Formula One has canceled races in Singapore, Japan and Azerbaijan for the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced countries into lockdowns and scuttled international travel plans.
“These decisions have been taken due to the different challenges our promoters face in those countries,” the organizer said in a statement Friday. “In Singapore and Azerbaijan, the long lead times required to construct street circuits made hosting the events during a period of uncertainty impossible, and in Japan, ongoing travel restrictions also led to the decision not to proceed with the race.”
The move comes as countries continue to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 7.5 million people worldwide and claimed more than 420,000 lives so far. Several countries have started to ease lockdown measures in a bid to revitalize economies, some before their virus cases have ebbed. Most have cautioned it will take a long time to fully recover.
With the latest cancellations, it means at least five of 22 races in the 2020 season have been scrapped, include races in Monaco and Australia. A few others, including races in Bahrain, Vietnam and China, have been postponed.
Revising its calendar due to the pandemic, F1 previously announced that it will begin its season with eight races in Europe starting from July. Racing will take place in Austria, Hungary, U.K., Spain, Belgium and Italy.
Efforts are ongoing to finalize the remaining races, though F1 expressed confidence in having between 15 to 18 races before the time the season ends in mid-December in Abu Dhabi. A new calendar is expected to be published before the season begins in Austria.
Asia’s Only Night Race
It’s the first time in 12 years that Singapore will not host a Formula One race. As Asia’s only night race, a unique feature in the F1 calendar, the three-day Singapore Grand Prix has become the city-state’s biggest event of the year and a significant tourist attraction.
Typically held in September, international celebrities, politicians and top business leaders from Europe and Asia descend on the Lion City to party, mingle and network, sipping cocktails while watching race cars zoom across the city’s financial district. Last year, the 61-lap night race drew about 268,000 spectators, the second-highest attendance since the event started in 2008. A contract was signed in 2017 to extend the event for another four years till 2021.
With no race this year, it means one of the event’s biggest side attractions — concerts helmed previously by international pop-stars such as Kylie Minogue, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse — will not be going ahead either.
The city-state, which has slowed its coronavirus spread with two months of severe restrictions on public movement, is slowly emerging out of a two-month lockdown and plans to re-open almost its entire economy by the end of this month.
Japan, Azerbaijan Races
Previously held at the Fuji Speedway track against the backdrop of Mount Fuji, the Japanese Grand Prix was moved to the Suzuka race course since 2009. Japan’s event was scheduled for October 11 but there were doubts the race would go on after ticket sales were suspended in April.
Prior to the cancellation, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was initially postponed from its original date of June 7. Races have been held there since 2017 at the Baku City Circuit.