Yesterday it was announced that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has resulted in Qatar travel restrictions being brought into force that affect passengers from Italy, amongst other countries. As of yesterday, all passengers arriving at Doha on direct flights from Italy or having been in Italy in the past 2 weeks will be taken straight to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
Like many other parties active in the MotoGP paddock, the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team would be heavily affected by these travel restrictions, as its headquarters is based in Gerno di Lesmo, in Lombardy, Italy.
Though the team and its riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi are disappointed not to be able to open the 2020 MotoGP season this week at the Losail International Circuit, there's a consensus that health and safety should come first.
The Moto2 and Moto3 sessions at the Qatar GP will continue as planned as the riders and teams were already at the Losail track for the Qatar Test held from 28 Feb – 1 Mar.
The ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus also has consequences for the second MotoGP round. The OR Thailand Grand Prix, originally planned for 20–22 March, has been postponed by the Thai government for all MotoGP classes. The FIM, IRTA, and Dorna are currently evaluating if an alternative date will be possible.
Massimo Meregalli: "The decision taken must not have been an easy one, but it is necessary for safety".
“It's a unique and difficult situation, in many aspects. Of course, we're all very disappointed not to be able to start racing this weekend, which is what we would love to do the most. We also feel apologetic to the fans, who we have to ask to stay patient for a bit longer before we can start the 2020 MotoGP season in the premier class. But unfortunately, given the circumstances, FIM, IRTA, and Dorna didn‘t have a choice. Had they kept the MotoGP class on for the Qatar GP then a large part of our team, and even the paddock, would not have been able to attend the event, which would have resulted in all kinds of problems, from logistics and staff shortages to riders being unable to attend. The decision to cancel the MotoGP class was certainly not taken lightly, nor was the postponement of the Thai GP an easy call to make for the Thai government, but the growing concern about the spread of the coronavirus should be taken very seriously. Having to miss the first two rounds is less than desirable, but we can all agree that health and safety should always come first. As a team, we respect these decisions and hope to be back in action shortly.””.
Valentino Rossi: "We don't know how long we'll have to wait to race"
“It's really bad news. Such a pity... After a winter spent training, we were ready to start the season, both physically and psychologically. After the test in Qatar I really wanted to start with the first race. The MotoGP class cancellation for Qatar is difficult news to take, also for the fans, because now we do not know how long we will have to wait before we can start racing. It is certainly a long time, considering the next GP in Thailand has been postponed for all classes. I hope everything will get better in the next weeks.”.
Maverick Vinales: "It's a shame, both at Losail and Buriram are circuits where I'm going fast"
“It‘s a shame that the Qatar GP has been cancelled for us and that the Thai GP has been postponed, because these are tracks that I really like, and I think that I‘m very strong there. We finished the Qatar test with very positive feelings, so I was impatient for the first race. I also feel sorry for the fans in Qatar and Thailand, who must be disappointed. But I fully understand the critical situation we are experiencing with the coronavirus. We hope only that the situation will return to normal as soon as possible so that we can start the World Championship soon”.