Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2020

Hamilton criticises “shocking” decision to hold Australian GP in spite of Coronavirus

2020 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says he is “shocked” by the decision to hold the Australian Grand Prix this weekend in spite of the Coronavirus, and he is not satisfied with how Formula 1 and the FIA has handled the situation.

Speaking in today’s FIA press conference Hamilton, who had posted a photograph on social media of himself wearing a face mask on a flight to Australia earlier this week, said Formula 1 had reacted too slowly to the global spread of the virus.

“I felt OK travelling out here,” he said. “Naturally being on on a flight with God knows how many people and then stopping in an airport full of so many people, I didn’t really think too hard on it, I was just trying to make sure that I was taking all the precautions I could in terms not touching things and using hand sanitiser.

“I am really very, very surprised that we’re here. I think motorsport is… I think it’s great that we have races, but for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room. So many fans here already today. And it seems like the rest of the world is reacting probably a little bit late.

“Already this morning, you’ve seen with [US President Donald] Trump shutting down the borders from Europe to the States, you’re seeing the NBA has been suspended, yet Formula 1 continues to go on.

“I saw Jackie Stewart this morning looking fit and healthy and well in the lift and some people as I walked into the paddock, some elderly individuals, it’s a concern for the people here. It’s quite a big circus that’s come here. So it’s definitely concerning for me.”

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Asked why he believed the race was going on Hamilton replied, “cash is king”, then added, “honestly I don’t know.”

“I can’t really add much more to it,” he continued. “I don’t feel like I should shy away from the fact, my opinion.

“But the fact is we are here and I just urge everyone to really just be as careful as you can be touching doors and surfaces, I hope everyone’s got hand sanitiser. And really, for the fans, I really, really hope that they take precautions.

“I was walking through and seeing as everything going ahead as normal like it’s a normal day, but I don’t think it really is. So I just hope everyone, all the fans stay safe. And I really hope we go through this weekend and we don’t see any fatalities or things come on in the future.”

Hamilton is not the only driver to question whether F1 should be racing in Melbourne this weekend. Kimi Raikkonen said he believes most teams would prefer not to race.

“I don’t know if it’s the right thing that we are here, probably not, but it’s not up to us, it’s not out decision,” he said. “I think if it would be purely be all the teams’ decision we probably wouldn’t be here.”

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Phil Branagan
Phil Branagan has been a motorsport writer and editor for more than three decades. From his Melbourne base, he has contributed to publications around...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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87 comments on “Hamilton criticises “shocking” decision to hold Australian GP in spite of Coronavirus”

  1. At this stage we’re trying to extinguish a fire with a pipette. The reaction to this pandemic is a consequence of the new world we’re living in.

    1. Do you think that maybe this is the kick up the back side that the modern world needs?

      It would be interesting to see if a global shutdown helped to improve the environment in some way.

      1. There is some tentative initial evidence that it could @eurobrun

        But also opinions that whilst it’s a good thing it’s not enough to change course.

      2. There was a doco called, I think, Global Dimming about 20 years ago that describes the environmental impact of the shut down of aviation in the USA after 9/11. The impact was, I recall, immediate and positive.

        1. (@thecollaroyboys) I remember that. The world cooled like a degree Celsius or something almost immediately
          only because of the decision to close off the US airspace.

          1. Not one degree and not worldwide.

            The effect during the three days that flights were grounded was strongest in populated regions where air traffic was normally densest. The increase in temperature range came to about two degrees Celsius.

            And this was not the first such observation. In 2011, British scientists wrote that an air raid in May 1944 involving measurably lowered daytime temperatures in England. 1,444 aircraft took off from southeast England into a clear sky. The contrails from these aircraft significantly suppressed the morning temperature increase across areas with a high density of flights, the researchers found. The research is detailed in the International Journal of Climatology.

        2. Unfortunately this kind of shut down without alternatives would create other problems

      3. The human race is a monoculture. Just like when you are farming, monocultures allow the attraction, development and mutation of parasites, bacteria and virii. It’s only a matter of time that the next thing pops up and tries to kill the human race.

        1. The plural of virus isn’t virii.

          1. Virus does not have a plural in Latin, only having a singular form. The English plural, ‘viruses’ (which adheres to the standard rules for forming plurals), is the only way to make the noun ‘virus’ plural.

        2. Why would the human race be any more of a monoculture vs different species?

      4. Ridiculous. World needs to keep moving or technology does not advance. Unfortunately billions have been put in the social science of “global warming” which the real important function is give more power to the journalist-political class and the capitalists that follow it. Instead of fixing the real science big problems with replication. In case of medical add the cost problem like 2 or 3 billions the cost investment to a new drug, then to the formulaic, credentialist University courses. To not talk about status of colleges…

    2. Some people say the reaction is too harsh. Some say too mild.

  2. I’m also bit surspised to see those reactions coming not in late February/early March, but now. I don’t mean to criticise Hamilton, I fully agree with his words but I’ve also read Räikkönen’s opinion on some other website that he’s not sure whether it’s the right thing to go on with the race, and these complaints are just as late as Liberty’s and FIA’s reaction to global situation.

    By the way, it will be funny to watch D’Allein’s reaction to Hamilton’s opinion.

    1. LOL on your last sentence @pironitheprovocateur I think it might be that we hear it now because now is when it’s actually going ahead – two weeks ago, the teams had all done testing, maybe were focused on that, came back to their factories (or in case of Ferrari, AT, maybe were told not to?) and had time to look at the news, like all of us, and started thinking it over.

    2. In addition (@pironitheprovocateur and @bosyber), things have changed in the last month. In mid-February I traveled for work and not only were there no restrictions, there were full flights, hotels, and airports. Most things were not shutting down a month ago. If most governments and health organizations were not saying this a month ago, why would we expect Hamilton to have said this then?

      Also, he’s being asked now, so you get the response now.

      1. Indeed @hobo, that too; at the time we still thought it would be mainly China and several cases around the world, but manageable. Not so much today.

  3. The rare case when I disagree with Lewis.

    This illness is not that bad as everyone is trying to paint it.

    Life goes on. Hysteria must end.

    1. William Jones
      12th March 2020, 8:08

      Well, that’s fine – let’s examine the most optimistic figures – let’s pretend that China’s mortality rate is truth – 3%. Now imagine 3% of whichever country you’re in dying over the course of weeks. What do you think would happen? Certainly it wouldn’t herald the end of days, but say goodbye to sanitisation as bodies lie where they’ve died for a month or two, your undertaking services will be overwhelmed in a heartbeat. We’re not talking about burial here, or cremation – the backlog of those services will last for years. We’re talking collection of the body and removal to a refrigerated facility.

      Next let’s look at those who go to hospital. If the mortality rate is 3%, let’s assume half of those go. Let’s say another 3% who will not die are ill enough that they have to go. Can your countries hospitals house 5% of the population? No? What happens to all the people who need regular hospital care when they are overflowing with corona virus patients?

      Now let’s adjust those figures from the massaged Chinese 3% to the far more realistic 5%. I could go on, you get the point.

      The whole point of trying to slow the spread of the virus is to stop a sudden spike in demand of services. Most places can cope with the virus if the infection rate is slowed to over a year or two. Most places cannot if it is compressed into a week or two. This is why, even though life goes on for you, you should probably try to not spread the virus. The people for whom life won’t go on for after the virus will take up resources and services. Your countries resources and services are finite. Do you understand now, why your entertainment should probably not be taken into consideration.

      1. Well said. People dont stop and think about these things so thanks for putting things in perspective.

        1. William Jones
          12th March 2020, 8:57

          Thank-you, and just to be clear – places which have contained the virus, and who’s healthcare systems are functioning within capacity are seeing mortality rates of 0.6% and lower – that’s beginning to converge with, when you take into account the age and health of those dying – normal mortality rate, so that’s what at stake here, something like 4.5% preventable mortality by simple measures such as washing hands, coughing into the crook of your elbow and a month of limiting social contact. That’s not a lot to ask really!

          1. That number of 0.6% compares with a number of 0.01% for the flu, in the same circumstances.

            The virus is not so terrible for society as a whole, but the consequences of hospitals being overwhelmed are absolutely terrible, as Italians are learning.

          2. William Jones
            12th March 2020, 9:34

            “The virus is not so terrible for society as a whole, but the consequences of hospitals being overwhelmed are absolutely terrible, as Italians are learning.”

            Agreed – that’s why it’s so important to pace it out – although it seems at least 3 people below me seem to think that this extremely infectious airborne virus will somehow not infect nearly everyone, which is naive in the extreme.

            “That number of 0.6% compares with a number of 0.01% for the flu”

            Important to note though that we have influenza vaccines, which I know everyone likes to moan about because 1) They seem to have worse side effects than the flue and 2) don’t stop you getting the flu, but they do lower the mortality rate.

          3. @William Jones Cancelling mass events like the F1 is part of “minimising social contact”.

      2. It’s not 3% of the population that dies. It’s 3% of infected people. Get your facts straight.

        1. Exactly. William Jones your numbers are wrong (way high) and that is what can spread undue panic. Your percentages would be for those infected, not for the overall population.

        2. Rashmil Rajagopalan
          12th March 2020, 9:11

          Exactly! And people here are commenting well said.

        3. William Jones
          12th March 2020, 9:11

          Ok, and how many people have you met who have never had a cold? How about, didn’t get a cold this year? This winter? Right, so without quarantine, your infection rate is going to be so close to everyone as makes no difference, making your ‘point’ irrelevant and because of the way airborne viruses transmit, the infection will be exponential within a county.

        4. It’s actually not even that. Currently it’s being quoted as 3% of tested people.

          This does not take into account that many hundreds of thousands could already have had it and shown no symptoms.

          1. William Jones
            12th March 2020, 9:55

            “It’s actually not even that. Currently it’s being quoted as 3% of tested people.”

            This is genuine misinformation, but I’m going to guess that @Robbie et al aren’t going to call it out. Feel free to go to the WHO’s information site to ascertain how the (4.4%) or the chinese WHO’s information (3%) are calculated. It’s not what you’ve just asserted.

        5. 60-70% are going to be infected, by most sources, so that doesn’t make a big difference. The 3% otoh will be much lower if we slow the infection rate and can give everyone infected proper treatment. Which is what the drastic measures are for.

      3. China’s mortality rate isn’t 3% and there’s an emerging consensus that the true rate for C-19 is around 1% overall (though it depends on a lot of factors – age, quality of care, etc.).

        I’m not saying there’s nothing to worry about, but there’s a lot of false information and hysteria around some of the ‘facts’ that people miss-read or follow someone else’s false interpretation of. The 1% figure comes from the new scientist and other science-based publications which is much more reliable than anything in the Mail/Guardian/etc. media who have a very tenuous link to the unbiased truth (if any). They ONLY exist to make money – ‘bringing the truth’ is not something the press do much of these days.

        Italy specifically has a comparatively old population which is one of the reasons why C-19 is causing so much of an issue there. Japan and China (in Wuhan at least) similarly have the same issue.

        Taking sensible precautions like washing hands, etc. is a better more balanced response than just ‘shut everything down and hide’. I’m hopeful one of the offshoots from this is things like ‘unnecessary business travel’ and other avoidable travel will never return fully, which’ll help the environmental side of things and be a small silver lining to what is a serious issue.

        1. William Jones
          12th March 2020, 10:00

          “China’s mortality rate isn’t 3% and there’s an emerging consensus that the true rate for C-19 is around 1% overall (though it depends on a lot of factors – age, quality of care, etc.).”

          I agree, the 3% is untreated – you said it yourself, this depends on quality of care. Look at the data out of Italy, the mortality rate increased drastically when hospitals ran out of ventilators. Quality of care decreased when the service hit it’s saturation. And I’ll say it again, if the hospital is treating people in the corridors, what happens to you with your broken leg, or whatever regular reason you need to go – you’re quality of care also get’s decreased

          1. William Jones
            12th March 2020, 10:06

            My apostrophe misuse is unforgivable!

          2. Hospitals haven’t run out of ventilators, unless you believe there are less than 1,000 of them (the number of serious and critical cases of Covid-19) in Northern Italy as a whole. We’re talking about a country that routinely has to prepare for 30,000 – 60,000 deaths from respiratory illnesses every winter.

            In fact, ventilation is the only thing some are able to give old people who are dying, according to reports, since all care for the Covid-19 is palliative unless you develop a secondary bacterial infection. The thing is, the disease just that massively widespread and underreported, specially among younger people (average age of confirmed cases in Italy is in the 60s, since test kits aren’t being wasted at low risk patients).

          3. William Jones
            12th March 2020, 11:44

            Who should I believe, an anonymous internet account claiming that there are plenty of ventilators in Italy, or Dr. Daniele Macchini, an Italian physician working to treat COVID-19 patients in Italy, who says the opposite.

          4. For Postreader: that is ridicolous misinformation, get your facts straight.
            First of all, not all cases are spread uniformly in northern italy. Some areas are totally overwhelmed, others are not under much of a strain currently. Intensive care units are for the most part already in use at any time, especially in winter. So there being more than 1000 intensive care units in northern italy doesn’t help much, because most of them were already used for patients with other issues. Now only in ONE region in northern Italy there are more than 700 Covid-19 patients, added to any patients you had before. And the number grows every day at a scary speed. And local hospitals in different areas are completely overwhelmed, even though they’re some of the best clinics in the whole world. And mortality grows.
            This disease will crush every health care in every country that doesn’t act immediately to protect its citizens with very strong measures.
            Stop spreading misinformation.

        2. Fumbling around for any reason to have some car race go ahead willy nilly. Most people here are more impressed by @WilliamJones than your feeble arguments.

          1. I’m not fumbling for anything, I didn’t even mention if I thought the race should happen or not! I was pointing out the figures quoted were not being interpreted correctly, that is all.

          2. ost people here are more impressed by @WilliamJones than your feeble arguments

            You just bombed his credibility with your support, chat hands down the most nonsense on this site you do Islander.

      4. William Jones is spot on in terms of the scenario he’s painting.
        A better way to understand it is to image the normal history that will unfold when any new communicable disease is introduced into a ‘green’ population. The infection will go on to afflict close to 100% of the population until ‘herd immunity’ is achieved. Transmission is broken when 70+% of the surviving population have developed resistance to the new infection. When that happens, a minority of 10 – 20% of the surviving population will be spared any experience of the new disease (but they could become the focal point when a new epidemic of a slightly changed version of the disease returns at a future date).
        The importance of all the containment and mitigation measures now is to avoid overwhelming the health system. When the health system is overwhelmed, it matters less about what the actual mortality rate of Covid-19 is. When the system cannot cope, there will be a lot more (avoidable) deaths from Covid-19 and all other conditions requiring the attention of the health system.

      5. It would be far more than 3%. Human organism does not develop immunity to this virus, so you can get infected again. First time you might got lucky, but second you might not. If that spreads, it would be very difficult to stop, as everyone will keep infecting each other continuously.

        1. That has been proven false by research. Antibodies are formed.
          There may be exceptions, but as of now they’re believed to be exceptions.

      6. This is COTD for me.

        It’s fine to not care about it if you don’t want. But calling a WHO-declared pandemic overblown this early in the time line, is a bit head in the sand. How difficult is it to follow some guidelines for a bit and take some precautions just in case you–likely not an infectious disease expert–are wrong?

        I don’t think this is end of times either, but I’m avoiding spending time with my elderly parents currently because I don’t want to risk passing anything to them. It really doesn’t take much to be a decent member of society.

        1. To be clear, agreeing with William Jones’ points. Disagreeing with Dallien’s head in sand approach.

          Though, in this case, if we all had sand air filters, we might be okay.

    2. So you’re saying Hamilton is one of the incredibly stupid, hysterical people that you can’t stand? Shame… Time to find a new driver to support then eh?

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        12th March 2020, 10:30

        I think you are over reacting when you get the impression that a Hamilton fan thinks he is “incredibly stupid”. They state that it is rare they disagree and don’t even suggest that they think he is stupid. They just disagree with one point by the look of it.

        1. @thegianthogweed Well, in response to having no fans at the Bahrain race, he called the organisers “hysterical morAns (sic)” who he hoped would be sued for their decision. He also added “My god, how many stupid people the world has.”

          Hamilton appears to be agreeing with the decision to be careful and is suggesting that the Australian GP shouldn’t be going ahead. Does that not mean that above statements would apply to Hamilton?

  4. Kimi is spot on. As always.
    If this GP does go ahead, it will forever be known as the “Killer Virus Escalator”. The grim reaper must be salivating…

  5. Neil (@neilosjames)
    12th March 2020, 7:34

    I’d say Hamilton and Raikkonen are the two drivers who feel most able to speak their mind freely… nice that they’re willing to do so on this.

    1. Kimi, yes, Hamilton, ehh no.. he is too woke at this point and will say whatever he thinks sounds morally right in from a mic…

      1. That indeed makes him able to speak his mind.

      2. NeverElectric
        13th March 2020, 0:19

        Just when you thought the forum was at last maturing, you run into commenters like this one.

  6. Setting aside whether one agrees or disagrees on the specific subject, I think it is good to see Lewis feeling increasingly comfortable in the ‘senior driver’ role. My feeling is that the more he does this, the more we will see or Lewis’ true and instinctive personality coming through publicly – and I think that will be a good thing.

    1. Really good/informative indeed. Thanks..have shared.

  7. Sonny Crockett
    12th March 2020, 8:57

    But Donald Trump says it will just go away so everyone’s fine, right?! ;)

    1. You already know the answer to that because your sentence included the phrase “Donald Trump says….”

  8. I want the race to happen so I can watch it from the comfort of my living room, but given the fact that more and more countries are banning public events with more than 100 or 1000 people, it’s quite baffling to see a GP happen with 150.000+ people coming in from all over the world in one place.

  9. As much as I agree with him, talk is cheap. If he feels so strongly about this he is the one driver with enough power to stomp his feet and not race. But, as he said, cash is king and making lots of people mad, probably including his sponsors and team members, won’t get him many fans. He would get my respect though.

    1. GtisBetter (@)
      12th March 2020, 10:38

      It’s not as easy as you make it sound. F1 is not like tennis, where you make the decision by yourself. The driver is just a part of a very large group and they have to make that decision as a whole. It would be very selfish if lewis made a decision that negatively impacts the whole organisation. The best thing is to keep talking to FIA and press them to cancel races.

    2. @paulk zzzz any excuse to bash the king, bore off.

    3. @passingisoverrated I didn’t say it was easy and that’s why I don’t judge him nor anyone else involved in this. However, it is definitely easy to say you’re are against something but still go with the flow. Specially if you are someone with enough power to impart some change.

      And I question the selfish part. If he thinks there is a high risk of people, including people on his team, getting sick and maybe dying because of F1 races then making such a sacrifice would be the opposite of selfish.

      F1 goes to great lengths to protect the lives of every driver. Does it goes to the same length to protect the lives of the rest of the paddock and of the spectators? Maybe yes but maybe not. It depends on what you consider an acceptable risk in each situation. Lewis apparently thinks the risks in this case are not worthy…

    4. What do you think him pulling out would actually do? If Mercedes intend to race they stick Stoffel in and not a blind bit of difference is made.

      At least give some thought to what you post.

  10. I’m not sure if this is the right time to redo 1982 South Africa strike (when drivers were against new rules and decided not to race). But in the end this is a different situation. There is always a possibility that nothing special happens and life goes on but the coin always has two sides.

    We are talking about health and helping spreading the virus even more. Of course it will go away but the question is when. I think FIA knows it is playing with fire but as the other sporting events have shown it is not the end of the world if there is no football or basketball matches and F1 goes under the same line.

    I just hope this thing turns out well even though I have really been looking forward season to start..

    1. In the case of the strike that was the drivers looking after themselves, this is about looking after everyone else.

      I have wondered whether the drivers still get paid when races are cancelled. I assume yes as the contracts would be like CEO contracts rather than Joe Shmo type contracts when they would get nothing. If that is the case, where does that money come from? Follow it through and then consider how 2021 financing will be affected. Team will have less prize money if there are fewer races, sponsors will want some kind of refund for missed races and circuits will want discounts if their races are cancelled. There’s a shock coming to F1 next year and its not the FIA’s fairy dust cost-cap.

  11. Get real. The Women’s Cricket World Cup Final a week ago at the MCG saw 100,000 people attend and one infection, which may not have even been related to the sporting event.

    The mortality rate is <0.6%; obviously it is a lot higher for the elderly and they should stay away.

    1. … and anyone who lives with, works with, cares for or is otherwise likely to interact with someone who is elderly.

      1. … or anyone else who the above statement would apply to.

    2. In Italy the mortality rate is 5%.

      1. Of infected, forgot to write that.

    3. @Adrian That was a week ago. The microbe has moved on since then.

  12. This coronavirus is just a storm in a petri-dish and will blow over soon.

    1. GtisBetter (@)
      12th March 2020, 10:40

      Such a pointless statement and not really a comfort to people who have lost relatives and friends and those who will in the time to come.

      1. Hardcore Vettel supporter, used to sticking fingers in ears and talking loudly through the facts.

    2. That’s what people said a month ago.

    3. Tell that to Italy

  13. William Jones is sprouting nonsense Death rate is 3.6% of those infected not of total population Infection rate is .06 of a percent of population so death rate is 3.6 % of .06% So his figures are BS

    1. Matthew Groves
      12th March 2020, 15:40

      They’re not BS.

      There are models predicting between 40-70% of Germany (as an example) could end up with this infectious disease.

      The clue why you *can* go from 0.06% (currently) to 40% of a population is in the word “infectious”. Ignoring that is dangerous.

      Please start taking this seriously, internet trolls can do real damage here. Wash your hands and take care with coughs and sneezes.

  14. Imran Muhammad Ali
    12th March 2020, 15:37

    My respect for Lewis Hamilton increased ten fold when I heard this, all of the other robotic drivers apart from Raikonnen and Vettel didn’t want to harm their cushy existence.

  15. Isn’t the Internet great. People with zero medical knowledge a month ago are suddenly experts because they’ve picked up all they need to know from social media and Wikipedia. The millions who can’t keep a virus off their computer, can save the world. I’m still waiting to see a CV with “Forum Legend” as a qualification for a real job.

    As me old Dad would say “Give me strength”.

    1. Having recently been rejected from an IT computer repair job with a nationally-known organisation for not owning a smart TV, I bet there’s at least one real job out there that does consider some variant of “forum legend” as a preprequisite for getting the job, (that also has nothing to do with forums).

      1. Matthew Groves
        12th March 2020, 21:28

        100% agree.

        Every national leadership and (inter)national organisation is attempting to slow the spread of the disease, but people with “zero medical knowledge a month ago are suddenly experts because they’ve picked up all they need to know from social media” and taking a position of “meh, no biggie”.

  16. Massive props to lewis for bringing attention to this. He is the best world champion we have had in a long time, both with what he does in the car and outside of if

  17. Rumours are circulating that Kimi and Vettel have packed their bags and left Aus.

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