Following on from the largely chaotic late cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, and the postponement of the China, Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, the FIA has said it expects the season to now start at the end of May.
This could mean that for the first time in the sport’s history, the season could open with the Monaco Grand Prix, although the situation will continue to be closely monitored.
Teams and fans arrived in Melbourne last week confident of starting the season on time despite other sporting events taking measures to cancel or postpone events. And, when the McLaren team withdrew from the race weekend after a team member was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, it was agreed after some debate and much confusion to cancel the race before Friday’s free practice.
“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,” read the FIA statement.
“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 that the ‘fluid’ nature of the COVID-19 virus meant that the safety of fans and those working in the F1 community was of paramount importance.
“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,” added Carey. “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.”
And FIA President Jean Todt added that the only possible decision on the advice of the World Health Organisation was to postpone the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix.
“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,” added Todt.
“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.”
Due to the continued global spread of COVID-19 and after ongoing discussions with the FIA, and race organisers a decision has been taken by all parties to postpone the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Vietnam Grand Prix due to take place on March 20-22 and April 3-5 respectively#F1 pic.twitter.com/btpFLckwtO
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 13, 2020