2020 season now expected to start at end of May, say Formula 1 and FIA
Following the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the postponement of the races in China, Bahrain and Vietnam, Formula 1 and governing body the FIA have said they now 'expect' the 2020 season to begin at the end of May - though this will be regularly reviewed.
The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the Chinese round of the calender to be postponed last month. Then on Thursday, the opening race of the season in Melbourne was also called off, after a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus.
Today, the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was due to take place next weekend, and the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix, scheduled for the beginning of April, have also been postponed.
A joint statement from Formula 1, the FIA, the race organisers and the relevant governments involved, said: "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."
All parties said they were hopeful the races could be staged at a later date, and in light of the impact the virus is having, the statement added that it is expected the F1 season can begin at the end of May.
"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."
Chase Carey, Formula 1 Chairman and CEO, said the safety of the fans and people working in the sport was paramount.
“The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and it's right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions," he said. "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.”
FIA President Jean Todt added: “Protecting people first. Together with Formula 1, the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Vietnamese Motorsports Association, and the local promoters, postponing both the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, as with the Australian Grand Prix, was the only possible decision given all of the information currently available to us.
"We continue to rely on the input and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments and will work with them throughout this unpredictable period to safeguard the fans, competitors and all of the motor sport community.”