F1 abandons plans to race in the Americas this year

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The U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, will not go ahead this year after uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic forced Formula One to abandon plans to race in the USA, Mexico, Brazil and Canada in 2020.

COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil are among the highest in the world, and, when that was combined with the logistical challenge of moving the sport's travelling circus between continents, F1 decided it was impossible to plan for races in those territories.

Three new rounds in Germany, Portugal and Italy have been scheduled to fill the section of the calendar usually reserved for races west of Europe.

A news release said "the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe" meant it was no longer possible to host races in the Americas this year.

F1 CEO Chase Carey added: "We want to pay tribute to our incredible partners in the Americas and look forward to being back with them next season when they will once again be able to thrill millions of fans around the world."

The coronavirus pandemic forced F1 to rip up its original 22-race calendar this year, and so far it has confirmed 13 rescheduled races on the European continent (see sidebar above).

The sport is still in discussions about holding races in Asia in November, including a rescheduled date for the Vietnam Grand Prix that was originally scheduled for April. The 2020 season will conclude in mid-December, with two races planned in Bahrain and the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

The news about the cancelled races in the Americas does not come as a surprise but is still at odds with F1's original plan for its return to racing, which envisioned four stages of the calendar in Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.

Yet the realities of the spread of the virus, combined with the challenge of sending sea freight to destinations outside Europe two to three months in advance, meant there was a natural deadline by which a decision on the races in the Americas had to be made.

Friday's release said the sport is still targeting between 15 and 18 races by the end of the year.

F1 plans to return to the Americas in 2021, although the sport's contract with Interlagos in Brazil was due to expire after this season's race. The Circuit of the Americas in Texas will be in the final year of its 10-year deal with F1 by 2021; Mexico has a contract until the end of 2022; and Canada will remain on the calendar through to 2024. It is not clear how the missed races will affect those contracts.