UPDATE: The Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled. Read the statement below.
“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, the FIA and Formula 1 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. The FIA and Formula 1, 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.”
Today, Australians woke to news that the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. While the organisation itself had not confirmed the news, so-called sources were confident it was called off. I refreshed Google again, flicked on the morning news and waited. Perhaps 20 minutes later and Nine News Melbourne reporter Christine Ahern told Today that she had spoken with the Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix corporation, Paul Little, who confirmed the race would proceed as planned.
Breaking- Chairman of the Aust GP Corp Paul Little tells me the Melb Grand Prix WILL be going ahead as planned over next three days @TheTodayShow
— Christine Ahern (@ChristineAhern) March 12, 2020
As day one of racing is due to commence this morning, punters were reported to have started queuing for entrance into the event. Twitter was ablaze as organisers delayed the opening of gates while new reports suggested the race would be held without spectators, confirmed by former British driver Damon Hill in a tweet.
Ah. AGPC just announced race goes on but no spectators. #f1
— Damon Hill (@HillF1) March 12, 2020
As of yet, no major media outlets have received a statement from Formula One or the Australian Grand Prix corporation. But according to The Guardian, hospitality staff who arrived this morning for the event have been seen clearing rooms.
The misinformation begun this week as confusion circled over Ferrari’s involvement – the team was given a special exemption from Italian government officials to travel to Australia – while doubts of the event going ahead were sparked after McLaren’s withdrawal after one of its team members contracted coronavirus.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared the Formula One Australian Grand Prix will not go ahead with fans, however this has not been confirmed.
There has been no official confirmation yet but Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen have flown home, according to the BBC.
If anything, it has caused chaos in Melbourne with much of the media criticising the poor handling of such a large scale event. Stay tuned for updates.