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Formula 1 season at risk over coronavirus crisis

2020-02-26 11:36
chinese grand prix 2019

Lewis Hamilton driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W10 competes in the Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix 2019 at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Yin Liqin/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images)

The deepening coronavirus crisis is putting a large dark cloud over Formula 1's looming 2020 season.

Only seven countries on the entire 22-race calendar for 2020 do not have active infections or deaths recorded as a result of what could soon be declared a global pandemic.

China has already been postponed, but even the season opening Australian GP could also be in doubt.

"If it's severe and we need to do absolutely everything possible to reduce the peak, reduce the number of cases, then we have to keep all options open," Dr Brett Sutton, chief health officer of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, told 3AW radio.

Race boss Andrew Westacott also played down the risk that Melbourne could be cancelled.

"At the moment, events like the AFL (football) season, the cricket World cup and the grand prix continue to go ahead and I think they should or we're going to close our city," he said.

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"It's all about taking precautions, looking after health and hygiene and good public health practices."

But Australia is not the only other country threatened by coronavirus.

Ferrari is taking measures as the coronavirus death toll in Italy rises to an alarming seven, and further action in the country could affect hundreds of F1 staff working for Pirelli, Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

Even in Barcelona, located in Spain which is now recording its first coronavirus case, some hotels where F1 staff for the winter tests are staying are putting antiseptic soap in the reception areas.

McLaren recently declared that Chinese people in the paddock, including journalist Frankie Mao, may not enter its hospitality areas.

But one of the biggest question marks is above Vietnam's inaugural race date.  The Prime Minister has declared that no person from any country with a coronavirus outbreak may enter the country.

"We're monitoring the situation and won't do anything to expose our employees," team CEO Zak Brown is quoted by Finland's MTV.  "I think it's the same story for F1 as well."

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