The Melbourne Grand Prix has been cancelled after a mechanic from the McLaren team tested positive for coronavirus.
The decision was announced after a fretful meeting last night between team principals and the sport’s owners Liberty’s Motorsport.
Liberty had been adamant the event scheduled for this weekend at Albert Park would go ahead despite drivers including Lewis Hamilton openly questioning how they could continue as the coronavirus threat escalated.
“I am really very very surprised that we’re here,” Hamilton said at a press conference on Thursday. “For me it is shocking that we are all sitting in this room.”
Three teams — Red Bull, their sister team AlphaTauri, formerly Toro Rosso, and Racing Point — voted for the race to carry on but were out-voted seven to three.
The Melbourne opener of the F1 Grand Prix usually attracts a crowd of 300,000 over the weekend.
“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 (Brett Sutton) the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula One Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately,” the Australian Grand Prix Corporation said in a statement.
“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.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be no blanket ban on events with each event judged on its merits.
“I think you’ll find that all the chief health officers and the chief medical officer will be meeting later today and having more to say about mass gathering events and that will provide some guidance I think,” he said.
“From a Victorian point of view, and I think this will be reflected nationally, each event will have to be judged on its merits, each event is different. But there will be some guidance, not rules as such, but there will be some guidance from chief health officers.”
The full statement from McLaren:
McLaren Racing has confirmed this evening in Melbourne that is has withdrawn from the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, following the positive test of a team member for the coronavirus. The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities.
The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine. The team is cooperating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.
Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, and Andreas Seidl, Team Principal of McLaren F1, informed Formula 1 and the FIA of the decision this evening. The decision has been taken based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners, but also to the team’s competitors, Formula 1 fans and wider F1 stakeholders.