With Chinese GP off, teams assess Vietnam race

LONDON • Formula One teams are keeping a close eye on the health situation in Vietnam after the Chinese Grand Prix was postponed owing to the coronavirus epidemic, McLaren boss Zak Brown said on Thursday.

The sport is due to make its debut in the country on April 5 at the Hanoi circuit, which is about 160km from the China border.

Brown made it clear that his British-based team would not force any employee to go.

"Vietnam has not been raised yet as a potential issue. But obviously it is very nearby (to China) so we are going to monitor the situation," the American told reporters at the launch of the 2020 McLaren F1 car.

"We would never do anything that puts our people at risk and I don't believe Formula One would."

This comes a day after F1 managing director Ross Brawn revealed that the street race is going ahead as planned.

"As for Vietnam all the feedback we are getting is rather like the UK, there have been some cases but not a level that would concern us," he said on the sidelines of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductions. "The advice we are getting is that it can go ahead there."

Two local officials told Reuters on Thursday that Vietnam had quarantined a community of 10,000 people near Hanoi for 20 days because of fears the virus could spread there.

Vietnam declared a public health emergency over the epidemic on Feb 1 and banned all flights to and from China, where nearly 1,400 people have died from the virus.

China would have been the fourth round of the Formula One season but the April 19 Shanghai race was called off on Wednesday, with talk of rescheduling it later in the year even if that looks difficult.

If Vietnam is also called off, the sport faces a big hole between race two in Bahrain on March 22 and the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3.

"This is obviously a new situation for all of us," said Brown. "If there's a month off, then there's a month off."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'With Chinese GP off, teams assess Vietnam race'. Print Edition | Subscribe