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Threat to F1 from coronavirus increases

NEWS STORY
26/02/2020

As the coronavirus continues to threaten F1, with 17 countries on the 2020 calendar having reported cases of the virus, the sport already faces a potential hit of $85m (65m).

As previously reported, while the Chinese Grand Prix is currently postponed due to the coronavirus, should the event be cancelled by the country's government the sport would have to refund the $33.1m hosting fee which has already been paid, company filings for F1 revealing that "cancellation of large-scale public events by a competent authority due to... outbreak of disease... could result in the loss of revenue under Formula 1's commercial contracts."

Add in an estimated $5.1m (3.8m) from corporate hospitality ticket sales and you can see why the sport is frantically trying to arrange an alternative date.

Yesterday, the Badminton World Federation postponed the Vietnam International Challenge competition, scheduled to take place at the end of March, on the advice of the Vietnam Sports Administration. Though an alternative date has been agreed for June, this is not an option open to F1.

Previously, McLaren boss, Zak Brown admitted that his team is monitoring the situation in Vietnam which borders China and has thus far recorded 16 cases of the virus, while Manfred Loppe, head of sport at German broadcaster RTL, has announced that his company will not be sending staff to the Hanoi race in April.

"After careful examination, the risks to their health appear to be too great," said Loppe, adding that "we came to this decision after querying numerous information agencies and the bottom line was that we did not receive what we considered to be a reliable assessment of the situation on site."

Cancellation of the Vietnam race would incur a further $35m hit in terms of hosting fees in addition to $5.1m in hospitality sales and $6m from title sponsor VinFast.

Speaking today, Le Ngoc Chi, CEO of the Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation, insisted that the race will go ahead.

"The F1 race in Hanoi in 2020 will take place as planned," she said. "We are of course monitoring the situation closely and will notify customers and media should there be any changes."

Meanwhile, in Bahrain, 21 new cases have been reported this week, causing the government to close all schools and hospitals for two weeks as well as suspending all flights from Dubai and Sharjah for 48 hours as it monitors the situation.

In Europe, Italy has been in the headlines as the number of cases has risen to 325 with 11 deaths.

The outbreak covers a number of regions in the country, not least Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, and Emilia Romagna, home of Ferrari, whose fans are known as the tiosi, which derives from Typhus in terms of someone "acting in a fevered manner".

The Maranello company has now banned anyone who has visited the most affected areas from entering its HQ, while closing its museums in Maranello and Modena and suspending all non-vital business trips.

"The situation is being monitored closely," said a team spokesperson. "New measures will be promptly implemented and communicated should they become necessary."

However, following reports of cases in Brazil, Tenerife, Switzerland, France and Austria which can be traced to Italy, Ferrari isn't the country's only representative in F1, with AlphaTauri based in Faenza and Pirelli in Milan.

As the second week of testing gets underway today in Barcelona, the city has reported the first case of the virus on the Spanish mainland, while Japan, home of Honda which supplies both Red Bull and AlphaTauri with engines, reports 178 cases with two deaths.

Indeed, according to Forbes, 17 countries on the 2020 F1 calendar have reported cases of the virus.

Meanwhile, the FIA "is closely monitoring the evolving situation with relevant authorities and its Member Clubs, under the direction of FIA Medical Commission President, Professor Gerard Saillant. The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races and, if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public."

All of which is negatively impacting the sport's share price, which fell 5.42% yesterday, an all-time low.

Check out our Wednesday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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1. Posted by TokyoAussie, 27/02/2020 3:52

"Sports events in Japan are already being affected. The major worry is the Olympics, which is a pandemic's wet dream."

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2. Posted by Rock Doc, 26/02/2020 13:36

"So you have this large group of people that move from country to country every 2 weeks and interacts with large crowds at each location before moving on. Isn't that the worst case scenario for a pandemic?

Let's face it, this outbreak already seems to be out of control. New cases are appearing daily around the world and it is spreading faster than health authorities can cope with. F1 will be lucky it is able to run any races at all by the end of March as so many countries will be taking measures to prevent transmission.

It's not a case will any more races be cancelled, it's more about how many are going to be cancelled.

"

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3. Posted by Mambo, 26/02/2020 11:14

"What would Bernie have done? Probably carried on and told everyone to get a grip."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

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