The organizers of the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA have all agreed to cancel the opening of the season in Melbourne due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Just hours after McLaren withdrew from the race following the confirmation of the presence of a coronavirus in one of his collaborators, the F1 team leaders met to discuss the next steps.
Autosport understands that, in discussions with the FIA and F1 teams, a majority of teams have declared themselves dissatisfied with continuing the event.
Sources say the governing body has said it will accept a majority decision from the teams and will now move to cancel the event.
After hours of F1 radio silence, it was not clear what the next step was after it seemed certain that the race would be abandoned.
A new confusion arose when the race organizers declared that they were continuing the event, while several drivers would have already gone to the airport to return home.
It was then announced that fans would not be allowed to enter the circuit if the racing weekend continued – that news coming after the doors were opened was to be open to the public.
Confirmation of the first outright cancellation of the race since Bahrain 2011 comes just after 11 a.m. local time.
A statement from the organizers said: “At 9:00 this morning, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was informed by Formula 1 of its intention to cancel any Formula 1 activity during the Australian Grand Prix of Formula 1.
“In light of this decision and the advice updated this morning from the Chief of Health of the Department of Human Services and Health of the Victorian government, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms that the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is immediately canceled.
“Last night, a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Seven other people returned negative, confirming that they did not have the COVID-19 virus.
“In addition, a ninth individual has been evaluated 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 participants, our staff, all event partners and members of the local community.
“More information regarding refunds for ticket holders will be provided in due course.”
Eight F1 staff members have been tested for COVID-19 since the sport’s arrival in Melbourne, with seven of the tests being negative.
McLaren announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from the race after the test confirmed that an employee was infected.
Another member of the paddock, who is said to be a local photographer, was also tested, but the results were not known at the time of writing.
World champion Lewis Hamilton voiced criticism of the decision to host the event, admitting he was “shocked” that F1 had traveled to Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am very, very surprised that we are here,” said Hamilton. “I think it’s great that we have races, but for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.”
Later, asked by F1, if determined to continue the race, he said, “Money is king, but honestly, I don’t know. I really can’t add much.”
Even before official confirmation, the Hamilton Mercedes team publicly called on F1 and the FIA to cancel the race.
“The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team today sent a letter to the FIA and to F1 requesting the cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix,” the statement said.
“We share the disappointment of fans of the sport that this race cannot go as planned.
“However, the physical and mental health and well-being of our team members and the wider F1 community is our top priority.
“In light of the force majeure events that we are experiencing with regard to the coronavirus pandemic, we believe that the safety of our employees can no longer be guaranteed if we continue to participate in the event.
“We are very sensitive to the worsening situation in Europe, especially in Italy, and furthermore, we believe that it would not be fair to participate in an event where other competitors such as McLaren are not in able to do so in circumstances beyond their control. “
“Our team will therefore start preparing the packs on the circuit this morning.”