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U.S. Grand Prix Among Cancelled F1 Events

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 26 2020

There will be no Formula One race at Circuit of the Americas in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Haas F1)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Formula One’s ninth annual U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas is among the latest cancellation casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

F1 confirmed Friday its globe-trotting, 2020 FIA World Championship schedule will not include four grand prixs originally booked for North and South America, wiping out events in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. The USGP scheduled for Oct. 25 at COTA in Austin, Texas, would have been the 50th version of a nomadic race that has been run at 10 different locations.

COTA has played host to the USGP since November 2012 on an FIA-approved, 3.426-mile/20-turn natural terrain layout in Travis County.

Formula 1 organizers said the decision was made “due to the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe.” The cancellations were triggered after ongoing discussions and collaboration with the respective partners in the affected countries.

Texas is one of several southern states dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases, and deaths, under a phased “re-opening” directed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Mexico and Brazil are facing similar upticks, while travel restrictions continue to pose a problem in Canada.

F1 Chairman/CEO Chase Carey said he looked forward to welcoming the races back to the schedule in 2021. “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,” Carey said in a statement posted on the F1 website.

Bobby Epstein, a co-founder of COTA, termed the decision “prudent, but painful.  After a sold-out 2019, advance ticket sales deposits were up near 250 percent over the prior year, and our staff was preparing our biggest event ever.

“We had secured blockbuster performers for the evening shows, and the racing this year is fantastic. I’m disappointed for the fans, COTA employees, our community and everyone in the Formula 1 paddock, as I believe we all look forward to what has become a wonderful annual tradition. It is my hope that the pandemic will soon pass and we will celebrate 2021 with the greatest Formula 1 United States Grand Prix ever.”

COTA has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. The facility lost another marquee event in April, when INDYCAR cancelled its second annual NTT IndyCar Series IndyCar Classic.

Cancellation of the F1 weekend in Austin could be viewed as a victory for Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, as motorsports fans in Texas and surrounding states will not have to choose between attending the USGP or NASCAR’s Cup Series Playoff races at TMS. The AAA Texas 500 is scheduled for Oct. 25 on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval. NASCAR’s Xfinity Series will run its O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Oct. 24.

NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and Truck series competed for the first time in 2020 at TMS last weekend in events originally scheduled for late March. Last Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 was the first major sporting event in Texas conduced with fans in attendance since the pandemic lockdown went into effect. TMS President/General Manager Eddie Gossage estimated between 15,000 to 20,000 fans were present on a brutally hot July afternoon.

The 2020 F1 calendar currently consists of 13 races, all booked in Europe. New races already have been confirmed for two of the aforementioned cancelled dates, with the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao and the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, Italy, set for Oct. 25 (COTA’s date) and Nov. 1 (Mexico), respectively.  A race at the famed Nurburgring in Germany also has been confirmed for Oct. 11, a date originally scheduled for Japan.

F1’s 70th anniversary season was to have featured an unprecedented 22 races beginning with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15 and ending with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on Nov. 29.

F1 is looking to reschedule a race in Vietnam originally set for April in November _ replacing the Brazilian GP originally scheduled for Nov. 15 _ before concluding with two races in Bahrain and one in Abu Dhabi. That would raise the total to a minimum of 17 races, in line with a previously announced schedule of 15 to 18 rescheduled events.

“We are pleased that we continue to make strong progress in finalizing our plans for the 2020 season and are excited to welcome Nurburgring, Portimao and Imola to the revised calendar,” Carey said. “We want to thank the promoters, the teams and the FIA for their full support in our efforts to bring our fans exciting racing this season during an unprecedented time.”

The Canadian Grand Prix originally was scheduled for June 14 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Notre Dame Island in Montreal. Plans to rescheduled the race in an October time slot proved futile.

“We are disappointed that we won’t be racing in Canada this year and know our fans will miss the excitement the race in Montreal always provides,” Carey said. ”We want to thank the incredible team at the Canadian Grand Prix led by Francois Dumontier, as well as the stakeholders involved for all their efforts and support in recent months against very challenging conditions. We can’t wait to be back next year and we know all our fans will be excited when we return.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 26 2020
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