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Formula 1: Chinese GP to be Cancelled Due to Covid Policies

F1 fans at Formula One Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai Circuit. (Photo: Ev. Safronov/Shutterstock)

China’s return to the Formula 1 schedule will be cancelled next year as a result of the country’s Covid policies, BBC Sport has learned.

China’s return to the Formula 1 schedule will be cancelled next year due to the country’s Covid policies, BBC Sport has learned. Formula 1 has not visited China since 2019, but it was scheduled to return for the fourth race in 2023 on April 16. However, China’s strict zero-Covid policy has led F1 to conclude that the race cannot proceed.

The primary issue is that F1 staff would not receive exemptions from quarantine requirements if they contracted Covid-19. F1 believes it cannot ask teams to attend the race in Shanghai with the risk that staff could be detained for days if they tested positive for the virus. China’s current rules require anyone found with Covid-19 to spend five days in an isolation center plus three days in home isolation.

Although F1 chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali has not yet officially called off the race, the decision is considered inevitable. F1 has declined to comment on the situation.

The sport is not expected to replace the Chinese Grand Prix with another race, reducing the calendar to 23 races—still a record but one fewer than originally planned. China’s cancellation will create a four-week gap in the 2023 schedule between the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on April 2 and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on April 30.

Domenicali is reportedly in talks with authorities in Baku to move the race forward a week to April 23 but is facing resistance. If Baku cannot be persuaded to move, the gap will likely remain unfilled. Additionally, F1 is in discussions to extend Azerbaijan’s race contract, which is due to end next year. While F1 had considered dropping the race for new entrants like the planned Kyalami race in South Africa, Azerbaijan, which pays one of the highest fees, is expected to sign a new 10-year deal.

F1 is finalizing which tracks will host sprint events in 2023. These shorter races on Saturdays set the grid for the main Grand Prix and are planned for Azerbaijan, Austria from June 30 to July 2, Belgium from July 28-30, Qatar from October 6-8, the United States GP in Austin from October 20-22, and Brazil from November 3-5. Although F1 wanted to host a sprint event in Saudi Arabia, the authorities there have balked at the fee. However, the possibility of a sprint in Jeddah has not been ruled out and could replace Qatar if an agreement is reached.

The number of sprint events is doubling next year because F1 sees them as a way to increase revenue and television audiences. These events feature a short, one-third distance race on Saturday afternoon instead of traditional qualifying. The result of the sprint determines the grid for the main Grand Prix, with qualifying moved to Friday to set the grid for the sprint.

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