The Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.
Formula 1 was set to visit China in April for the fourth round of the season as part of the longest schedule in history at 22 races.
Speculation had been mounting that the race would not take place on its scheduled date of April 19. The race promoter, Juss Sports Group has now made an official request for the Grand Prix to be postponed, which has been accepted by the series.
“As a result of continued health concerns and with the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus as a global emergency, Formula 1 and the FIA have taken these measures in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains of primary concern,” said F1 in a statement today.
“Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the teams, race promoter and the local authorities to monitor the situation as it develops. All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for the Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve.”
Even if the coronavirus threat reduces, rescheduling the Chinese Grand Prix is likely to prove a headache for Formula 1. The lack of available weekends, long-haul travel and complex customs arrangements are problems that will require imagination to resolve.
Since the New Year, the virus has spread, with around 40,000 cases confirmed — mostly in China — and the death toll rising above 1,100 as of Wednesday.
Several sporting events have already been cancelled in an effort to contain the outbreak and to protect teams, staff and fans.
Formula E was set to visit the island of Sanya for the sixth round of the 2019/20 season in March, but the ePrix was cancelled last week.
International concern has been growing since the new year, with the World Health Organisation declaring the virus a global health emergency.
British Airways has already announced it has suspended flights to China, and the UK Foreign Office has advised against travel to the country unless essential.
The city of Wuhan, where the virus originated from, has been placed into lockdown, with public transport to and from the city suspended.
F1’s last cancelled race was back in 2011 when the Bahrain Grand Prix was dropped from the calendar amid the Arab Spring uprisings in the region.
Formula 1 managing director of motor sports Ross Brawn told media that a rescheduling of the race would be the preferred route taken rather than outright cancellation.