Formula One have eventually cancelled the Australian Grand Prix, after leaving teams and fans waiting for a formal decision until 12 hours after McLaren announced their withdrawal due to one of their team members testing positive to COVID-19, the spreading corona virus.
After people from Haas, Renault and McLaren had been put in quarantaine on Wednesday, after coming in contact with a confirmed corona case, team members were tested as well, leading to one positive case at McLaren.
When the team discovered so, the team opted to widthdraw from the Australian Grand Prix. As of that moment, there was no further communication from the FIA, despite increasing requests from fans on social media that insisting on the race would be ludicrous.
The rapid spread in Italy caught out the teams, who has by then all arrived at Melbourne, and it took a long time of discussion between all involved parties before the events was properly called off.
“We were very keen to have the race,” said Ross Brawn to F1's official website. “It’s a very positive event. We wanted to kickstart the Formula 1 season. It is a great race with great fans and a wonderful weekend. We have a big impact on the economy here and it has an impact on our economy as well.
“Formula 1 has to function, we have to make it work so we looked at the whole situation and when we decided to go, we looked at the different dynamics. Probably what has surprised everyone is the rapid expansion of this problem. The escalation of new cases, certainly in countries like Italy, where it’s gone almost vertical. No one could have expected that.
“I have spoken to [Ferrari chief] Mattia Binotto many times in the last few weeks, his mood changed in the last five or seven days, from what he was seeing in Italy. So we were on this ship that sailed and we were optimistic we could get through it, that we could get Formula 1 started and just bring a bit of relief in difficult times.
“Once we had the positive case, once one team couldn’t race because of that, clearly we had a problem we needed to address.”
Brawn unveiled he was up all night, trying to keep all involved parties in the loop.
“There was consultation with the teams, the medical authorities, the FIA and the promoters here,” said Brawn. “I’ve been up all night. We had so many issues to work through. We had to get the teams together again and hold a meeting. It all takes time.
“It’s not a total autocracy as in we just can’t make a decision. We have so many factors to take into account. I think we did a pretty good job of reaching the right conclusion with so many stakeholders involved. We’re talking to the FIA, which is in Europe on a Europe timezone, and we had to speak to [FIA President] Jean Todt.
“[F1 CEO] Chase [Carey] unfortunately was in the air, flying between Vietnam and here. So it was a pretty stressful period. Considering we dealt with everything in 12 hours, for something that important, was good.”
However, now that the race is off, and teams are packing their bags to return to their headquarters, the future is similarly unclear. McLaren for instance reported in a statement that all members who are healthy were going to return to the UK as soon as possible, but once there, they will be isolated for 14 days to avoid any spreading of the virus, if they would end up being infected.
However, Brawn said the FIA is still looking to restore the season to its full glory.
“We have plans to rebuild the season and try and accommodate as many of the lost races as we can.", he commented.
“I think people have to show some tolerance now in terms of how we build the season, for the rest of the year. I think the team is in the right place to realise that is necessary.”