The next round of the Formula E Championship – the Rome E-Prix scheduled for April 4 – has been cancelled due to safeguarding centred around the coronavirus outbreak.
What would have been the third Formula E race on the EUR region of the city will now not take place. It follows the Rome Marathon, which was cancelled on Thursday, in falling foul of controlling measures mandated due to coronavirus.
The following two Formula E events in France and South Korea also remain in jeopardy amid the coronavirus situation, but The Race understands that the series is keeping the Rome date open for a possible subtitute race.
Italy has been the hardest hit country in Europe so far with over a thousand reported cases and multiple fatalities according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Along with China, Japan, South Korea and Iran, it is in the top five worst affected countries globally for confirmed cases of the virus.
The cancellation of the Rome date comes two days on from Wednesday’s government issued legislation to suspend large gatherings and events in Italy. Those gatherings included sporting events and competitions held with spectators and audiences until at least Friday April 3, the day before the Rome E-Prix.
“As a consequence of the ongoing health emergency in Italy and according to the provisions set out in the ministerial decree concerning measures to counteract and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country – which includes sporting events with large crowds and spectators in close proximity – it will no longer be possible to stage the Rome E-Prix on April 4, 2020,” said a Formula E statement this afternoon.
According to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera the total number of cases in the Lazio province in which Rome is located currently stands at 44. The country of Italy has so far declared 148 fatalities from those that have contracted the virus and a total of almost 4000 that have tested positive.
The Formula E statement left open the possibility for the Rome E-Prix to be held on a different date, but this is thought highly unlikely in the present climate.
“Formula E, in agreement with the relevant authorities in Rome, EUR S.p.A and together with the FIA and Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), will work closely with championship partners and stakeholders in order to assess and review alternative options to postpone the Rome E-Prix to a later date once restrictions have been lifted,” said the statement.
Formula E will now explore contingency options to try to prevent its 2019/20 calendar descending into long-term inactivity.
It has already lost the Sanya race that had been intended to take place on March 21.
The races following Rome are scheduled to be held in Paris on April 18 and then the inaugural Seoul E-Prix event in South Korea on 3rd May.
These are being carefully monitored by Formula E Operations and the FIA, which is based only one kilometre from the Les Invalides circuit in Paris.
With South Korea in a similar situation to Italy with regard to the proliferation of the virus outbreak and confirmed cases, it is believed it currently has little chance in hosting an event – while the coronavirus situation in Paris has recently led to its half-marathon postponed from April to October.
Formula E’s original calendar was set at 12 cities holding 14 races this season. Before coronavirus, it had already dealt with the replacement of the Hong Kong E-Prix with last weekend’s race in Marrakesh due to civil disturbances in the Special Administrative region of China.
Like the majority of global sports series Formula E has now been forced into a piecemeal strategy of reacting to government advice, travel and insurance situations around the virus outbreak.
As detailed by The Race earlier this week, Formula E is discussing several alternative options to make up for the cancelled events including possible replacement races at Valencia or returning to Marrakesh.
Valencia became an option when the decision was taken in Marrakesh to freight all the cars to the Ricardo Tormo circuit this week. This was in order to keep the hardware together for ease of putting on a hastily arranged replacement event should it be possible and necessary.
It is understood that Valencia – used for pre-season testing – is the overwhelming favourite should Formula E go ahead with holding a race elsewhere on the April 4 date that had belonged to Rome.
The Race can also reveal that the cars at Valencia are in an effective lockdown with teams not permitted to work on them.