Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix has been called off due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The sport's key decision-making authorities faced a huge task in Australia when the COVID-19 hit the Melbourne paddock.
The Australian Grand Prix looked to go ahead as planned, but when a team member of the McLaren outfit tested positive for the coronavirus, the situation turned for the worse. The Woking-based outfit pulled out of the season opener, putting huge pressure on the shoulders of the FIA, FOM and the organisers of the Australian Grand Prix. Following multiple discussions, the sport announced in a joint statement that it decided to cancel the season-opening race.
Following the decision, the FIA and FOM are working relentlessly to make the necessary changes to the calendar of the 2020 Formula One World Championship. The sport’s Managing Director Ross Brawn’s main aim to change the calendar in the view that it can accommodate the majority of the races lost due to the virus. Since it is unknown how the coronavirus will evolve in the coming weeks and experts can only guess about the development of the COVD-19 based on the current situation in China, teams accept the decision and the need of waiting for the tweaks to the calendar.Ferrari
One of the most affected teams, Ferrari faced a real challenge even before touching down in Australia. Since the Italian outfit is based in Maranello which is one of the regions that have been placed under quarantine, it required special permissions from the Italian government to reach Melbourne in time.
In a statement, the team said that while it feels sorry for the fans, the well-being of people is the main priority.
"The safety of all team members is our number one priority, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve rapidly. We feel very sorry for the fans who were due to come to Albert Park and support the Formula 1 race with all their usual enthusiasm, as well as all those who would have been watching from around the world."
It’s never easy packing up before the action gets underway, but the safety of all teams, track staff and our fans is paramount at a time like this.— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 13, 2020
Grazie #Tifosi for your continued support ❤️#essereFerrari 🔴 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/N2wZliPEda
The reigning world champion team was reported to have been one of the most vocal teams about the cancellation of the season-opening race. On the back of a very successful pre-season testing where their new car, the W11 proved the quickest, the team clearly wanted the season to kick off. However, it accepted that it was impossible for the race at Melbourne to go ahead.
"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."Red Bull
With the aim to pose a challenge to Mercedes for the world titles, Red Bull was determined to start the season at Melbourne. Although it is believed that Red Bull would have been ready to race despite McLaren’s announcement to withdraw from the event, the Milton Keynes based outfit communicated after the official cancellation that “the safety of the teams, fans, media and circuit staff remains of absolute priority”.
“Following confirmation from Formula One, the FIA and AGPC that the Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled, and in light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Team’s focus now shifts to ensuring that all personnel return home as safely and quickly as possible and that all necessary precautions are taken in line with Government and World Health Organisation guidelines.”Alfa Romeo
Although the team was less impressive during winter testing at Barcelona, the Hinwill based outfit was keen to start the season with its unchanged driver line-up formed by Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
“In light of the recent events in Melbourne, with the confirmation of one case of COVID-19 within the paddock, Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN welcomes the decision by the FIA, Formula 1 and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to cancel the 2020 Australian Grand Prix for genuine force majeure circumstances.
The health and safety of our team personnel, as well as of our guests, fellow competitors, Formula One personnel and fans, is our main priority and we support this decision in our commitment to ensure we do our utmost to keep each one of our team members safe.”
Goodbye Australia 🇦🇺 As racers we would have loved to compete this weekend, but the safety of our team members, the F1 family and the fans should always come first. 🤝 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/dJLqScKtL2— Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN (@alfaromeoracing) March 13, 2020
Accepting the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix with a heavy heart, Formula One’s rebranded team, the AlphaTauri outfit insisted that the sport needs to recover from this serious situation. Just as Ferrari, the sport’s other Italian squad also faces a tough time with its base located in northern Italy, at Faenza.
“Like all motor racing fans, we are very disappointed that the Australian Grand Prix will not take place. However, given the escalating situation regarding the Coronavirus, which is now classified as a pandemic, the decision to cancel the event, taken by the FIA, Formula 1 and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, is the right one.
The health and safety of our workforce has to be our main priority and, as a team based in Italy, we are also aware of the worsening situation back in Europe, which is worrying for all our staff.”Williams
Following a successful pre-season testing that saw the team posting impressive lap times and high mileages, Williams was looking forward to prove the step it has achieved during the winter period. The Grove based outfit endured a disastrous season in 2019, scoring only a single point and ending the championship in the last position.
“ROKiT Williams Racing fully supports the decision taken by the FIA, Formula One and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to cancel this weekend’s (13-15 March) 2020 FIA Formula One Australian Grand Prix.
“Whilst the decision, taken after confirmation that a member of another team has tested positive for COVID-19, will sadly deprive the many loyal fans in Melbourne the chance to see the race, the safety of both every member of the team, and the fans, is absolutely the priority.”Renault
With Daniel Ricciardo on board, the Renault team was very much looking forward to the first race of the 2020 season, but it stressed the importance of the health of all people involved in the sport.
"We are disappointed not to be able to race in front of the passionate Australian fans who have shown such support of our team and Daniel, however the health and safety of our team members and the wider F1 community is of paramount importance. Our thoughts are also with our partner team, McLaren Racing as they deal with a confirmed case of COVID-19."
Renault DP World F1 Team acknowledges and fully supports the decision of F1 and the FIA to cancel the 2020 Australian Grand Prix. pic.twitter.com/T5R4aSGIOD— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) March 12, 2020
Formula One’s sole American team Haas left Australia sharing the disappointment of the race fans, but it accepted the decision taken by the sport’s leading bodies.
"The safety and health of everyone involved in the running of the event is paramount, as is that of the thousands of fans who had invested in attending the Australian Grand Prix, and while disappointed not to be able to compete this weekend in Melbourne – and share that passion for Formula 1, Haas F1 Team accepts the subsequent actions taken by the parties concerned in light of the circumstances faced by the global COVID-19 situation."McLaren
For obvious reasons, McLaren was in the centre of the situation at Melbourne. The Woking-based outfit withdrew from the race weekend after a team member tested positive for the coronavirus. The individual has been put under quarantine for fourteen days with other 14 members of the team who have been in close contact to him.
After the situation, the team has implemented precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus in its headquarter at Woking.
"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," the team said.