The Azerbaijan, Singapore and Japan Grands Prix have been axed from the 2020 Formula One calendar, the latest races to be cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the opening rounds of ‘fly-away’ races cancelled months ago, the latest news will come as another blow to fans of the sport and industry workers, although the official press release stated that F1 remains ‘confident in our plans to have between 15-18 races by the time our season concludes in Abu Dhabi in mid-December and expect to publish the finalised calendar before we start our season in Austria.’
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 12, 2020
Following the recent news that the new Zandvoort circuit would not make its reappearance on the F1 calendar, it was announced that the season would begin on July 5 with the Austrian Grand Prix. The Japanese Grand Prix cancellation came as little surprise due to Japan’s ban on international travellers, whilst the races in Singapore and Baku faced the different, and ultimately decisive problem of constructing their temporary street circuits in current COVID-19 conditions.
“As a result of the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19, we and our promoters in Azerbaijan, Singapore and Japan have taken the decision to cancel their races for the 2020 season,” read part of the FIA statement. “These decisions have been taken due to the different challenges our promoters face in those countries. In Singapore and Azerbaijan the long lead times required to construct street circuits made hosting the events during a period of uncertainty impossible and in Japan, ongoing travel restrictions also led to the decision not to proceed with the race.”
Although the commitment to hold between 15-18 races in this championship season remains admirable, it seems optimistic with only eight rounds so far confirmed, with back-to-back race weekends in both Austria and Britain.
The Italian Grand Prix, cleared for September 6, is the last of the confirmed rounds, with the Russian Grand Prix scheduled to take place on September 27 and the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on October 25. It means that more European races remain the best option of fulfilling the revised calendar, with Hockenheim in Germany thought to be a front runner for another back-to-back race weekend.
Of the fly-away destinations, Canada and China remain possibilities with Mexico and Brazil, less likely. But after the early cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the COVID-19 pandemic in decline, it could take its place on the calendar at the end of the year, with Abu Dhabi rounding things off in traditional manner.
“There is a contingency to have an extended European season with another one or two races if needed,” Ross Brawn is quoted on the official F1 website. “I think Bahrain and Abu Dhabi will be the backstop of the season from what we can see at the moment. That gives us 10. We’ll find at least five or six good races in the middle.
“We recognise that venues where they have to build a track, such as Baku or Singapore, need more notice than permanent tracks. Every aspect has been considered, and I think we can have a very good second half of the season. There will be some races which don’t happen, might be some races we put in, but there’s lots going on.”