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Drivers start off for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai on Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Formula Oneís Chinese Grand Prix postponed due to virus

By Rob Harris

The Associated Press

February 12, 2020

LONDON (AP) ó Formula One organizers have postponed the Chinese Grand Prix that was due to be staged in Shanghai in April, one of the latest sporting event impacted by the fast-spreading viral infection in the country.

More than 1,100 people have died in China from the virus, which has been named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

One of 22 races on the F1 calendar for 2020 that opens in Melbourne next month, the Chinese Grand Prix was due to be staged on April 19.

The decision to postpone the race was taken after a request from the Shanghai promoter to "ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants, and fans," F1 said in a statement.

It is the first time a race has been called off since political unrest led to the cancellation of the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix.

"Itís tough," Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo said shortly after the F1 announcement on China. "Obviously mixed feelings because personally I really enjoy the circuit, I had success there. I had a win in 2018 and I got my first points with Renault there last year. So itís been positive for me.

"I feel for the fans and everyone thatís going to miss out, but more importantly, I feel for China, what they are going through at the moment with the virus. But on the flip side, Iím glad that some initiative has been taken and that weíre not putting anyone else at risk."

Speaking at the launch of the Renault teamís F1 car for 2020, Ricciardo said that a decision was needed now because teams have to send in equipment and personnel well in advance of races.

"(The virus) still hasnít been controlled to full effect," the Australian said at Renaultís showcase store on the Champs-…lysťes. "The problem is freight and all that would have to go this week, and they had to make an early call on it. Hopefully by April, things are controlled but this is a decision that needed to come soon."

Motor sport officials from F1′s governing body, the FIA, Chinese organizers and teams will remain in discussions about whether the race can be rearranged this year.

"All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for the grand prix later in the year should the situation improve," F1 said.

Other virus-enforced cancellations or postponements range from soccer and Olympic qualifying events to golf tournaments.

The Tokyo Olympics open on July 24 and organizers have repeatedly said the games will not be cancelled or postponed. But many Olympic qualifying events are in disarray, with Chinese athletes not free to travel outside the country to participate.

AP Sports writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.

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