Formula One’s bosses are facing a potential £35million hole in their pockets after ‘postponing’ the Chinese Grand Prix because of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday Liberty Media, the sport’s owners, confirmed Sportsmail’s revelation that the April 19 race would be called off and, although they left open the possibility of the Shanghai event being rescheduled, the chances of finding a replacement date on the packed, now-21-round calendar look remote to non-existent.
Liberty will leave no stone unturned to make it happen, but privately acknowledge the teams are unlikely to commit themselves to the upheaval and cost of a long, untimely trip to Asia. However, the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix in Hanoi a fortnight earlier remains resolutely on despite the country bordering China.
The effect of losing China, the fourth race of the season, was felt when the NASDAQ opened, with shares in the $11billion (£8.5bn) F1 business falling by nearly one per cent, before rallying. In doubt is the race fee of some £30million, depending on the exact terms of the contract, which lawyers are likely to fight over.
The hospitality revenue, worth about £3m alone, and branding opportunities would both be forfeited in the event of the event being scratched.
With 1,100 deaths from the flu-like virus and 45,000 people infected, Formula One realistically had no choice but to add motor racing’s premier series to the growing list of sports events to be called off.
Formula One said: ‘As a result of continued health concerns, the FIA and Formula One have taken these measures to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans.’