All eyes on Vietnam

In all honesty, it wasn’t a question of if the Chinese Grand Prix was going to be postponed, but when.

Each day brings fresh news on the virus… none of it good.

The statement from Formula One Management yesterday was carefully worded, for it was made quite clear that the decision to postpone the event was that of the promoter.

Fact is, with the logistical deadline fast approaching, it was looking likely that F1 would have to bite the bullet, however, if that were to be the case the all-important race hosting fee would not be liable. Since it is the promoter that effectively blinked and pulled the plug the fee must still be paid.

While Chase and the gang do the almost impossible and search for an acceptable slot for a rescheduled Shanghai race – assuming that the virus is brought under control any time soon – attention turns to Vietnam.

“All the feedback we are getting is rather like the UK,” Ross Brawn tells Reuters. “There have been some cases but not a level that would concern us. The advice we are getting is that it can go ahead there.”

To date, there are 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Vietnam, while there are understood to be 60,000 cases, and over 1,300 deaths in neighbouring China.

In the commune of Son Loi, just 30 miles north-west of Hanoi, 10,000 people have been quarantined.

For as long as anyone can remember, F1 testing in Barcelona has coincided with Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual trade fair of the mobile communications industry, which is also held in the Spanish city.

As anyone can tell you, the number of people that MWC attracts is huge, with over 100,000 people from 200 countries expected at the four day event.

Indeed, demand for hotel rooms in Barcelona and its environs has a direct impact on those attending the F1 tests.

This year however, in light of the coronavirus, MWC is cancelled. Initially Facebook, Amazon, LG, Intel, Ericsson, Vivo, ZTE, Nvidia, Cisco, Sony, HMD, and Volvo opted to cancel, and yesterday (Wednesday) Orange, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, McAfee, BT and HMD Global also withdrew.

As a result, John Hoffman, chief executive of GSMA, which organises the event, admitted that staging it this year would be “impossible”.

Back in China, factories that should have reopened following the Chinese New Year remain shut, with employees told that it could be March, at the earliest, before they reopen.

At almost every team there will be employees, and their families, fearing the trip to Hanoi, despite the assurances of Ross Brawn.

Not only has the virus not yet peaked, we have seen in recent days how people have contracted it in the likes of Singapore, seemingly nowhere is safe at present.

Consequently, though trying not to be sensationalist or doom-mongering, one has to wonder at the ongoing dithering from FOM and the FIA, for one or two cases of the virus in the paddock could have far reaching consequences for the sport.