Formula 1’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix has been postponed in the wake of British team McLaren withdrawing from the event after a team member tested positive for coronavirus.
The decision was taken following a crisis two-hour summit involving F1’s under-fire hierarchy, its governing body, the FIA, and a number of the sport’s team principals here in Melbourne.
F1’s move follows the tide of the sporting world after a series of events were cancelled or delayed on Thursday in response to the deadly disease which has claimed more than 4,600 lives.
“Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening. Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead,” read a statement issued jointly by F1, governing body the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.
“Formula 1 and the FIA, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix are cancelled.
“We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course.
“All parties took into consideration the huge efforts of the AGPC, Motorsport Australia, staff and volunteers to stage the opening round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, however concluded that the safety of all members of the Formula 1 family and the wider community, as well as the fairness of the competition take priority.”
Lewis Hamilton had earlier heaped pressure on the sport’s bosses by claiming they were putting lives at danger with 300,000 fans expected through the gates of Albert Park over the next few days.
A British mechanic was told he had tested positive for the coronavirus at 9pm. A little more than an hour later, his McLaren team informed F1 and the FIA that they were pulling the plug on their participation here this weekend.
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