In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain walks at the paddock of the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai. Image Credit: AP

Baku: Formula One’s Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed from its scheduled April date due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision to postpone the race was taken after a request from the Shanghai promoter to "ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans", F1 said in a statement.

Motor sport officials from F1's governing body, the FIA, Chinese organizers and teams will remain in discussions about whether the race can be rearranged this year.

"All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for the grand prix later in the year should the situation improve," F1 said.

A host of international sporting events have been cancelled due to coronavirus, including the all-electric Formula E motor racing series that abandoned plans for a race in the Chinese city of Sanya next month.

Speaking to reporters last week, Formula One’s motorsport managing director Ross Brawn said the sport would look to reschedule the Chinese race.

Carey said fitting the race back into an already packed calendar with few spare weekends would pose a challenge.

Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese GP in 2019
Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese GP in 2019 Image Credit: Reuters

“At this point it’s tough to make too many specific plans when there are so many unknowns around it,” he said.

He also said the sport was keeping an eye on the spread of the virus outside China to other countries in the region such as Vietnam, which is set to host its first race on April 5.

“The reality of today, in most other countries, the number of people affected is a handful,” he said. “But we don’t know what it will be in a week or two.”

The Chinese Grand Prix, which debuted in 2004, is an important event for Formula One, with the sport keen to tap into the opportunity presented by the country’s vast population and growing middle class.

Hosting fees also make up a significant portion of Formula One’s revenues, with some races paying as much as $40 million a year.

The last race to be cancelled was the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix, due to social unrest in the island Kingdom. But the country still paid the hosting fee despite the cancellation of the race.

If it can’t be rescheduled, the cancellation of the Chinese race will pare the calendar back to 21 races from the record 22 Formula One was set for this year.

It would also leave a four-week gap between new addition Vietnam and the returning Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on May 3.