Remembering the last time the opening race of a Formula One season was scrapped

F1 Grand Prix of Australia - Practice

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to unprecedented disruption to the sporting calendar as the world battles to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Formula One has certainly been no exception, with the sport now having seen its first four races of the season halted.

The 2020 campaign had been set to get underway this past weekend in Melbourne, Australia. Given current events, however, it was no surprise when the race was scrapped last Thursday.

It has historically tended, though, to take some significant pressure in order for the sport's governors to make the decision to pull the plug on a race. Indeed, this was the case the last time that the opening race of an F1 season failed to take place as scheduled.

One has to look back to 2011 for such circumstances. The seasonal curtain-raiser that year had been due to take place in Bahrain. However, the country was in the midst of much political unrest at the time, and some 30 lives were lost during pro-democracy demonstrations in the weeks prior to the race.

The volatile situation in the region led F1 chiefs to initially postpone the race, with the intention that it would be rescheduled for later in the season. However, that postponement would eventually turn into a full cancellation - after local people strongly campaigned against a rearranged race on the grounds of Bahrain's human rights issues at the time.

Due to the cancellation of the season opener, the 2011 campaign ended up being a 19-race season which was eventually won by German Sebastian Vettel in his very dominant Red Bull car.

As for Bahrain, they missed out altogether that year, but a Grand Prix did take place there the following season, with Vettel taking the victory.

It is growing ever-more likely by the day that at least some of the sport's recent postponements will, in fact, become full cancelled races this term.

AUTO-PRIX-AUS-F1

The Dutch Grand Prix scheduled for early May looks set to also fall victim to the coronavirus, adding further to the backlog created by the three already-announced postponements in China, Vietnam and (ironically) Bahrain. 

In view of the scale of the current world crisis, it has to be considered likely that further races will also be affected.

The packed nature of the sport's schedule must surely render the completion of all postponed races virtually impossible. 

For now, we all hope that the health threat faced by the world is resolved as soon as possible. It will only be at that time that F1 chiefs can properly assess how best to move forward with its racing calendar.

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