Two more Formula One races have been postponed after the Australian Grand Prix was canceled because of the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.
The race in Melbourne was scheduled as the season opener of the 2020 Formula 1 calendar, with the first practice sessions set to begin Friday.
Drivers, teams and fans had already arrived at the track for preparations, although Lewis Hamilton said in his press conference it was “shocking” the race hadn’t been called off.
However, the decision to cancel the event eventually came Thursday following McLaren’s withdrawal after a team member tested positive for the virus.
“We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course,” read a joint statement from FIA and Formula 1, with support from race organizers.
“The safety of all members of the Formula 1 family and the wider community, as well as the fairness of the competition take priority.”
Following the news from Melbourne, both the Bahrain GP (March 22) and the inaugural Vietnam GP (April 5) have been postponed to allow organizers to “take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates.”
The Chinese GP, set for April 19, was postponed in February.
The new season is now expected to start again in May.
Formula E suspended
The Formula E season has also been temporarily suspended because of concerns over the virus.
Races in Sanya, China, and Rome, Italy, had already been postponed while a race in Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta had been delayed.
Organizers of the all-electric series said it would remain under “red flag” conditions through March and April, meaning the Paris leg of the tour would also be postponed.
It would then move to “yellow flag” status in May, meaning the race in Seoul, South Korea, could not be held on May 3.
Hopes are that racing can begin again in June or July, potentially rescheduling events depending on circumstances.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, but we feel it is an essential one to protect the health and well-being of staff, teams, partners and suppliers - as well as their families - who travel together with Formula E,” read a statement from organizers.
“As an international events-based series that races in the heart of city centres, we also have a moral and social responsibility to protect the people and citizens in the locations we race and we do not want to exacerbate the already concerning situation.”