc on the global sporting calendar.

Having already seen multiple European soccer leagues go on hiatus, Thursday turned into ‘Black Thursday’ for sport across the globe as major competition after major competition began to temporarily shut down in the face of the Coronavirus crisis.

The NBA became the first major sporting league in the United States to suspend their season following the news that a player had been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, and by the end of the day the NHL had ‘paused the start to its season, Major League Baseball had pushed back the start of its 2020 campaign and the XFL American Football league was forced to shelve its ‘rookie’ season at the halfway mark.

Back in Europe a whole host of governing bodies and associations followed suit, as UEFA postponed multiple Champions League ties and the ATP shelved the men’s tennis tour for at least the next six weeks, and Australia was then included into the list after the FIA finally announced that the 2020 Formula 1 season would not get underway with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

“Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening. Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead,” read a statement issued jointly by F1, governing body the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.

“Formula 1 and the FIA, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix are cancelled. We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course.”

That further announcement came on Friday when the FIA announced that the start to the season will be pushed back even further, confirming that the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 22 and the newly-introduced Vietnam Grand Prix on April 5 would also be postponed.

“In view of the continued global spread of COVID-19 and after ongoing discussions with the FIA, the Bahrain International Circuit, the Bahrain Motor Federarion and the Hanoi People’s Committee, the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Automobile Association of Vietnam and the promoter, Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation a decision has been taken by all parties to postpone both races due to take place on the 20th – 22nd March and April 3rd – 5th April respectively,” read the statement.

“Following the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation this week and the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, Formula 1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern.

“Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam and the local health authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve. As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the Championship in Europe at the end of May but given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”