Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix likely to be postponed due to coronavirus

"I think we do expect information from them (the Chinese promoter) imminently," Carey told Reuters in an interview at a conference in the Azeri capital and Formula One host Baku.

Chinese Grand Prix (photo credit: REUTERS)
Chinese Grand Prix
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix is likely to be postponed from its scheduled April date due to the coronavirus outbreak, the sport's Chief Executive Chase Carey said on Wednesday.

The race, in what is an important market for Formula One, was originally set to be held in Shanghai on April 19, but several media reports said the event was due to be called off, with an announcement expected as early as Wednesday.

"I think we do expect information from them (the Chinese promoter) imminently," Carey told Reuters in an interview at a conference in the Azeri capital and Formula One host Baku.

"Because I'm traveling we've maybe even gotten information that I'm not aware of since I'm not at the office and I left to fly here yesterday afternoon," added the American, who traveled to Baku overnight.

"Clearly we recognize that the postponement of the event is certainly a possibility and you could probably go even further and say a likelihood just given what seems to be transpiring."

The flu-like virus has killed more than 1,100 people and infected more than 44,000 in China after it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

A host of international sporting events have been canceled due to coronavirus, including the all-electric Formula E motor racing series that abandoned plans for a race in the Chinese city of Sanya next month.

Speaking to reporters last week, Formula One's motorsport managing director Ross Brawn said the sport would look to reschedule the Chinese race rather than cancel it altogether.

Carey said fitting the race back into an already packed calendar with few spare weekends would pose a challenge.

"At this point it's tough to make too many specific plans when there are so many unknowns around it," he said.


He also said the sport was keeping an eye on the spread of the virus outside China to other countries in the region such as Vietnam, which is set to host its first race on April 5.

"The reality of today, in most other countries, the number of people affected is a handful," he said. "But we don't know what it will be in a week or two."

The Chinese Grand Prix, which debuted in 2004, is an important event for Formula One, with the sport keen to tap into the opportunity presented by the country's vast population and growing middle class.

Hosting fees also make up a significant portion of Formula One's revenues, with some races paying as much as $40 million a year.

A cancellation as a result could mean a financial hit for the sport's U.S. owners Liberty Media.

The last race to be canceled was the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix, due to social unrest in the island Kingdom. But the country still paid the hosting fee despite the cancellation of the race.

If it can't be rescheduled, the cancellation of the Chinese race will pare the calendar back to 21 races from the record 22 Formula One was set for this year.

It would also leave a four-week gap between new addition Vietnam and the returning Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on May 3.

Asked about the possibility of reviving races that have fallen off the calendar as one-off events to take China's place, Carey said Formula One was evaluating all contingencies.

The time available is short, however, and organizers of any such one-off race would also likely expect their hosting costs to be underwritten.

"We're not going to do something that isn't good for us or the teams," said Carey. "We like the 22-race calendar (but) we're fine with a 21-race calendar."