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F1 AXES the 2023 Chinese Grand Prix, with the country gripped by draconian Covid lockdowns

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Formula One has axed the Chinese Grand Prix from its racing calendar for a fourth year in a row as the country faces unprecedented civil protests against it’s draconian Covid laws.

In a short statement, F1 said: ‘Formula 1 can confirm, following dialogue with the promoter and relevant authorities, that the 2023 Chinese Grand Prix will not take place due to the ongoing difficulties presented by the COVID-19 situation. 

‘Formula 1 is assessing alternative options to replace the slot on the 2023 calendar and will provide an update on this in due course.’

F1 bosses announced last year that the sport would return to the Shanghai International Circuit on April 16 after a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic – but it has now been axed again with no indication of whether a 2024 race is being considered.

It was to be the fourth Grand Prix of the season, following Melbourne on April 2 and and followed by Baku on April 30. 

Sportsmail understands F1 is still looking for an alternative venue for the vacant slot and has a number of possible options. However, given the scale of the F1 operation, it is unlikely a replacement will be announced before Christmas.

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The cancellation of the race in China will mark the fourth season it has been scrubbed from the schedule. The 2023 season will start in Bahrain on March 5 and conclude in Abu Dhabi on November 26.

China has been beset by criticism – both domestically and internationally – over it’s draconian lockdown laws.

The Chinese Grand Prix has been axed from the Formula One calendar for the 2023 season

The decision was made as a result of China's strict Covid lockdowns that have led to unprecedented civil unrest across the country - with protesters clashing with police in this screen grab taken from social media

The decision was made as a result of China’s strict Covid lockdowns that have led to unprecedented civil unrest across the country – with protesters clashing with police in this screen grab taken from social media

2023 Formula One Calendar 

March 5 – Bahrain Grand Prix (Sakhir)

March 19 – Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Jeddah)

April 2 – Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne)

April 16 – Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai) – CANCELLED

April 30 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix (Baku)

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May 7 – Miami Grand Prix (Miami)

May 21 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (Imola)

May 28 – Monaco Grand Prix (Monte Carlo)

June 4 – Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona)

June 18 – Canadian Grand Prix (Montreal)

July 2 – Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg)

July 9 – British Grand Prix (Silverstone)

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July 23 – Hungarian Grand Prix (Hungaroring)

July 30 – Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps)

August 27 – Dutch Grand Prix (Zandvoort)

September 3 – Italian Grand Prix (Monza)

September 17 – Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay)

September 24 – Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)

October 8 – Qatar Grand Prix (Losail)

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October 22 – United States Grand Prix (Austin)

October 29 – Mexico City Grand Prix (Mexico City)

November 5 – Sao Paulo Grand Prix (Interlagos)

November 18 – Las Vegas Grand Prix (Las Vegas)

November 26 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina)

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Cities across China further unwound Covid restrictions on Friday, loosening testing and quarantine rules in the wake of nationwide protests calling for an end to lockdowns and greater political freedoms. 

Anger and frustration with China’s hardline pandemic response spilled onto the streets last weekend in widespread demonstrations not seen in decades.

China’s vast security apparatus has moved swiftly to smother the protests, deploying a heavy police presence, and boosting online censorship and surveillance of the population.

A number of cities have also begun loosening Covid restrictions, such as moving away from daily mass testing requirements – a tedious mainstay of life under Beijing’s stringent zero-Covid policy.

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But sporadic localised clashes have continued to flare up.

Social media footage posted Thursday night and geolocated by AFP showed dozens of people clashing with health workers in white hazmat suits outside a middle school in Yicheng, in central China’s Hubei province.

Demonstrators protesting over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions throw glass bottles towards riot police in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China in this screen grab taken from a social media video released on November 30, 2022

Demonstrators protesting over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions throw glass bottles towards riot police in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China in this screen grab taken from a social media video released on November 30, 2022

Residents confront workers donned in protective suits who are blocking the entrance of a residential compound, amid a coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai, China, in this still image obtained from a social media video released November 30, 2022

Residents confront workers donned in protective suits who are blocking the entrance of a residential compound, amid a coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai, China, in this still image obtained from a social media video released November 30, 2022

The author of the post said people in the video were parents of students who had tested positive for the virus and had been taken to central quarantine.

In one video, parents are seen kneeling in front of the school gate, pleading to take their children home, and another video showed at least a dozen police officers at the scene.

Signs have emerged of a possible shift in the policy of sending positive cases to central quarantine.

An analysis by state-run newspaper People’s Daily on Friday quoted a number of health experts supporting local government moves to allow positive cases to quarantine at home, which would be a marked departure from current rules.

When called on Friday, some officials from local communities in the Chaoyang district of Beijing said that people who tested positive there would no longer have to go to central quarantine.

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Authorities in the southern factory hub of Dongguan on Thursday said that those who meet ‘specific conditions’ should be allowed to quarantine at home. They did not specify what those conditions would be.

Mercedes driver and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (right) sprays champagne with Sebastian Vettel after winning the 2019 Shanghai Grand Prix - the last time the sport was in China

Mercedes driver and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (right) sprays champagne with Sebastian Vettel after winning the 2019 Shanghai Grand Prix – the last time the sport was in China

And the southern tech hub of Shenzhen on Wednesday rolled out a similar policy.

Central government officials have signalled that a broader relaxation of zero-Covid policy could be in the works.

Speaking at the National Health Commission Wednesday, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said the Omicron variant was weakening and vaccination rates were improving, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

A central figure behind Beijing’s pandemic response, Sun said this ‘new situation’ required ‘new tasks’.

She made no mention of zero-Covid in those remarks or in another meeting on Thursday, suggesting the approach, which has disrupted the economy and daily life, might soon be relaxed.

Protesters hold up pieces of paper as a symbol against censorship and China's strict zero Covid measures on November 27, 2022

Protesters hold up pieces of paper as a symbol against censorship and China’s strict zero Covid measures on November 27, 2022

Source: Daily Mail

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