“We miss you, Shanghai,” read a post on Formula 1’s official Weibo account on Tuesday. It was the news Chinese F1 fans had been dreading, with the numerous “We miss you too” responses showing petrol heads are already looking forward to welcoming back the Chinese Grand Prix next year.
Given the current global health crisis, the cancelation of the 2020 race this week was hardly surprising. Nonetheless, the decision was still tough to swallow for fans, who had hoped that the race could be the first major international sports event to be staged in China since February, now that the COVID-19 outbreak is under control in the country.
The announcement became a hot topic on Chinese social media, with related news generating over 10 million views on Weibo by Wednesday morning.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the sports world to hit the pause button, Juss Sports has been maintaining communication with Formula 1, the FIA, the Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Sports of China and Shanghai Sports Bureau, and we have kept assessing the possibility of hosting this year’s race at a different time,” read the announcement from event organizer Shanghai Juss Sports Development (Group) Co Ltd.
“We also made several contingency plans to deal with all possibilities hoping we could set a time for the race. However, despite the COVID-19 epidemic being under control in China, the outlook for the pandemic is still not optimistic.
“And according to the announcement of the General Administration of Sport of China in July, apart from the test event of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, no international events should be held this year in principle. Based on all the factors, we don’t have the conditions to host such a big international sports event.”
Taking all those points into consideration, the majority of fans have reluctantly accepted the decision.
“I don’t feel too bad about the cancelation of this year’s Chinese Grand Prix… even if it was staged, we probably wouldn’t have a chance to watch the action inside the venue,” said Gu Ning, an office worker in Beijing and a self-professed hardcore fan of six-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. “To be honest, I’m satisfied enough watching F1 on the TV this year, despite the races tending not to be as exciting or intense as they were before.
“This is an important year for Hamilton to fight for his seventh world title. So when I heard the original opening race was canceled, I was so disappointed. I just hoped that the championship would resume and I’d see him win again.”
Juss Sports has offered full refunds to ticket holders who had bought tickets through official channels for the Shanghai race, which was originally scheduled to take place in April.
The delayed season got underway behind closed doors with a doubleheader in Austria in July. It had been suggested the Chinese GP might be rescheduled as part of an Asian leg of the championship, possibly with back-to-back races at the Shanghai International Circuit.
However, F1 announced on Tuesday that four more races have been added to the 2020 calendar, bringing the total to 17 for the season.
The Turkish Grand Prix will be contested on Nov 15 followed by a double-header in Bahrain (Nov 29 and Dec 6). The season will conclude with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec 13.
“Sadly, we will not be racing in China this season and want to thank our partner Juss Sports for their support and engagement in recent months and hugely look forward to returning to Shanghai next year,” read an F1 statement.
“Due to the ongoing fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic we continue to maintain close dialogue with all promoters and local authorities to ensure we operate in the safest way possible and monitor each national situation closely－including travel restrictions and local health procedures.”
Chase Carey, the chairman and CEO of Formula 1, echoed those sentiments, saying: “This year has presented Formula 1 and the world with an unprecedented challenge and we want to pay tribute to everyone across Formula 1, the FIA, the teams, and our partners who have made this possible.
“While we are all disappointed that we have not been able to return to some of our planned races this year we are confident our season has started well and will continue to deliver plenty of excitement with traditional, as well as new, races that will entertain all our fans.”