Breaking news from Albert Park, Melbourne – the first race of the 2020 Formula One calendar has been cancelled following a joint announcement made by F1, the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. The announcement came an hour after the Victorian government declared that fans would not be allowed to attend the GP, even if the race went ahead.
"Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening. Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead” read the joint statement.
Yes, as the above statement mentions, this entire saga started when eight F1 team members were tested. Of those eight, seven, thankfully, returned a negative result, however the eighth, from McLaren, tested positive. The team member was isolated as soon as symptoms started showing and will now be given medical attention by local healthcare providers. Subsequently a ninth suspect was later identified.
With McLaren officially pulling out of the Grand Prix, it wouldn’t be long till other teams followed suit. According to report by BBC Sport, Scuderia Ferrari were one of the first to say they weren’t prepared to race under such conditions. The report also said that the Mercedes AMG F1 team sent a letter requesting the cancellation of the race.
The Silver Arrows team then said: "We share the disappointment of the sport's fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned. However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority.
“In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event. If organisers try to press ahead with the weekend it appears at this stage as if not all the teams will take part."
Even six-time world-champion Lewis Hamilton said at Thursday’s official press conference that he was “very, very surprised” that the sport was going forward with plans of running the Grand Prix that weekend.
As far as the sport is concerned, a huge question mark looms over the Bahrain Grand Prix, which is next on the calendar and will be proceeding (at time of press) without any spectators. Vietnam – which follows thereafter – faces a similar predicament after the local government imposed a travel ban into the country for anyone who has been to viral hotspots around the world in the last 14 days. F1 Chief Executive, Chase Carey, is said to be in Hanoi trying to find a work around for the issue.
Just like any other venue on the calendar, local economies are likely to suffer as result of not having the Grand Prix in town that week. Vietnam – who’s hosting a GP for the first time – is counting on the influx of tourist dollars. It also shines a light on F1’s authorities who seem to be a little too focused on “keeping the show on the road”. Perhaps this incident will keep things in perspective.
But money and politics aside, it’s the fans who are the most upset over this entire situation and displayed it with loud boos. Many have travelled far and wide to be here in Albert Park to witness the kickoff of the 2020 season but rather were turned away at the gate. As you can imagine they weren’t happy at all. Fans will be offered full refunds, reports the Herald Sun.
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