COVID-19 puts brakes on Dutch, Spanish, Monaco Formula 1 GPs


COVID-19 puts brakes on Dutch, Spanish, Monaco Formula 1 GPs

Friday, March 20, 2020

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PARIS, France (AFP) — The Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Formula One Grand Prix races were yesterday postponed due to the global spread of coronavirus, officials announced, with the start of the season now pushed back to June at the earliest.

The triple postponements follow the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix last week, and the postponement of the Chinese, Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races.

The Dutch GP, due to return to the calendar for the first time since 1985, was set to be held at Zandvoort on May 3, with the Spanish race following a week later, and the iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24.

It will be the first time since 1954 that F1 has not raced in the Principality.

“Due to the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, the FIA, Formula One, and the three 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 joint statement from F1 and the FIA read.

All parties said they would study the viability of finding alternative dates to run the races later in the year, and the statement added that Formula 1 and the FIA expect to be able to begin the 2020 season “as soon as it's safe to do so after May”, but will continue to monitor the situation.

The earliest the new season can now start is on June 7 in Azerbaijan.

“It's the right decision for everyone's health and well-being. We'll be back racing, when it's safe to do so,” tweeted Mercedes, the team of world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Thursday's announcement came just a day after the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, scheduled for June, was pushed back until September.

In motorcycling, the season-opening Qatar MotoGP was axed, while the Thai race was rescheduled to October.

The United States MotoGP has also been moved from April to November leaving the season to start in Argentina on April 19.

Meanwhile, the FIA also said on Thursday that the introduction of new technical regulations, due to take effect in the 2021 F1 season, will be postponed until 2022.

“All parties {FIA, Formula 1 and teams] discussed the current situation of the 2020 championship and how the sport will react to the ongoing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said an FIA statement.

“Due to the currently volatile financial situation this has created, it has been agreed that teams will use their 2020 chassis for 2021, with the potential freezing of further components to be discussed in due course.

“The introduction and implementation of the financial regulations will go ahead as planned in 2021, and discussions remain ongoing between the FIA, Formula 1 and all teams regarding further ways to make significant cost savings.

In October last year, FIA president Jean Todt said the new regulations would mean “F1 will be less complex and easier to understand” while making the sport “more durable and safer”.

The planned spending cap will limit teams to $175 million per year.

Currently, the giants of the paddock, Mercedes and Ferrari, have an annual budget of around $500 million.

The postponements of the 2020 races in the Netherlands, Spain, and Monaco are the latest to have hit a sporting calendar turned upside down by the coronavirus outbreak, which has 217,510 cases with 9,020 deaths across 157 countries and territories as of 1100 GMT Thursday.

The European football championships and Copa America have been both pushed back by 12 months to 2021.

In tennis, the French Open has controversially been rescheduled to September/October while golf has shelved its opening two majors of 2020 - The Masters and USPGA Championship.

However, the International Olympic Committee has so far pledged to carry on with the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to run between July 24-August 9.

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