LONDON: Monaco cancelled its showcase Formula One Grand Prix, the sport’s most famous and glamorous race, in another high-profile casualty of the coronavirus epidemic yesterday.
The race was on the first world championship calendar in 1950 and has been held without fail since 1955.
Formula One earlier said the May 24 race was postponed, along with Dutch and Spanish races scheduled for the same month, and pushed back a major technical rules revamp from 2021 to 2022.
The Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) said uncertainty about the teams’ participation and access, with neighbouring France and Italy in lockdown, made the situation ‘untenable’.
They also called off a popular historic race, which uses the same tight and twisty fenced streets and was scheduled for earlier in May.
“Under no circumstances will it be possible to organise these events later this year,” said the ACM.
The cancellation will be a blow for Ferrari’s Monegasque Charles Leclerc as well as Mercedes’ six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton and many other drivers who live there.
The announcement came as the Mediterranean principality revealed ruler Prince Albert had tested positive for the virus.
The 10 teams and the sport’s top officials earlier agreed unanimously in a conference call to delay the implementation of technical changes that have been years in the planning.
Financial changes to save money, including a cost cap, will go ahead, however.
A joint Formula One and FIA statement highlighted the “currently volatile financial situation” and said teams will use their 2020 chassis for 2021.
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto had told the www.formula1.com website that his team, who started a three-week factory shutdown yesterday after Formula One cancelled the August break, were willing to do what was necessary.
“It is certainly not the time for selfishness and tactics,” he said.
The season-opening Australian race scheduled for March 15 was cancelled last week and Bahrain, Vietnam and China put on hold.
With most of the first half of the season looking like a write-off, Formula One plans to cram the European summer and subsequent months with as many races as possible to limit the damage to the balance sheet.
The first race in June is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on June 7.
The technical changes are aimed at levelling the playing field and improving the racing but they also involve considerable costs in the short-term.
Some teams were already under significant pressure before the crisis as they devoted resources to designing radically different cars for 2021 while also developing this year’s.
Privately-run outfits, such as former champions Williams who finished last in 2019, are already operating on tight budgets that risk shrinking further.
Teams get much of their income from the sport’s overall revenues and sponsors, who are not currently getting any exposure.
Formula One’s commercial managing director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports F1 television recently that weekends could be condensed to get races done.
“I think by freeing up the August break, we give ourselves several weekends where we can have a race. And I think we can build a pretty decent calendar for the rest of the year,” said the Briton.
“One thing we have been talking about is two-day weekends, and therefore if we have a triple header (three races on successive Sundays) with two-day weekends, that could be an option.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a season that gives a good economic opportunity for the teams.”