epa07668504 French Formula One driver Pierre Gasly (R) of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing in action during the 2019 French Formula One Grand Prix at Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, France, 23 June 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

TASS, April 27. Organizers of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship Grand Prix in France, which was scheduled for June 26-28, have decided to cancel this year’s race over the ongoing global spread of the novel coronavirus, the FIA F1 press service said in a statement on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered earlier in the day to extend until mid-July nationwide measures aimed at stemming the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

According to the statement on the F1 official website, “officials announced on Monday morning that the decision of the French government to ban all major events until at least the middle of July, coupled with the travel restrictions in place to help contain the spread of coronavirus, meant it will be impossible for the Grand Prix to go ahead as planned.”

“Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French State making it impossible to maintain our event,” Eric Boullier, managing director of the GIP Grand Prix de France — Le Castellet, was quoted as saying.

As of today, France has reported over 162,100 confirmed novel coronavirus cases with the death toll from the virus standing at 22,856, while over 44,900 patients have been reported to recover from COVID-19.

Chairman and Chief Executive of Formula One Chase Carey commented on the decision to cancel the French Grand Prix, which was inaugurated in 1950: ” We have been in close contact with the French promoter during this evolving situation and while it is disappointing for our fans and the F1 community that the French Grand Prix will not take place we fully support the decision taken by the French authorities in France and look forward to being back at Paul Ricard soon.”

Meanwhile the executive management of FIA Formula One racing, which is the pinnacle of world’s motorsport, plans to launch this year’s championship in July staging between 15 and 18 Grands Prix, Chase Carey announced on Monday.

“Although this morning it was announced that the French Grand Prix, due to take place in late June, will not be going ahead, we are now increasingly confident with the progress of our plans to begin our season this summer,” Carey was quoted as saying in a statement from the F1 press service.

“We’re targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend,” he continued. “September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races.”

“We will publish our finalized calendar as soon as we possibly can,” the F1 chief stated.

This year’s FIA F1 World Championship was intended to be the first in the history of Formula One to run in 22 Grands Prix around the globe, opening with the race in Australia on March 15 and closing with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The championship was set to see a debut of the Grand Prix in Vietnam’s Hanoi and the return of the Dutch Grand Prix, which had been absent from the race calendar since 1985.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced earlier in the year to cancel the legendary Monaco GP as well as to postpone indefinitely this year’s Grands Prix in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, Canada, China, the Netherlands, Spain, Azerbaijan and Canada. In line with the 2020 F1 calendar, the next Grand Prix after the cancelled race in France is scheduled to be held in Austria on July 3-5.

A potential start date for the season

Formula 1 is targeting a 15-18 race season, beginning in Austria on the weekend of July 3-5 #F1 pic.twitter.com/UjBGtvDj2s

Organizers of the British Grand Prix, slated for July 17-19, announced earlier in the day that in case the race at the Silverstone circuit went ahead as scheduled it would be held without spectators.

“I am extremely disappointed to tell you that we are unable to stage this year’s British Grand Prix in front of the fans at Silverstone,” Silverstone chief Stuart Pringle was quoted as saying by the F1 official website. “We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear given the current conditions in the country and the government requirements in place now and for the foreseeable future, that a Grand Prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible.”

Chief executive Carey is still hopeful that fans will be admitted further on. “We expect the early races to be without fans but hope fans will be part of our events as we move further into the schedule,” he stated. “The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority one and we will only go forward if we are confident we have reliable procedures to address both risks and possible issues.”

“All of our plans are obviously subject to change as we still have many issues to address and all of us are subject to the unknowns of the virus,” he said. “We all want the world to return to the one we know and cherish, yet we recognize it must be done in the right and safest way.”

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus — named COVID-19 by the WHO — have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 3,000,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 207,700 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 894,400 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

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