Coronavirus causing travel headaches for F1 teams ahead of opening races

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The ongoing Coronavirus outbreak is causing new headaches for Formula 1 teams as the opening races of the season approach.

In recent days, more and more questions have been raised about the Australian, Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix's as the virus hits the Middle East country and new travel restrictions are imposed.

That even led to the first acknowledgement from a Vietnamese official that the inaugural race set for April 5 could be in jeopardy.

“If the situation in March gets complicated, we may have to cancel it,” Hanoi official Nguyen Duc Chung is quoted by DPA news agency.

“I cannot say with 100 per cent certainty that it will take place.”

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A meeting of teams took place in Barcelona on Thursday to address the Covid-19 concerns, but having already had to postpone the Chinese GP  dueto the virus, F1 CEO Chase Carey doesn't want to lose any more.

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

"I talked to our Vietnam partners yesterday, and I plan to stop in Hanoi on March 16th on my way back to London from Australia. All systems are go.

"By and large it's a process. What we're doing is we're actively engaged with all the events upcoming, I guess particularly the more current ones, to get perspective from within countries.

"Some of it is logistics. Bahrain just added [restrictions] for people coming from a number of cities. Part of what we can plan is to make sure we have flexibility and options in place to look at logistic issues in getting to and from races."

The two teams facing the biggest challenges are Ferrari and AlphaTauri, as the Coronavirus takes hold in Italy.

“Coronavirus is a really serious story from AlphaTauri’s side,” said team boss Franz Tost on Thursday.

“We instructed all the employees to behave in a special manner, we reduced the travelling dramatically, people coming from the red zones in Italy should stay at home.

“We do not want that they come to the factory, suppliers should also not visit us in the factory.

“We shall see what happens with the races in Melbourne and Bahrain."

As for Ferrari, factory tours have been stopped at Modena and Maranello in addition to similar staff limitations as AlphaTauri.

“A number of engineers did not come here as a precaution,” team boss Mattia Binotto confirmed in Barcelona.

“So it is definitely a concern for us. We are being cautious and ensuring we are acting properly.”

The main issue in terms of going racing though is logistics and travel restrictions through the various long-haul transfer hubs.

“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," Red Bull's Helmut Marko told ORF.

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

Williams deputy boss Claire Williams added: "There are certainly issues that we’re facing around travel to Melbourne, what happens with Vietnam, travel to Bahrain, etcetera, so I think it’s a challenge for everybody.

"The safety of our team is the most important thing. When it comes to travel, we will take direction from the World Health Organisation and the advice they're posting on an hour by hour basis."

Already, F2 and F3 are dealing with the issues related to Bahrain with driver Christian Lundgaard now set to miss the upcoming test after being placed in quarantine at the airport on Thursday.