Sun | Aug 9, 2020

F1 to avoid Americas this season

Published:Saturday | July 25, 2020 | 12:18 AM
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads his teammate Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland during the qualifying session for the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at the Hungaroring racetrack in Mogyorod, Hungary last Saturday.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads his teammate Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland during the qualifying session for the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at the Hungaroring racetrack in Mogyorod, Hungary last Saturday.

PARIS, France (AP):

Formula One (F1) is expanding in Europe and will not be reaching the Americas, where the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of races in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United States yesterday.

F1 still hopes to complete 15-18 races by mid-December. Vietnam will reportedly host its inaugural race in Hanoi, and the season is still planning on ending in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

After selling out last year, the United States Grand Prix (GP) ticket sales were rocketing.

But calling off the race at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, in late October became increasingly inevitable.

“This isn’t about sports or economics of a business. This is about health and a pandemic and a global crisis,” COTA chairman Bobby Epstein told The Associated Press by phone. “We’re not unique. We’re heavily reliant on international events.”

The Austin track is under contract through 2021. Epstein wouldn’t comment on contract negotiations for a new deal nor would he say if this year’s cancellation would cause F1 to extend his current deal by one year.

But he did say that he expects Austin to host the US GP “for a long time”.

“That is the intent,” he said. “I don’t think we ever intended for this to be 10 (races) and done.”

Texas has had a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past month, reaching record highs in deaths and hospitalisations in the past week, with Austin one of the hot spots.

Brazil’s race is a fan’s favourite and held at Interlagos in São Paulo.

“In November, we will be in a much better situation than European countries that have already hosted races,” São Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas contested. “As of now, there is no prohibition for such events as long as there is no public (no fans).

“We have been notified of the decision that affects not only São Paulo, but all races in the Americas. We respect that decision, and we continue the negotiations with organisers for the extension of the contract, starting next year.”

VENUE CHANGE

This is the last year of São Paulo’s contract. Bidders from Rio de Janeiro want to build a track to take the F1 race there, but construction has not started, and the environmental licensing process is not finished.

Mexico was supposed to follow Brazil with a race in November.

But these days, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City is being used as a COVID-19 hospital.

Race director Federico González had no choice but to cancel.

The Canadian GP in Montreal was already postponed from its mid-June date, and no slot could be found for this year.

But F1 added three new races in Europe.

The Eifel Grand Prix will be hosted at the iconic Nürburgring in Germany on October 11, followed by the Portuguese GP in Portimão two weeks later, and the Emilia-Romagna GP in Italy on November 1.

These races take this season’s total to 13 — all of them in Europe.

The Nürburgring, situated amid the Eifel mountain range in western Germany, is among the most revered in F1. German great Michael Schumacher won five races at the daunting high-speed track.

F1 has started successfully with three races completed, two in Austria and one in Hungary. There have been only two positive cases for the virus among personnel at the track from nearly 15,000 tests.