BREAKING | Coronavirus could force 2020 F1 season to start in May

Image: Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images
Image: Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images

The global coronavirus crisis could throw Formula 1's 2020 season into chaos.

China has already been postponed, but now the other three races at the top of the calendar - Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam - are in doubt.

F1 CEO Chase Carey said in a teleconference that the sport is indeed "heading to Melbourne, heading to Bahrain and heading to Hanoi."

But even in Barcelona for winter testing, members of the Italian-based Ferrari and Alpha Tauri teams have had to stay at home.

Ferrari's Mattia Binotto revealed: "A number of engineers did not come here as a precaution. So it is definitely a concern for us.  We are being cautious and ensuring we are acting properly."

A series of crisis meetings have been scheduled in Barcelona, with the biggest concern being how team staff are able to fly into countries with restrictions.

Sensitive situation

Vietnam is now admitting that its brand new Hanoi race could be in trouble.

Hanoi official, Nguyen Duc Chung, is quoted by DPA news agency: "If the situation in March gets complicated, we may have to cancel it. I cannot say with 100% certainty that it will take place."

Travel restrictions put in place for those travelling to Bahrain are also threatening that race, which is scheduled for March 22.

Some publications are even speculating that the season may not be able to begin until Zandvoort in May.

READ: Zandvoort's bank corners will favour 'very brave drivers'

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko said: "It (coronavirus) can really have a major impact. Also for Australia and Bahrain. Australia is already not allowing people to come in through Singapore or Hong Kong, and to Bahrain from Dubai. They are all important transfer points for many people," he told Austria's ORF broadcaster.

"The effects of the virus can be really extensive for our sport. he logistical challenges in particular could become too big."

Logistical nightmare

Alfa Romeo team manager, Beat Zehnder, said creative logistical solutions may not even be sufficient to solve the problem.

He told Auto Motor und Sport: "First, you cannot simply rebook for hundreds of people. Second, nobody knows how the situation will develop. You could book Oman today, and Oman is closed tomorrow."

Haas boss Gunther Steiner said meetings to talk about the logistical problems are scheduled, but warns: "We cannot really prepare, we can only react."

READ: What a surprise! Robert Kubica sets the pace on fourth day of pre-season testing

Alfa Romeo tester, Robert Kubica, said he even decided to travel to Barcelona by car rather than plane because of the situation.

He said: "I heard what is happening in Italy and elsewhere. I came here by car. If the airports are closed, I can still go home. The main thing is that everyone is healthy. It's important for drivers like us to drive, it's what we live for, but the most important thing is health."

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