The Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races have officially been put on hold, following the cancellation earlier today of the 2020 season opener in Australia.
“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,” said a post on the official F1 Twitter feed.
“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 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 formal statement elaborated.
The latest decision to postpone the next two races comes as no surprise, with both countries having introduced tough new travel restrictions for people arriving from overseas to tackle the spreading coronavirus pandemic. April’s Chinese Grand Prix was formally postponed last month, while Bahrain had already stated it would run behind closed doors as a TV-only event.
Team members who were present this weekend in Melbourne have already agreed to a voluntary period of self-isolation once they return to their home country, lasting until March 29. Around 14 members of the McLaren track staff will remain behind in quarantine in Melbourne after one of the team personnel tested positive for coronavirus.
As for when the season is likely to actually get underway, there is now doubt over the Dutch and Spanish races, and even the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
“Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the Championship in Europe at the end of May,” the statement noted. “But given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”
That could mean the start of the season might have to wait until Baku. However the latest announcement did not confirm that anything had been officially decided at this point beyond the fate of the Bahrain and Vietnam races.
While it’s still hoped that postponed races can be rescheduled for later in the year, the logistical problem of planning for long-haul races means that some of the postponed events will inevitably result in de facto cancellations.
“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,’ the official statement from F1 noted.
“The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule,”added F1 chairman Chase Carey. “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.”
Holding races on temporary street circuits such as Melbourne and Monaco is another complicating factor in rescheduling events.