F1 and coronavirus – what do we know so far?
The start of the 2020 F1 season has been pushed back in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, with the Australian Grand Prix cancelled late last week, and the Bahrain and Vietnam races postponed shortly afterwards. So what does this all mean for the new season? And when are we likely to see racing resume? Here’s what we know so far:
What happened with the Australian Grand Prix?
The news that the race was cancelled broke on Friday morning, local time, in Melbourne. The cancellation was prompted by a member of the McLaren team testing positive for coronavirus, which forced the team to withdraw from the event.
There then followed a series of meetings between Formula 1, the teams, the medical authorities, the FIA and the promoters in Australia, before the decision was taken not to go ahead with the race.
Formula 1's Managing Director of Motorsport Ross Brawn explains how the process worked here.
What about the Bahrain Grand Prix next week – and the Vietnam Grand Prix?
The Bahrain Grand Prix had been scheduled to go ahead next weekend without fans in attendance. But the decision was made on Friday morning to postpone that race, and the Vietnam Grand Prix, scheduled for 3rd – 5th April.
A statement read: “In view of the continued global spread of COVID-19 and after ongoing discussions with the FIA, the Bahrain International Circuit, the Bahrain Motor Federation 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 3rd – 5th April respectively.
“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.”
Will any more get called off?
At the moment it is impossible to say for sure, given the fluid nature of the situation.
The next two races on the calendar are the Dutch Grand Prix, set for 1st - 3rd May, and the Spanish Grand Prix a week later. And on Friday organisers of both have announced they are in talks with Formula 1 and the FIA about what the current situation could mean for their events.
Dutch race officials said: "Based on reports from Formula One Management and FIA, we are in joint consultation with them about the possible consequences for the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix.
"These are not yet fully known, but in the event of possible postponement, all tickets will remain valid. As soon as more news is known, we will share it with all parties involved."
While the Spanish Grand Prix authorities said they were "analyzing the different available options with Formula 1" after announcing events scheduled to run at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya up to mid April – including the World RX round set for 17th - 19th April – will be postponed.
If any more races are postponed or cancelled, all details will be published on F1.com.
So when will the season start?
Currently Formula 1 and the FIA hope to get the 2020 season underway at the end of May – though that date could change depending on the circumstances with the spread and effects of the virus.
A statement explained: “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.”
Will the cancelled/postponed races be rescheduled?
Formula 1 and the FIA say they will continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam to monitor the situation and study the viability of potential alternative dates for both of those races.
When the Chinese Grand Prix was postponed all parties said they would study the viability of potential alternative dates for the Grand Prix later in the year “should the situation improve”.
How many cases have been disclosed in F1 so far?
At the moment, just two individuals in F1 have been declared as having tested positive for coronavirus: the McLaren team member whose diagnosis on Thursday prompted the team to withdraw from the race, and then on Monday, Pirelli confirmed that one of their F1 personnel had also tested positive.
McLaren isolated the affected team member, who they say “is recovering well and the symptoms have gone”. They have also placed 14 members of the team who came into close contact with him were placed in quarantine for 14 days in Melbourne.
Pirelli says their team member “is now following all the relevant procedures put in place by the Australian health authorities”.
They added: “These authorities have confirmed to Pirelli that this person has not had any contact with third parties that requires special preventive measures to be taken for other people.
“Pirelli is closely monitoring the situation in line with public health policies and company guidelines.”
Have any other teams been affected?
Though they have so far not had any confirmed cases of coronavirus in the team, Ferrari have been forced to suspend all production at their Formula 1 and road car factories in Italy for two weeks in light of the outbreak.
Italy is currently the worst affected country in Europe and the team said they are “now experiencing the first serious supply chain issues, which no longer allow for continued production”.