Faced with the increasingly severe threat of the coronavirus pandemic, F1 organisers have decided to cancel the 2020 Australian F1 GP just two hours before it was due to begin. The Free Practice FP1 session at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne were scheduled for this Friday, the 13th of March. Therefore, some Fórmula 1 records will have to wait to be beaten.
Liberty Media, the company who owns Formula 1, met with the Australian authorities to evaluate the situation after a member of the McLaren team tested positive for coronavirus.
In a press release issued on Thursday afternoon, organisers informed about the nine members of the Formula One entourage who had undergone tests so far, seven of which had come back negative, one positive and another one which was still pending confirmation.
“Organisers of the Australian GP and of Formula 1 have been notified by the Victoria Department of Health that after eight members of the Formula 1 paddock were subjected to coronavirus tests, results have come back negative for seven of them”.
McLaren Racing withdraws from the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. pic.twitter.com/BZvHVKQoev
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 12, 2020
BBC journalist Andrew Benson, who specialises in Formula 1, was the one to first break the news. Berson also provided the anonymous testimonies of two high-ranking officials within the sport leaking the upcoming decision, which was officially confirmed yesterday afternoon.
Rumours, however, had already started spreading a few hours before, with McLaren announcing their withdrawal from the inaugural round of the championship. The reason: there was a positive case of coronavirus amongst one of the members of the Briton team. It was at that point that the race, already under a lot of scrutiny given the string of cancellations across the world that has followed spread of the virus, really started to look less and less likely.
Many drivers had already started to voice their concerns and unease with the celebration of the GP. Some important figures believed their health was being put at risk, particularly considering the latest developments in Australia. Some of the drivers, such as the Finn from Alfa Romeo, Kimmi Raikkonen, were directly asking for the race to be cancelled.
Considering other motorsport disciplines such as MotoGP, Superbikes or Formula E had all temporarily cancelled their scheduled appointments for the near future, it was quite disconcerting for F1 bosses to consider risking the health of all of the Formula 1 entourage and attending public by pressing ahead with the Australian GP.
Despite Australia not being one of the most affected countries, with just a hundred cases at the beginning of the week, the celebration of the Formula 1 Grand Prix started to be questioned after Miley Cyrus decided to cancel her Friday concert. To make things worse, and to increase the pressure on Liberty Media, the news came at the same time of a new case at the Albert Park Hotel, which is right by the Circuit.
BBC Sport – Coronavirus: Australian Grand Prix postponed, according to two senior F1 sources https://t.co/ofvvIIW3PX
— Andrew Benson (@andrewbensonf1) March 12, 2020
Just a day before that, on Wednesday the 11th, four members of Hass had been put in temporary isolation in waiting for their own test results after the news of a positive case in the British team. All of them came back negative.
The news spread like wildfire in the paddock, sparking new rumours of impending cancellation. It was then that one of the most reputable news outlets in the world, the BBC, broke the news that the Australian Grand Prix was finally going to be called off and sure enough, shortly after came the official statement.
Images of ‘F1 Australian GP 2020’: F1.com