Reports from Australia are saying that the Australian Grand Prix, set to run this weekend in Melbourne, have been cancelled over concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus. It comes as teams and fans have already begun to arrive at the circuit and one team has already withdrawn after a team member tested positive for the illness.
The initial report came from the BBC, citing two senior Formula 1 sources for the information. No official announcement has yet been made, but as of this writing, it is approximately 4 am in Melbourne, making a lack of communication come as little surprise. The report says that the decision was made at around 2 am local time Friday morning (1 pm Thursday Eastern). We’ll update when an official announcement is made.
The Chinese Grand Prix, set to be the fourth race of the season on April 19th was postponed back in February and the Bahrain Grand Prix, set for March 22nd, will be held with no crowds in attendance. No word yet on plans for the inaugural Vietnam GP set for April 5.
Concerns over the virus came to a head overnight when McLaren racing announced that it had withdrawn from the race following a positive test for COVID-19 of one of the team’s crewmembers. That team member self-isolated as soon as they began to show symptoms, and the team says that they will be treated locally. McLaren says it was prepared for the possibility and “has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine.”
McLaren Racing withdraws from the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. pic.twitter.com/BZvHVKQoev
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 12, 2020
Just hours ago, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation said that eight Formula 1 Paddock personnel had been tested for the coronavirus, with only the McLaren team member testing positive. A ninth individual was tested, the statement said, but they were not “associated with any Formula 1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers.”
Defending World Champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said yesterday at the official news conference that “I am very, very surprised we are here,” adding that “it’s great we have races but it’s shocking we are sitting in this room.” The driver expressed concern for the fans, saying that there are “so many fans there and it seems like the rest of the world is reacting – probably a little bit late.” Hamilton was critical of F1, saying “we are seeing Trump shutting down the borders, the NBA has been suspended yet F1 continues to go on.”
Ferrari team driver Sebastian Vettel expressed concerns as well, saying “it is very difficult having a fair judgement, but I do realise a lot of sporting competitions get cancelled and it is fair to ask the question why you are here.” Renault team driver Esteban Ocon was seen arriving at the Melbourne circuit wearing a face mask earlier this week.
Sources: BBC, Twitter
Update: Overnight, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the local group running the race, issued a statement saying that Formula 1 had advised that they would be cancelling “all Formula 1 activity” at the GP. The statement reads that “In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately.”
Formula 1 and the FIA also announced the postponement of the Bahrain GP, which was set to take place in two weeks with no fans permitted, and the Vietnam Grand Prix, originally set for April 5th. The statement said that the two will work with race promoters and local authorities to attempt to reschedule the races and that Formula 1 and the FIA expect the championship to begin at the start of May with the Dutch Grand Prix.
Following the cancellation of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, ticket purchasers are advised of the following information to help get your money back to you as soon as possible. https://t.co/g5U7lsMol7
— Australian Grand Prix #AusGP (@ausgrandprix) March 13, 2020