Sao Paulo’s mayor said Friday the city’s Grand Prix could have been held in safe conditions despite the coronavirus pandemic, hitting back at Formula One’s decision to cancel it.
F1 earlier announced it was scrapping this year’s races in Brazil, the United States, Canada and Mexico, overhauling its calendar in light of the havoc the pandemic is causing in the sporting world.
Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas said city officials “respect” the decision, but insisted there was nothing to fear in his city.
“State and city health authorities have developed a protocol for automotive events, and there is no restriction on them being held, as long as it is without fans,” he told a news conference.
Showing the sprawling city’s infection curve, which has flattened in recent weeks, he said, “projections show the situation in November will be a lot better here than in the European countries that have Grand Prix races.”
Formula One added three races to its calendar, in Portugal, Germany and Italy, to compensate for the canceled events.
The sport has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the season postponed just hours before the opening practice of the traditional curtain-raiser in Melbourne in March.
The season finally got under way this month with two races in Austria, before moving to Hungary last weekend.
All events so far have been behind closed doors.
Brazil has the second-largest number of infections and deaths from the new coronavirus, after the United States: more than 2.3 million and 85,000, respectively.
Sao Paulo state is the epicenter of the outbreak in Brazil, accounting for nearly a quarter of the death toll.
It will be the first time Brazil has been left off the Formula One calendar since it held its first Grand Prix in 1973.
Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria had announced two weeks ago the race would go ahead, calling it “important for tourism.”
Mayor Covas said the city was in negotiations with organizers to renew its contract for the event from 2021, after Rio de Janeiro announced plans to build a new race track in a bid to grab away the Brazilian GP.
IN PHOTO: A runner disguised as a F1 driver holds up a Brazilian flag before the start of the 95rd 15-km Sao Silvestre international race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on December 31, 2019. (Photo by Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP)