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Formula One CEO apologizes to fans for cancellation of early races

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PARIS — Formula One CEO Chase Carey apologized to fans Tuesday after the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and other early races this season were canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Amid chaotic scenes in Melbourne on Friday, fans were waiting at the gates to watch the first two practice sessions of the race when the late decision was made to finally postpone it. By that point, even with thousands of fans outside, teams were packing up inside the paddock.

“We apologize to those fans affected by the cancellation in Australia, as well as the postponement of the other races to date,” Carey wrote in an open letter to fans on the F1 website. “We also want to extend our thoughts to those already affected, including those in the Formula 1 family.”

The late decision to cancel the race hastened after McLaren withdrew because a team member tested positive for the COVID-19 illness. Even before the cancellation, Mercedes sent a letter to the FIA and F1 requesting it be called off and had commenced preparations to leave.

The Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races quickly were postponed. Bahrain was scheduled to begin on Friday – at an empty track – and the inaugural Vietnamese GP in Hanoi on April 5.

On Monday, tire provider Pirelli said one of its staff tested positive for the virus and was undergoing treatment in Melbourne. McLaren said the employee who tested positive “is recovering well and the symptoms have gone.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

With the Chinese GP on April 17 already canceled in February, the first four races are off.

The season could start in the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort track outside Amsterdam, on May 3, or later in May at either the Spanish GP on May 10 the Monaco GP on May 24.

F1 can gain back some time by scrapping its traditional midseason break, which lasts for four weeks.

“We recognize everyone wants to know what comes next for Formula 1 in 2020. We cannot provide specific answers today given the fluidity of the situation,” Carey said. “However, we plan to get the 2020 Championship season underway as soon as it’s safe to do so. We are engaging with experts and officials on a daily basis.”

Scott Dixon fastest on the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice

Indy 500 practice Dixon
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Scott Dixon was fastest on the second day of Indy 500 practice Thursday, turning a lap at 226.102 mph in his No. 9 Dallara-Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Takuma Sato was second, followed by Marco Andretti, Conor Daly and rookie Alex Palou.

The rest of the top 10 were: Colton Herta, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe, Fernando Alonso and James Davison.

THURSDAY PRACTICE: Click here for Day 2 speeds at Indianapolis

COMBINED SPEEDS: Click here for the overall speeds from the first two days

The session had one incident as Alonso crashed with just less than an hour left in the session. The Arrow McLaren SP driver was optimistic that the car could be repaired without a backup.

Among the other notables on the speed chart Thursday: Ryan Hunter-Reay (11th); Tony Kanaan (14th); Helio Castroneves (16th); Josef Newgarden (18th); Graham Rahal (19th); Will Power (23rd); Alexander Rossi (26th) and defending race winner Simon Pagenaud (27th).

Felix Rosenqvist (24th) and rookie Dalton Kellett turned the most laps (141) around the 2.5-mile oval.

Teams mostly focused on race setup Thursday as they will receive 80 extra horsepower in the “Fast Friday” practice that will feature speeds above 230 mph for qualifying Saturday and Sunday.

The Indy 500 will take place Aug. 23; coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC with the green flag at 2:30 p.m.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBCDetails for the Aug. 23 race

DAILY INDY 500 SCHEDULEClick here for all on-track activity in August at Indy