February 27, 2020 / 12:38 AM / in a month

F1 says Vietnam race is on amid coronavirus concern

LONDON (Reuters) - Vietnam’s first Formula One grand prix will go ahead as planned on April 5, the sport said on Wednesday, despite continuing concern about the coronavirus epidemic that has caused the cancellation of China’s race.

FILE PHOTO: A worker arranges steel structure of grandstand at the construction site of Formula One Vietnam Grand Prix race track in Hanoi, Vietnam February 18, 2020. Picture taken February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

The street race in Hanoi will be the third round of the season and the local promoter said the last 150 metres of the 23-turn 5.6km track was laid last week along the start/finish line.

“We are ready and can’t wait to welcome the world to Hanoi very soon,” Vietnam Grand Prix Corporation CEO Le Ngoc Chi said in a statement.

Formula One chief executive Chase Carey told analysts on a 2019 Q4 earnings call that “all systems are go” and he would visit Hanoi on March 16, the day after the Australian season-opener in Melbourne.

“The Vietnam Grand Prix will take place on April 5 in Hanoi. And to anticipate another question, we do plan to proceed with the race,” he said.

“We’re heading to Melbourne, heading to Bahrain and heading to Hanoi.”

The Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for Shanghai on April 19 was called off this month and there has been media speculation about the chances of Vietnam’s race going ahead as the virus spreads globally.

A badminton Olympic qualifier scheduled for Vietnam from March 24-29 was postponed to June on Tuesday due to “strict health protection restrictions in place in Vietnam”.

Australian Grand Prix organisers are planning for the season-opener to go ahead at Albert Park on March 15 despite government warnings that “all options”, including cancellation, would be considered if an outbreak of the coronavirus occurs.

“We will take our guidance and lead from the health authorities and fall into line with their instructions. We have to be open-minded,” Australian Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott told local media on Wednesday.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he was dealing with “a bit of a moving target” with travel already a logistical headache.

“Can you come back into Bahrain via Dubai? Probably not at the moment. We’ve got Honda engineers. Can they go back to Japan? Would they be allowed into Australia even at the moment?” he asked Sky television.

SUSPENDED FLIGHTS

Bahrain, which hosts the second race of the season a week after Melbourne, has reported 26 people diagnosed with the virus and has suspended flights to Dubai. The United Arab Emirates is a major transit hub.

The disease is believed to have started in a market selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.

The Vietnamese health ministry said on Tuesday that 16 people in the country infected with coronavirus had been cured with no new cases recorded since Feb. 13.

German free-to-air broadcaster RTL announced last week, however, that it would be covering the Vietnam race remotely due to coronavirus concerns.

Italy, home to Ferrari and tyre supplier Pirelli as well as the Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri team, has had 12 deaths and 374 cases of coronavirus diagnosed.

The Ferrari museum in Maranello has been closed and access to the team’s factory restricted.

In Formula One testing in Barcelona, McLaren have barred entry to their hospitality to anyone who has visited China in the past two weeks.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond

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