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 Motorsport
Friday, November 25 2022
Chinese Grand Prix to be dropped for fourth year straight as Covid chaos continues

The Chinese Grand Prix will be cancelled for a fourth consecutive year due to the pandemic, according to reports.

The BBC has reported that the Shanghai race, which has not taken place since the outbreak of the pandemic, will be called off owing to China’s zero-Covid policy in a decision yet to be announced.

Though sports groups are exempted from quarantine on arrival in the country in favour of a strict closed-bubble system, personnel would still be subject to mandatory isolation and quarantine for eight days if they were to test positive while in the country.

The 2023 Chinese Grand Prix has been scheduled with a weekend clear on either side of it to account for possible logistics issues, but Formula 1 has reportedly decided holding the race isn’t worth the risk of staff being detained in the country for more than a week.

China was to be the fourth event of the season, following the Australian Grand Prix on 2 April and preceding the street race in Azerbaijan on 30 April.

The race is unlikely to be postponed given the calendar is already heavily backloaded, with 10 races scheduled in just 14 weekends after the mid-season break, most of which take place in the Americas and the Middle East.

That would put off a potential Chinese Grand Prix return until 2024. It recently extended its contract until 2025.

Calling off the race would leave the sport with a three-weekend gap between events. Formula 1 isn’t believed to be considering replacing the race for next year, which would reduce the calendar from 24 races down to a still record-breaking 23 events.

Instead the BBC has reported that F1 is attempting to convince Azerbaijan organisers to bring forward their race by one week, thereby leaving only two non-racing weekends after Australia, one of which would be Easter.

Baku, however, is pushing back against the request, reportedly in part because the weather warms up rapidly in April, meaning a date even one week earlier could mean a much colder race — potentially problematic given F1 has taken to holding qualifying very late in the afternoon in recent years.

The city has a contract to host the race until the end of 2024 and is in negotiations for a long-term extension. It is said to be one of the sport’s most lucrative races.

Bringing forward the Azerbaijan Grand Prix would also rescue Formula 1 from one of two particularly gruelling long-haul double-headers. The sport is scheduled to fly from Baku to Miami for the following weekend, a journey of more than 11,000 kilometres and a nine-hour time zone change.

Later in the year it will fly directly from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi, a trip of more than 13,000 kilometres and a 12-hour time zone change, though the Vegas race will be held late at night.

Formula 1 will need to decide soon on any potential calendar tweaks, with freight shipments for the first flyaway races typically leaving in early January.

The logistics of hosting races outside Europe are both delicate and demanding, particularly since the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions on Russia, which have severely reduced global airfreight capacity.

Sea freight is also deployed months in advance of overseas races. Teams have duplicates of non-essential or non-changeable items — things like garage panels, hospitality furniture and office equipment — that spend the entire season travelling across oceans to races outside of Europe on continuous routes planned once the calendar is published.

The season is also starting earlier than usual, with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 5 March, though teams will be on site almost two weeks beforehand for pre-season testing, which runs from 23 to 25 February.

Though the calendar might feature a reduced 23 races, it will also comprise an expanded six sprint races.

Autosport has reported that Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, the United States and Brazil are the frontrunners to host the 100-kilometre Saturday races.

Austria hosted a sprint this year, as did Brazil, which also hosted one of the first Saturday races last season.

Race promoters pay extra to host sprint events given their popularity among fans, particularly those attending races, through F1 says it has chosen venues that balance financial considerations with the likelihood of producing overtaking, according to Autosport.

However, the BBC has reported that Qatar could be swapped out for Saudi Arabia if Jeddah organisers were willing to stump up more cash for the sprint.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia, along with Azerbaijan, are reportedly the highest fee paying races, with each of their contracts worth as much as $80 million a year, according to RacingNews365.

 

Posted by: AT 02:36 am   |  Permalink   |  Email