LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One will call off the next two races in Bahrain and Vietnam after the cancellation of Sunday’s Australian season-opener due to the coronavirus outbreak, multiple F1 sources told Reuters on Friday.
Bahrain’s March 22 race, the second on the calendar, was already scheduled to be run without spectators under floodlights at the Sakhir circuit.
Vietnam’s first Formula One grand prix was scheduled for April 5 on the streets of Hanoi as the third round of the season.
Sources said Formula One, which has already postponed the April 19 Chinese Grand Prix, was set to make an official announcement later.
Vietnam at least was set to be postponed, rather than canceled.
There was no comment from the race promoters or Formula One.
“It’s difficult to see how teams will go to Bahrain,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
The Australian Formula One Grand Prix was canceled on Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak only hours before the first practice session was scheduled to get underway at Albert Park.
McLaren had already announced they would not be racing after an employee tested positive for the virus and champions Mercedes then called for a cancellation.
The fourth race on the calendar is scheduled to be the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on May 3, a home grand prix for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but the season could start even later than that.
A ban is already in force in the Netherlands on gatherings of more than 100 people.
“Maybe we take a hiatus, we take a pause,” Formula One motorsport managing director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports television after the Australian GP cancellation.
“And we use that opportunity to say ‘right, for this time at the beginning of the year we won’t have any races. We’ll look at relocating those races later in the year.
“And I think by freeing up the August break we give ourselves several weekends when we could have a race and I think we can build a pretty decent calendar for the rest of the year. It will look different.”
Formula One’s planned August break runs from the Aug. 2 Hungarian Grand Prix to Belgium on Aug. 30.
There is some scope to squeeze races into weekends later in the year, with a gap between Brazil and the Abu Dhabi season-ender in November that could be stretched further if the final race is pushed into December.
The cancellation of races is a major concern for teams, whose budgets depend on a share of the sport’s revenues, and Formula One’s U.S.-based commercial rights holders Liberty Media.
“The teams survive on their funding from races. So this will have an impact on the teams’ budgets for the future,” said Brawn.
“It will have an impact on our economics as a company. Each race you lose, then it has an impact.”
Formula One’s 2020 calendar was supposed to be a record 22 races, with Vietnam and the Netherlands coming in and Germany departing.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Jason Neely and Toby Davis