Late start to Formula 1 2020 season

Following the news that the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is cancelled and the postponement of the races in China, Bahrain and Vietnam, Formula 1 and the sport’s governing body have said they now ‘expect’ the 2020 season to begin at the end of May.

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the Chinese event to be postponed. And then, during the build-up to Melbourne, a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus.

With that major health concern, the next race which was suppose to take place in Bahrain next weekend, and the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix, scheduled for the beginning of April, have been postponed.

A joint statement from Formula 1, the FIA, the race organisers and the relevant governments involved, said:

“Following the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation this week and the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, Formula 1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern.”

All parties said they were hopeful the races could be staged at a later date, and in light of the impact the virus is having, the statement added that it is expected the Formula 1 season can begin at the end of May.

“Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam and the local health authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve.

“As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the Championship in Europe at the end of May but given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”

Chase Carey, Formula 1 Chairman and CEO, said the safety of the fans and people working in the sport is the main priority.

“The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and it’s right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions.

“We are taking this decision with the FIA and our promoters to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Formula 1 and our fans. The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule, and we look forward to being back there as soon as we can. We are also looking forward to Vietnam’s inaugural race and bringing the spectacle of F1 to one of the most exciting cities in the world.”

FIA President Jean Todt added the following statement:

“Protecting people first. Together with Formula 1, the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Vietnamese Motorsports Association, and the local promoters, postponing both the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, as with the Australian Grand Prix, was the only possible decision given all of the information currently available to us.

“We continue to rely on the input and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments and will work with them throughout this unpredictable period to safeguard the fans, competitors and all of the motor sport community.”

With the four of the opening races cancelled, this year’s championship will feature fewer events. It’s a difficult situation for the teams, the race organisations and all the people running the show in managing the new schedule. Fingers crossed a solution is available. For fans of the sport, the excitement of seeing racing action will have to wait.

Circuit atmosphere – Hand Sanitiser Station.
11.03.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day.
– www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Season opener Australian Grand Prix cancelled

The first race of the new Formula 1 season is now cancelled following the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Grand Prix organisers, F1 and the sport’s governing body (FIA) have agreed to cancel the season opener in Melbourne for the sake of health and well being.

The move follows hours of confusion after confirmation of a McLaren team member returning a positive COVID-19 test last night.

Spectators were denied entry to the circuit this morning, while competitive track action never started despite marshalling crews being in place and course cars and two-seater F1 cars lapping the circuit.

Official statement from the AGPC on the cancellation:

“At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.”

“In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately.

“Last night a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. A further seven individuals returned negative results, confirming that they do not have the COVID-19 virus.

“Additionally, a ninth individual has been assessed and tested for the COVID-19 virus, with the results of this test pending. This individual is not associated with any Formula 1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers.

“Our first priority is the safety of everyone including attendees, our personnel, all event partners and members of the local community.

“Further information regarding refunds for ticket holders will be communicated in due course.”

A statement from Formula 1 read:

“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. 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 is 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.”

Even before the official confirmation, Mercedes publicly called on F1 and the FIA to call off 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,” the statement 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.”

This is the correct decision to shut it down considering what is happening around the world. Although it is pure arrogance that the FIA and the race organisation wanted to stage the Australian Grand Prix in the first place due to commercial pressure. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed in this situation but how many more races will be postponed or cancelled?