By: Myanna Wedes
Friday 13 March 2020
It was a decision that took time to be announced. Fans were angry, upset, children crying, media left in the dark at times and drivers making their feelings known, one in particular, Lewis Hamilton.
“Why are we here…. cash is king”. He was adamant it was crazy we were all sitting in the media room together considering the current situation and the fact that certain team personnel were being tested. No surprise, a McLaren team personnel tested positive and now 14 others are in isolation also known as quarantine as a result of the virus hitting global markets and countries at a rapid rate.
A “shambles” is what many describe how the cancellation unfolded. As sports across the globe cancelled or are currently suspended, Formula 1 forged onwards and this was met with criticism. In particular, considering the fact that MotoGP had already made change with their first Grand Prix now scheduled for May. How come Formula 1 did not follow?
The knock on impact is gigantic for the sport, sponsors, suppliers, staff, media, photographers, teams and of course the fans!
No one knows what will take place for Bahrain because Chase Carey wanted to address the current situation in Australia, not the near future of that race event. Tight lipped. We are not yet sure when an announcement will be made considering the fact that talks were taking place until 2:30 AM this morning.
It seems Vietnam is also in doubt as Chase Carey was in talks with the host nation and promoters yesterday. He is trying to save the race. Whether it will be postponed is another wait. To the logical human being, there is no way they can risk the health, safety and wellbeing of all involved. At this stage, Australia does not look like it will have a race which is really sad considering it is such a perfect season opener.
“Q: (Matt Dixon – The Times) Lewis, you’ve been outspoken where others have maybe not dared to be about Corona. What do you think is the reason this race is still going on? Obviously there are… well, is it business interests? Why are we still here?
LH: Cash is king. Honestly I don’t know. I can’t really add much more too it. I don’t feel like I should shy away from the fact of my opinion. The fact is we are here and I just urge everyone to be as careful as you can be. Touching doors and surfaces, and I hope everyone’s got hand sanitisers. And, really for the fans, I really hope they’re taking precautions. I was walking through and seeing just everything going ahead as normal, like it’s a normal day – but it’s… I really don’t think it is. I just hope all the fans stay safe. I really hope we go through this weekend and we don’t see any fatalities, or things that come along in the future.”2020 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix Thursday Press Conference.
Less than 24 hours later and the cancellation arrived with a flight manifest leaked out confirming that Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen had already departed on an Emirates flight even before the discussions were finalised! It will be an interesting time as the world works to adjust with travel bans, schools, cafes and restaurants closing, sports halting and many more situations unfolding.
The future of the Melbourne Formula 1 is an adamant one according to Andrew Westacott.
If more cases arise, it will put further pressure on the racing calendar.
“McLaren fully supports the decision taken by Formula 1, the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to cancel the event.
Overnight, 14 members of the team, in addition to the one confirmed case, were placed in quarantine at the team hotel for 14 days, in accordance with local health authority directives. These are individuals who had been in close contact with the team member who tested positive for coronavirus. These individuals are being supported by senior team personnel, who will stay behind with them during the quarantine period.
Any other team members who show symptoms will be tested immediately and self-isolate, in line with our protocol.
Other members of the team have been cleared to return to the paddock to pack down team equipment before travelling back to the UK. On arrival in the UK, no race team member will return to the McLaren Technology Centre for a period of 14 days, as a precautionary measure.”McLaren Racing
Statement from the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC):
At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.
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.
Last night a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. A further seven individuals returned negative results, confirming that they do not have the COVID-19 virus.
Additionally, a ninth individual has been assessed and tested for the COVID-19 virus, with the results of this test pending. This individual is not associated with any Formula 1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers.
Our first priority is the safety of everyone including attendees, our personnel, all event partners and members of the local community.
Further information regarding refunds for ticket holders will be communicated in due course.
In addition to this cancellation, the Robbie Williams concert is also cancelled and flights are sure to be jammed as people look to leave as soon as possible making their way home.
Regardless of whether three teams wanted to race and others not showing up, the consensus was clear that COVID-19 is something we have not seen in a long time.
Sadly, Daniel Ricciardo even after feeling like his Renault car has taken a step forward from testing will have to wait for another Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix. During the press conference yesterday, Ricciardo was excited about his chances and the changes carried out by Renault.
Q: How about the motor – the new car? What did you learn about it in testing? Do you feel you can make a step forward from last year?2020 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix Thursday Press Conference.
DR: Yes, I do. I think the test ended well for us. Day three of week two was a lot more promising and both my feedback and Esteban’s, you could see our expression when we got out of the car, it was certainly a lot more optimistic, so that was encouraging. I just look back at last year, the whole build-up and everything. I was watching some onboards before and I don’t know, I can just see me from the outside and I’m like, “yeah, I’m a lot more comfortable in this car now”, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do.
What was a smiling happy Australian driver, has turned in to a disappointed one and feeling for the fans who were lined up waiting to get inside the circuit to be refused entry.
As CoronaVirus takes hold, we must all work together across the globe to ensure the virus is eradicated and wellbeing a priority for all. That is it for now. More news and analysis as it unfolds.