‘Not possible’: Australia can’t save virus-attacked F1
AUSTRALIAN Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott has ruled out Australia hosting a second Formula One race this year due to the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Formula One has postponed the Chinese Grand Prix, which was due to be held in Shanghai on April 19, because of the spread of the deadly virus and there are reports the April 5 Vietnam Grand Prix could also be at risk.
Australia will again host the opening race of the Formula One season next month, but Westacott said it would not be possible for the AGPC to host a second race.
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"There has probably been half a dozen people who suggested to me that we should host the fourth round of the Formula One season as well," Westacott said.
"But that's not possible. It was announced overnight that they are postponing the China round.
"I know that they are in active discussions with the promoter and the Chinese government to look at slots later in the season, hence the reason why they called on a postponement as opposed to a cancellation.
"It's business as usual for the Australian Grand Prix Corporation in delivering the opening race of the Formula One season."
But Westacott acknowledged the global health issue could have an impact on overall visitor numbers for the Australian Grand Prix, although ticket sales to date had been positive.
"I think that it would be naive to suggest that something of this magnitude globally and regionally in Australia's position in the Asian market is not likely to have an impact," Westacott said at the launch of the Beaureapairs Melbourne 400 Supercars race at Albert Park.
"But at the moment sales are ahead of last year when it comes to corporate, grand stand and general admission tickets.
"I'm very confident that with a strong support program like Supercars, a really strong start to the 70th year of Formula One, it won't affect crowds and I'm really confident that Melburnians will come out in force and see a great race on the 15th of March."
The China GP had been scheduled to follow the first-ever Vietnam GP on this year's calendar, with the new street event in Hanoi taking place on April 5.
There have been 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Vietnam.
Asked if there were currently any concerns about the feasibility of racing in Hanoi - plus F1's other two Asian rounds later in the season of Singapore and Japan - Carey said: "We have been in touch with all of our promoters and at this point everything is going forward.
"Everybody is dealing with this real time. At this point in all these places the number of infected individuals is still a handful, but we sort of have to see how it looks like as we go forward.
"So at this point we're hopeful that they've got on top of it, certainly in those places, they've put protections in place and have taken steps to get ahead of it. We have to see where this plays out. But certainly at this point everything in those places is going ahead."
F1 was gearing up for the longest season in its 70-year history in 2020, 22 races, with those events across the globe taking place in the space of 38 weekends.
Any attempt to reschedule a race in China would therefore be fraught with difficulty with few "free" slots available without stacking up events or extending the season.
Arif Rahimov, the executive director of the Azerbaijan GP, told Sky Sports News: "Rescheduling is practically impossible with 22 races. It's a very slim chance for any race to be rescheduled in the same year.
"Back in the old days when there were half the races on the calendar (as there are now) it would have been so much easier. I know that Formula 1 is struggling every year to put the calendar together and once they put this unique, ideal formula to getting all the races in place and making sure no one is too unhappy. It's really hard to shift things around.
"This year we have triple back-to-backs and all kinds of stuff happening in the calendar, so I don't think there can be much more stress that can be added to it."