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China’s F1 grand prix hangs in balance over virus fears

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In this file photo taken on April 14, 2019 race winner Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton (C) stands with second-placed teammate Valtteri Bottas of Finland (L) and third-placed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (R) on the podium after the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. The fate of the Chinese Grand Prix is expected to be announced on February 13, 2020 as reports said it will not take place as planned on April 19 because of the new COVID-19 coronavirus. AFP

AFP – The fate of the Chinese Grand Prix is expected to be announced on Thursday as reports said it will not take place as planned on April 19 because of the new coronavirus.

Several British media outlets ran unsourced reports on Wednesday saying the Shanghai race, the fourth of the new season, will be either postponed or cancelled.

It would be the latest — but easily most high-profile — sports event to fall victim to the virus outbreak which has killed more than 1,100 people in China, where it emerged at the end of last year.

AFP understands that an announcement about the race will be made on Thursday, but according to the BBC, it is “expected to be postponed”.

It also throws into doubt the inaugural race in Vietnam, which takes place two weeks before Shanghai but where there have also been cases of the virus, officially named COVID-19.

Formula One’s managing director Ross Brawn said last week that they will look to reschedule the Shanghai race if it does not go ahead in April.

“We will leave open the opportunity to see if the race can run later in the year,” he said, according to the BBC.

“China is an enthusiastic, growing market so we’d like to have a race in China.”

China has been forced to cancel or put off a host of sporting events due to the coronavirus epidemic, from suspending all football in the country to postponing the first badminton tournament of the 2020 world tour season.

The world’s most populous country has increasingly become a powerhouse in hosting international sport in recent years, but has had its sporting calendar thrown into chaos.

Athletics’ World Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing in March 13-15, have been postponed for a year.

The Chinese Formula E Grand Prix, due to take place in Sanya on the southern island of Hainan on March 21, was called off “after close consultation” with government authorities.

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