Azerbaijan yesterday postponed its June 7 Formula One Grand Prix, leaving the stalled series with a major rescheduling headache after this season’s first eight races have been canceled or postponed.
What would have been a record 22-round season has already lost two of its fixtures, including May’s showcase Monaco Grand Prix which will not feature in the championship for the first time since 1954.
The opener in Australia was also canceled, while Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands and Spain have been postponed with no alternative dates proposed as yet and more races in doubt.
Organizers of the race in Baku said in a statement that the decision to postpone was “a direct result of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and has been based entirely on the expert guidance provided to us by the relevant authorities.”
“In coming to this conclusion, the BCC’s [Baku City Circuit] primary concern throughout has been the health and well-being of the Azerbaijani people, as well as all visiting F1 fans, staff and championship participants,” the statement said.
Organizers said they hoped to be able to announce a new race date and all tickets would continue to be valid.
Preparation of the street circuit, which requires the installation of extensive safety fencing and barriers, as well as the sealing of drain covers and asphalting, would have had to start within days.
The track has long, fast straights and a twisting stretch around the old town.
The crowd is usually small, with about 18,000 grandstand seats, plus another 2,000 for hospitality, and up to 15,000 general admission tickets available, but the race has been one of the more entertaining and unpredictable.
The next race that remains on is the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on June 14, but that also looks uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, as does France on June 28.
France has stringent restrictions on people’s movements, while Canada has closed its borders to all but essential travel.
Questions are now being asked about whether Formula One, with rounds still to come in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe, would be able to hold even the minimum eight races needed to make a championship.
Formula One has canceled its usual August shutdown, bringing it forward and extending it to three weeks this month and next month in the hope of rescheduling races from earlier in the season, but that could be wishful thinking.
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