F1 postpones Bahrain and Vietnam GPs, start to 2020 season delayed
F1 says season could now start at the end of May
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 13/03/20 5:15pm
Formula 1 has postponed the Bahrain and Vietnam GPs due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the start to the 2020 season delayed.
The races were set to be the second and third rounds of 2020, on March 22 and April 5 respectively, but after the season-opening Australian GP was cancelled due to a McLaren team member contracting the virus, F1 has called off its next big events.
With four races now either cancelled or postponed, F1 says it expects the season to start in Europe at the end of May but the situation will be "regularly reviewed".
"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," a statement regarding the Bahrain and Vietnam races read.
"Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam and the local 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."
The closing line of that statement suggests that the Dutch GP and Spanish GP, the first two races at the start of May, are also in doubt.
The Monaco GP takes place on May 24.
But in a confusing twist, the FIA's statement instead claims that they expect to begin the championship on May 1st, in Zandvoort.
The opening race of the Formula 2 season in Bahrain has also been postponed.
What does this mean for F1 calendar?
Bahrain's race was already scheduled to run without spectators, while the Vietnam event - it's first in F1 - had been shrouded in doubt due to Hanoi's close proximity to China.
"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," said FIA president Jean 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."
The Chinese GP, scheduled for April 19, was the first 2020 race to be postponed.
F1 says it still plans to accommodate all postponed races on the calendar, which could now stretch over the planned summer break and perhaps even into 2021.
"The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule, and we look forward to being back there as soon as we can," said F1 chairman Chase Carey.
"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."