This year’s Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed because of continued health concerns over the coronavirus outbreak - the latest impact the virus has had on the country’s car industry.
The race was due to take place at the Shanghai International Circuit on 19 April but has now been postponed by Formula 1 bosses following a request by the event organisers and Chinese motorsport’s governing body.
A statement issued by F1 and the FIA, the world motorsport’s governing body, said: “As a result of continued health concerns and with the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus as a global health emergency, Formula 1 and the FIA 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.”
A new date for the event, which would have been the fourth round of this year’s championship, has yet to be finalised. F1 bosses said “All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for the grand prix later in the year should the situation improve.”
The Chinese GP is the first F1 event to be postponed since the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix. That event was ultimately cancelled due to civil unrest in the country. If the spread of coronavirus is halted and the country is able to hold a race later this year, F1 bosses face a tough challenge to find a spot for it on the crowded schedule, with a record 22 races originally planned.
Reports suggest that more than 1000 people have died in China due to the coronavirus, officially called Covid-19, and the number of deaths recorded per day continues to rise – although the number of new infections recorded has begun to fall. The largest number of cases – more than 31,000 – have been recorded in Hubei province, where the virus originated.
Although only around 300 cases have been recorded in Shanghai, officials in the city have implemented a number of measures to restrict its spread, including limitations of movement and the requirement to wear masks in public. Similar restrictions are in place in Beijing.
Measures to contain the spread of the disease have resulted in a number of car firms – including Mercedes, Honda, Nissan and Tesla – and car parts companies temporarily shutting plants in the country. While some, such as Mercedes, have now resumed limited production, continued disruption is understood to be likely. The impact of China's factory closures is being felt globally.
The postponing of the Chinese GP will raise questions over whether this year’s Beijing motor show, due to happen on 21-30 April, will take place, although the event organiser has yet to issue a statement via its website.