With the global spread of Coronavirus, it has been announced that the 2020 Formula 1 season will look to start in May and the Formula E season will be suspended for two months.
With the Australian GP already cancelled amidst confusion and delay following members of McLaren testing positive for COVID-19, the FIA and Libery have taken the decision to postpone both the Bahrain and Vietnam races. With Bahrain already scheduled to be played out behind closed doors it will come as no surprise that both it and the inaugural Vietnam GP will not take place.
A statement from the FIA is as follows;
“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.
“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.“
The FIA then went on to say they are looking to start the season in May. Given the severity of the global pandemic and the FIA’s previous statement it seems a little unlikely the season will resume in May and doubts over the Dutch and Spanish Grand Prix loom along with the possibilty of Monaco too.
FIA President, Jean Todt, said: “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.”
Chase Carey, head of Liberty Media who own the commercial rights to Formual 1 said: “The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and its right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions. 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.”
The FIA have been criticised on thier handling of the Australian grand prix with a “you call it off, no you call it off attitude” resulting in the race being unoffically cancelled for eight hours before an announcement was made to angry and confused fans. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen had both left for the airport.
The FIA also announced a suspension of the Formual E season for two months.
“The decision, made in coordination with the relevant local authorities to temporarily freeze races held in highly-populated cities, was taken as the most responsible course of action, due to the continued spread of coronavirus and the World Health Organisation officially declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.
With the well-being of staff, spectators and the entire championship workforce being the number one priority, precautionary measures put in place will restrict races from running during a set timeframe.
The series is implementing a flag system traditionally used in motorsport, to determine different phases and time windows where races could be rearranged or remain unaffected. Red representing no races, yellow keeping the opportunity open and green going ahead as planned.
Months marked as red flags are March and April, with May currently categorised as a yellow flag and both June and July given the green flag, should the situation improve and stabilise.
As a consequence of the suspension, it will no longer be possible to race in Paris and Seoul, or Jakarta as previously announced on the originally scheduled dates.
Alejandro Agag, Founder & Chairman of Formula E said “Right now is the time to take responsible actions and this is why we have decided to temporarily suspend the season and move forward with introducing measures to freeze races from taking place over the next two months.
“Motorsport plays a major part in our lives and it is important, but what is more important is the health and safety of our staff, fans and their families, as well as citizens in the cities we race.
The ABB FIA Formula E Championship will be back in full force, once the ongoing health crisis and spread of COVID- 19 has subsided,” Agag added.
With sport being cancelled and postponed globally, motorsport is not exempt and one would imagine there will be more disruption to come.