Baku joins list of can­cel­la­tions and Cana­dian GP set to be next

Chase Carey warns more races likely to be af­fected and sea­son may be ex­tended

The Guardian - - Sport - Giles Richards

The Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix on 7 June has be­come the eighth meet­ing of the For­mula One sea­son to be called off. The race in Baku was due to run back to back with the Cana­dian Grand Prix which is also likely not to take place.

The Azer­bai­jan GP had hoped to be the first race of the F1 sea­son, with meet­ings in Aus­tralia, Bahrain, Viet­nam, China, the Nether­lands, Spain and Monaco al­ready off.

“This comes as a di­rect re­sult of the global Covid-19 pan­demic and has been based en­tirely on the ex­pert guid­ance pro­vided to us by the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties,” a state­ment from the organisers read. “The pri­mary con­cern has been the health and well­be­ing of the Azer­bai­jani peo­ple as well as all vis­it­ing fans, staff and cham­pi­onship par­tic­i­pants.”

The organisers said they are hope­ful of reschedul­ing the race but, with the in­creas­ing num­ber of post­pone­ments, find­ing slots in the cal­en­dar is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

The Cana­dian GP is set to take place on 14 June in Mon­treal but yes­ter­day Canada warned it would not send ath­letes to the Tokyo Olympics un­less the Games were post­poned for a year. Canada has also tight­ened its restrictio­ns on travel into the coun­try. Last week the prime min­is­ter, Justin Trudeau, an­nounced the coun­try had closed its bor­ders to non-Cana­dian cit­i­zens.

The F1 chief ex­ec­u­tive, Chase Carey, warned that more races are likely to be af­fected. “We recog­nise there is sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial for ad­di­tional post­pone­ments,” he said.

“None­the­less we and our part­ners fully ex­pect the sea­son to start at some point this sum­mer, with a re­vised cal­en­dar of between 15-18 races.”

Carey ex­pects the sea­son to ex­tend be­yond Novem­ber. “We an­tic­i­pate the sea­son will ex­tend be­yond our orig­i­nal end date of 27-29 Novem­ber, with the ac­tual se­quence and sched­ule dates for races dif­fer­ing sig­nif­i­cantly from our orig­i­nal cal­en­dar,” he said.

The next race af­ter Canada is the French Grand Prix on 28 June and that too must be con­sid­ered to be in doubt. Last week the Le Mans 24 Hours, also in June, was post­poned un­til 19-20 Septem­ber.

The fol­low­ing meet­ing is the Aus­trian GP on 5 July, fol­lowed by the Bri­tish Grand Prix on 19 July. Either may yet be­come the open­ing meet­ing. This year is the 70th an­niver­sary of the first F1 world cham­pi­onship. The first race of the first sea­son in 1950 was held at Sil­ver­stone. A to­tal of 22 races were sched­uled to be held this sea­son and at least eight are re­quired to con­sti­tute a world cham­pi­onship.

Ross Brawn, the F1 sport­ing di­rec­tor, has said the sport is al­ready look­ing at al­ter­ing the sched­ule of race week­ends in an at­tempt to fit in post­poned races. The sug­ges­tion of two-day meet­ings was al­ready be­ing con­sid­ered as a way of al­low­ing three con­sec­u­tive races to take place. In those cir­cum­stances, the meet­ings would con­sist of one prac­tice ses­sion be­fore qual­i­fy­ing on Satur­day and then the race on Sun­day.

“I think we can squeeze them in but it de­pends when the sea­son can start,” Brawn said. “One thing we have been talk­ing about was two-day week­ends and there­fore if we have a triple­header with two-day week­ends, that could be an op­tion.”

The last time F1 held a triple-header was in 2018 when the French, Aus­trian and Bri­tish grands prix were held back to back and teams ob­jected to the strain it put on their per­son­nel.

Yes­ter­day Lewis Hamil­ton was crit­i­cal of peo­ple in the UK ig­nor­ing in­struc­tions on phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing. “There are peo­ple out there still go­ing to large gath­er­ings, which I feel is to­tally ir­re­spon­si­ble and self­ish,” the world cham­pion posted on In­sta­gram. “There is noth­ing we can do about it either way ex­cept try to iso­late our­selves, stop our­selves from catch­ing it and spread­ing it.

“I’m pray­ing for those work­ing at the lo­cal store, de­liv­er­ers, doc­tors and nurses who put their own health at risk to help oth­ers and keep the coun­tries run­ning. Those are the he­roes.”

Hamil­ton has been self-iso­lat­ing af­ter meet­ing the ac­tor Idris Elba and So­phie Gré­goire Trudeau, the wife of the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter, both of whom have since been di­ag­nosed with coro­n­avirus but the Bri­tish driver has not shown symp­toms.

Lewis Hamil­ton hit out at peo­ple who ig­nore ad­vice on phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing

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