The Chinese Grand Prix is in jeopardy amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus across China.
Race organizers are closely monitoring the situation and a final decision will be made by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Shanghai Grand Prix organization. The grand prix is due to take place on April 19.
“I think, if there is a probability it doesn’t happen in April, it will be postponed,” Ross Brawn, managing director of Formula One, told motorsport.com. “We will leave open the opportunity to see if the race can run later in the year.
“China is an enthusiastic, growing market. So we’d like to have a race in China.”
If the race is canceled, there would be a four week break in the middle of the F1 calendar. The inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix takes place in early April, and without Shanghai, there wouldn’t be another race until the return of the Dutch Grand Prix at the beginning of May.
The China race has been held at the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai since the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in 2004.
As the coronavirus death toll approaches 500 and the number of cases in China exceeds 20,000, the Shanghai Sports Federation has advised that all events should be suspended until the outbreak of the illness ends.
There had been rumors earlier this week that the Shanghai race might swap dates with the Russian Grand Prix.
However, that idea was scuppered after race officials in Russia said they would not consider the switch.
Brawn also dismissed such an idea, saying: “We probably wouldn’t do that,” he old motorsport.com. “We will just try to find a window of when the race could happen towards the end of the year.”
The ex-Mercedes and Ferrari team principal said that the situation “looks very difficult” and that the decision was out of F1’s hands.
“We’re waiting for the Chinese promoter and authorities to make the final decision, which I think they will”, he said.
“They have canceled all the public events in March. So no public sporting events or activities.
“So it is a tragic and very difficult situation. I think it’ll become clear in the next week or two what’s going to happen.”
The Shanghai race isn’t the first motorsport event in China affected by coronavirus; the Formula E race due to be held March 21 in Sanya, China has also been canceled.
Meanwhile, Chinese Formula E driver Ma Qinghua has been quarantined ahead of the Mexico ePrix.
A number of sporting events in China have already been postponed, canceled or under threat.
The potential cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix marks the latest disruption in the sporting world caused by the coronavirus:
- The start of China’s domestic football competition, the Chinese Super League, has been postponed, along with the first three matchdays of Chinese Super League teams in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League.
- China’s women’s national football team was held in quarantine at their Brisbane hotel at the start of February after Olympic qualifying matches were moved to Sydney, Australia, from China.
- The 2020 World Athletics Indoor Championships, due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, has been postponed until next year on advice given by the World Health Organization to governing body World Athletics.
- The start of the new Chinese Basketball Association League – scheduled for February 1 – has been postponed.
- The International Basketball Federation has moved the February 6 to 9 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers from Foshan to Belgrade in Serbia.
- The LPGA has canceled the elite Blue Bay tournament that was due to be held in Hainan from March 5 to 8.
- The sixth edition of the Hong Kong Ladies Open, that had been scheduled to take place from February 28 to March 1 has been postponed, and is now to be played from May 8 to 10.
- The International Tennis Federation had wanted to move a Fed Cup Asia/Oceania group event from Dongguan to Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) in Kazakhstan, but the February 4-8 event has since been postponed after Kazakhstan declined to serve as substitute hosts.
- Badminton’s China Masters tournament in Hainan was scheduled for February 25 to March 1 but has been postponed after several players withdrew. The Badminton World Federation said it hoped the flagship Badminton Asia Championships could still go ahead in Wuhan April 21-26.
- The Asian Athletics Association canceled the Asian Indoor Track and Field Championship to ensure “the safety of our athletes.” The championships had originally been scheduled to be held in Hangzhou February 12-13.
- The 14th Chinese National Winter Games’ official opening ceremony was scheduled for February 16. However, the Games have now been postponed.
- The Hong Kong Marathon is an umbrella event for three races – 10 kilometers, half and full marathon. Some 74,000 people had signed up to compete in the February 8 and 9 races but they have now been canceled.
- The Longines Masters of Hong Kong showjumping event was scheduled February 14-16 but has been canceled.
- The 2020 League of Legends Spring tournament – scheduled to begin on February 5 – and the 2020 Legends Development League have both been postponed.
- Other Olympic sport qualifiers affected include the Asian and Oceanic boxing event, which was moved from Wuhan to Jordan, and women’s basketball, which has had its qualifying competition switched from Fuhan to Serbia.
- The first Winter X-Games to be held in China have been postponed. The event was scheduled to take place February 21-23 in Chongli.
- The International Ski Federation has confirmed that the downhill and super-G men’s alpine skiing World Cup races, which were due to take place on February 15 and 16, have been canceled.