Baku to be postponed and then cancelled (4th Update)

Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan

UPDATE (GMM) Baku, Singapore and Suzuka are set to be definitively scratched from the 2020 calendar.

That is the word from Andrea Cremonesi, a respected correspondent for Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"In days, if not hours, the official cancellation of the race in Baku will be announced," the Italian source Formula Passion quotes him as saying.

"The same applies to Singapore and also Japan, where the Olympics also had to be postponed until 2021."

Cremonesi said another victim of the corona crisis in 2020 will be the new venue in Vietnam, but China, Austin and Mexico reportedly remain hopeful.

He said Brazil, though, is "a big question mark", meaning that if there are too few races on the eventual schedule, second races in Bahrain and Russia could be added.

Arif Rahimov
Arif Rahimov

04/19/20 The Azerbaijan Grand Prix may not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic according to the organizer of the race through the streets of the country’s capital city, Baku.

“In our case, it is still uncertain whether or not we will be able to host the event," says Arif Rahimov, executive director of Baku City Circuit. He adds that his team “would need at least a 10 to 12 week lead time to be able to prepare for the race that has to be run before the weather becomes unpleasant (mid-October)."

It is a race against time as there is no visibility on when borders will re-open or when countries will be clear of coronavirus. In order to host an F1 race, not only does the destination country have to be completely clear but also the UK, Italy and Switzerland as the teams are based there.

“We have generally had an agreement with F1 that we will only confirm our date in the calendar once the threat of another cancellation is past," he says. There is good reason for this.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix joined the F1 calendar in 2016 and snakes through the streets of downtown Baku against a backdrop of futuristic skyscrapers and a 12th century fort. Transforming the streets into an F1 track costs an estimated $30 million annually so Rahimov doesn’t want to be left with the bill and nothing to show for it if the race is cancelled at the last minute. He says that “if we can satisfy the above conditions, I believe we can host another great race with no significant negative impact on the ticket sales."

“Coming out of the quarantine, we might actually see a sudden overall boost in the entertainment sector. You can imagine how this can be applicable to all the people who have been locked up at home for months." He adds that “there will certainly be less races in the F1 calendar, meaning that fans might want to travel to the nearby race if their own race has been cancelled."

However, it isn’t guaranteed to be an easy ride. He believes “there could be a potential social aftershock, where people would avoid public gatherings even after we, hopefully, defeat the COVID-19 virus." Additionally, the expected “economic downturn means a reduction of household disposable income that is usually spent on entertainment."

03/24/20 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' The Azerbaijan Grand Prix on 7 June has become the eighth race of the Formula One season to be postponed or cancelled. The race in Baku was due to run back to back with the Canadian Grand Prix which is also likely not to take place.

The Azerbaijan GP had hoped to be the first race of the F1 season, with races in Australia thru Monaco already postponed.

“This comes as a direct result of the global Covid-19 pandemic and has been based entirely on the expert guidance provided to us by the relevant authorities," a statement from the organizers read. “The primary concern has been the health and well being of the Azerbaijani people as well as all visiting fans, staff and championship participants."

The organizers said they are hopeful of rescheduling the race but, with the increasing number of postponements, finding slots in the calendar is becoming increasingly difficult.

03/23/20 (GMM) Baku, which until now looked set to host the new 2020 season opener, is now expected to be postponed as well.

With the opening seven races on the original schedule now cancelled or postponed, Azerbaijan's June 7 event then looked set to be the first this year.

But AR1.com was the first to report the postponement, which be made official on Monday.

British GP boss Stuart Pringle, referring to the July 19 race at Silverstone, also admits cancellation is on the cards over the coronavirus crisis.

"I would like to reassure our fans that, should we be forced to cancel the grand prix, all customers who have purchased a ticket will be given the option of a full refund," he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the globe, and looks set to potentially ruin the 2020 world championship altogether.

But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that's not the important thing.

"We take our racing very seriously because we love it," he said in an open letter. "But in the grand scheme of things, it is by no means essential.

"The health and well being of our fans, our team members and society in general, however, is.

"In the coming weeks and months, we'll have to adapt to new challenges, but we'll approach those with the same energy and determination to those we encounter on track.

"We will not be silent but embrace our creativity and use our platform to be a positive voice in the F1 community," Wolff added.

Writing on social media, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner agrees, emphasizing that the pandemic "transcends our sport and change is a necessity".

03/22/20 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, The Azerbaijan Formula 1 race, scheduled for June 7th, will be postponed.

We are told the announcement will be made official tomorrow (Monday).

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