Bahrain and Vietnam GPs off because of coronavirus outbreak

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A woman takes away signs after the cancellation of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Friday, March 13, 2020. The first F1 Grand Prix of the season was canceled two hours before the first official practice was set to start Friday after organizers relented to pressure to call it off amid the spreading coronavirus. (Michael Dodge/AAP Image via AP)

PARIS – The Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races were postponed Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak, the third and fourth races of the Formula One season to be called off.

Bahrain was scheduled for next week — at an empty track — and the inaugural Vietnamese GP in Hanoi on April 5.

Governing body FIA said in a statement that it will consider “the viability of potential alternative dates" later this year for Bahrain and Vietnam “should the situation improve.”

The season could start in the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort track outside Amsterdam, on May 3.

“But given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed,” the FIA said.

The season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne was called off as thousands of fans queued to get in for Friday's first practice session, while teams and drivers were packing up to leave.

“Formula 1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the traveling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern,” the FIA said in a statement Friday.

Six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who needs one more title to equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles, said he was unhappy about by the situation but welcomed the decision.