SHANGHAI • The Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for April 19 has been postponed owing to the outbreak of the coronavirus, Formula One confirmed yesterday.
The Shanghai race, the fourth on this year's record 22-race calendar, would be held on another date "should the situation improve", F1 and the sport's governing body, the FIA, said in a statement announcing the postponement.
They had accepted the request from Juss Sports Group, the race promoter which had discussions with the Motorcycle Sports of People's Republic of China and Shanghai Administration of Sports over the global health emergency.
Said F1 on its website: "The Chinese GP has always been a very important part of the F1 calendar and the fans are always incredible.
"But the FIA and Formula 1 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.
"We all look forward to racing in China as soon as possible and wish everyone in the country the best during this difficult time."
But it would be difficult to slot a race in China back in at a later date in a packed schedule.
Russia, whose race is in September but has previously been held in April, has ruled out a date swop.
F1 Group chief executive officer and executive chairman Chase Carey also believes that rescheduling the race will be tough.
He told Reuters yesterday before the postponement was confirmed: "At this point, it's tough to make too many specific plans when there are so many unknowns around it."
The last F1 race to be cancelled was the Bahrain GP in 2011, owing to months of social unrest.
The absence of the Chinese GP would leave a four-week gap between the Vietnam GP on April 5 and the Dutch GP on May 3.
TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY
We're not going to do something that isn't good for us or the teams. We like the 22-race calendar (but) we're fine with a 21-race calendar.
CHASE CAREY, Formula One Group chief executive officer and executive chairman, on a one-off race replacing the Chinese GP.
Asked about the possibility of reviving races as one-off events to take China's place, he said F1 was evaluating all contingencies.
But the time available is short and organisers of any such one-off race would also likely expect their hosting costs to be underwritten.
He said: "We're not going to do something that isn't good for us or the teams. We like the 22-race calendar (but) we're fine with a 21-race calendar."
The sport is keeping an eye on the spread of the virus outside China to other countries, which may potentially affect other races such as Vietnam's.
There have been cases of the virus in the country but organisers of the Hanoi street race said it will go on as planned, adding that they do not see any "significant impact" on their event.
Said Carey: "The reality of today, in most other countries, the number of people affected is a handful.
"But we don't know what it will be in a week or two."
A host of international sporting events in China have been cancelled or put off because of the epidemic, including all football matches and the first badminton tournament of the world tour season. The world indoor athletics championships, which were due to be held in Nanjing from March 15 to 18, was arguably the biggest event to be affected by the outbreak.
In motor sport, the all-electric Formula E race in China's coastal city of Sanya, Hainan, next month has been called off.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS