Formula 1’s Chinese Grand Prix is at risk of cancellation following the coronavirus outbreak in the country, which has already forced Formula E to abandon its Sanya race.
A new virus, one that did not match any that were previously known but is related to those such as SARS, has led to an outbreak that the World Health Organisation has declared an international public health emergency.
More than 20,000 cases and 400 deaths have been recorded as of February 4, according to John Hopkins University, with both counts rising rising daily.
On Sunday, Formula E announced that its Sanya race will not be held as planned on March 21, following consultation with the local authorities, China’s national motorsport body and the FIA, although it may yet be rescheduled.
The UK’s foreign office has advised against all but essential travel to mainland China, and major airlines have been suspending flights to and from the country, presenting an additional logistical complication.
F1’s Chinese GP is currently scheduled for April 19, and more than 200 cases of the coronavirus and one death have been confirmed in Shanghai.
The matter will be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting of F1’s Strategy Group, although a request to cancel the grand prix is thought to have to come from the promoter’s side and so a decision is expected to be decided by the Chinese authorities.
The FIA and F1 say their position has not been influenced by the FE cancellation.
“As always and as usual, we monitor the situation in close contact with the FIA and the local promoter,” an F1 spokesperson told The Race.
It is unclear whether rescheduling the Chinese GP would be possible, as the only gap between other races bigger than one week is the mandatory summer shutdown.
Last week the FIA said it will evaluate the calendar and “if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motorsport community and the wider public”.
It is monitoring the situation with the relevant authorities and its member clubs under the direction of FIA medical commission president Professor Gerard Saillant.
Efforts to contain the outbreak have led to various sporting events being cancelled, moved or suspended in recent days.
These include the start of the country’s football and basketball seasons being postponed, the World Indoor Athletics Championships pushed back a year, the UCI cancelling the Tour of Hainan that was due to take place two weeks before Sanya FE, and several 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying events being moved to other countries.
This is not simply to prevent those travelling from getting sick, but to contain the spread of the disease.
F1 could pose a particularly significant risk of carrying the virus, given its global calendar.
Should the Chinese GP be axed, F1 would have a four-week gap between the inaugural Vietnam race (April 5) and the return of the Dutch GP on May 3.
Vietnam organisers are also “actively monitoring the situation as it develops”. Eight cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the country, which shares a border with China.
In a statement supplied to The Race, Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation CEO Le Ngoc Chi said: “For now we don’t anticipate any significant impact on our April event.
“We will continue to work with our relevant authorities to closely monitor the situation.”