Formula 1, the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation announced the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, due to the coronavirus crisis.
The announcement comes after one of McLaren’s team members tested positive for coronavirus which led to the team’s withdrawal from the race. F1, the FIA and the local organizers of the Australian Grand Prix issued a joint statement.
“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,” the statement read.
“Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead.
“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.”
Before the official announcement Mercedes sent an open letter to the FIA and F1 requesting the cancellation of the race.
“The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has today sent a letter to the FIA and F1 requesting the cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix,” Mercedes’ letter read.
“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.
“In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event.
“We empathise strongly with the worsening situation in Europe, most especially in Italy, and furthermore we do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control.
“Our team will therefore begin pack-up preparations at the circuit this morning.”
Lewis Hamilton posted his reaction to the cancellation on social media.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) March 13, 2020
So there you have it. With the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix and several other races under question, it is unclear what will happen with the whole 2020 Formula 1 season.
UPDATE 1: Formula 1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn says it is as of yet unknown when the 2020 season would start.
“I don’t think anyone has experienced [a situation like] this in their lives,” Brawn said.
“I’ve been through financial crisis, dramas and the scale of this at the moment is massive. We are taking stock of the situation now and what we have learned from this weekend.
“We have to be realistic about when that can start again, which is what we’re working on at the moment. We have plans to rebuild the season and try and accommodate as many of the lost races as we can.
“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.”
Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey was not present in Australia, as he was in Hanoi discussing the fate of the Vietnam Grand Prix. He also confirms the fate of next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix and future races is yet to be determined.
“I just came in from Vietnam, so we are in discussion with partners on upcoming races,” said Carey.
“But I think at this point what we really want to do is make sure we deal with the issues here, deal with them properly.
“In the coming days, clearly, we will be addressing the events yet to come. It’s a pretty difficult situation to really predict. Everybody uses the word fluid, it is obviously a fluid situation.
“The situation today is different than it was two days ago, it is different than it was four days ago.
“So trying to look out and make those sorts of predictions when you know it’s changing this quick, it’s challenging.”
UPDATE 2: Former F1 driver and current commentator Martin Brundle tweeted about the cancellation giving more details about how the season might proceed.
“Sorry we couldn’t put the race on for you, the fans here in Melbourne especially,” wrote Brundle.
“It was the only decision. When F1 gets underway hopefully later this year races are going to come along thick and fast.
“Traditional August break will be filled, 17/18 GP season still targeted.”
UPDATE 3: Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes team tweet about the cancellation:
All I want to do is race. But safety and health comes first. Hope to be racing soon again! Stay safe everyone 🙏🏼#VB77 #F1 #AusGP #Covid_19 @MercedesAMGF1 @ausgrandprix @F1 📷 @SebastianKawka pic.twitter.com/q4JdPJdoUx
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) March 13, 2020
Packing for home… 💔
We’re gutted not to be racing this weekend, but we have to put the health and well-being of our team and the wider @F1 community first.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 13, 2020
UPDATE 4: Formula 1 announced that the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix are both being postponed. The 2020 F1 season will tentatively start at the end of May.