Fans, Albert Park, 2020

How F1 failed its fans in Australian Grand Prix Coronavirus fiasco

2020 F1 season

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The 2020 Australian Grand Prix was doomed the moment a McLaren team member was positively diagnosed with Covid-19. Actually, make that “the event was doomed the moment the Chinese Grand Prix was cancelled”, for how the race could reasonably be expected to go ahead as other events across the globe – whether motorsport or tennis or NFL or badminton – fell by the wayside is beyond the kin of reasonable folk.

All the warning signs were there during pre-season testing. Yet F1 maintained its usual head-in-bubble belief of being bigger and stronger and better than a threat the world’s best medical practitioners warned about, and persisted in going ahead to Australia despite the overwhelming odds against the race taking place. F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey even detoured to Vietnam in a bid to avoid cancelling the country’s round, due to be held in three weeks’ time.

This gung-ho attitude served F1 well in the past: racing in the USA just a fortnight after 9/11, criss-crossing the globe during a previous corona epidemic (SARS); overcoming restrictions on air travel in the wake of Eyjafjallajökull’s ash plumes, numerous typhoons in Japan and the rest. But the Coronavirus proved to be more than a match for it.

The bottom line is that upwards of 2,000 F1 personnel followed over 200 tonnes of kit to the far side of the world, only for the event to be canned barely hours before the cars were due to hit the track. What an incredible waste of human resources, of cash, indeed, of emissions immediately after the sport pledged to go carbon neutral. And above all, at what risk to health?

There were warning signs along the way which F1 steadfastly chose to ignore, instead justifying the cancellation of F1’s race in China – the epicentre of the epidemic – on the basis that sea shipments would shortly be dispatched. Consider that logic: Cancel sea freight to Shanghai required by mid-April but fly to Melbourne imminently.

True, the pandemic had not taken hold by the end of February, but by last week it most certainly had, yet folk still headed Down Under. That Italy was in lockdown, that various countries had issued travel and health warnings, seemed only to strengthen F1’s resolve that the show must go on.

Usually the opening race of a season is cause for celebration and anticipation after long, dark winter months spent indoors, with crews boarding happily for their longest flights of increasingly longer seasons, yet during and after testing they expressed their concerns, particularly as death tolls climbed. F1 folk are human, with partners and kids and pets at home.

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Yet many feared they’d spend weeks in quarantine (or worse) upon their returns. First Bahrain imposed border and spectator restrictions, then stated its race would be run behind locked gates. Did F1 at all take heed? Of course not, instead planning routes that bypassed hotspots and priding itself on saving the race – one that (not so coincidentally) pays amongst the highest hosting fees.

McLaren closed up for the weekend after a team member fell ill
The Geneva Motor Show was cancelled – as was its New York equivalent – Germany’s biggest classic car event was pushed out, Formula E cancelled race after race, WEC called off Sebring, MotoGP cancelled events and reshuffled its calendar, Le Mans postponed its 24 hour motorcycle endurance race. F1 stuck to its calendar, save for trying desperately to re-accommodate China.

Simultaneously Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott told a Melbourne radio station that the event would not “ban fans from the event”, further trumpeting the fact that, “The AlphaTauri cars and Ferrari cars are on their way from Avalon [Airport] as we speak, so it’s really good.” Westacott continued. “The key personnel are on their planes.” Good, Andrew? Really, really good?

Forget not that he heads an organisation that relies on $60m in public money to burnish the city’s image globally. Equally, F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media is desperate to hold on to the estimated $30m annual hosting fee – particularly as its FWONK share price plummeted by 60% since the effects of Covid19 on F1 became apparent. Every bit of cash helps.

With public money at stake the cost of cancelling the race – if taken by AGPC – could pan out at $60m when ticket refunds are taken into account: 100,000 fans were expected at an average of $300/head, which alone adds up to an easy $30m. Somebody would need to take that decision in the full knowledge that public wrath would surely follow, and successful politicians seldom make unpopular moves.

Thus, the trigger was McLaren’s withdrawal after a staff member tested positively for Covid-19 with another dozen staff members or so on the suspected list. Only then was F1 shaken out of its stupor – despite Lewis Hamilton’s earlier comments that he was “very, very surprised that we’re here,” adding that “it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.

The reigning multiple champion then underscored his opposition to the event under prevailing circumstances by saying “Cash is King” in reply to a media question. Some may view that as a bit rich from a driver with Hamilton’s eye-watering salary demands, but there is no arguing the validity of his emotionally-charged words.

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Any wonder that he departed Melbourne early Friday morning, as did Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari’s duo Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. Indeed, one hears of various stern words between drivers and their teams, including threats of invoking Australia’s strict Health and Occupancy laws.

McLaren’s decision had not been taken lightly, with the team’s CEO Zak Brown saying that, “As a racer it’s the most difficult decision I’ve ever taken, but as CEO it’s probably the easiest.” He did not mean that flippantly: Tough decisions demand real leadership skills, and regardless of how this entire debacle plays out, Brown deserves to be remembered as the man who took the first major decision for all the right reasons.

Still, it seemed F1 was intent on going ahead with 2020’s opening race until a vote on whether to cancel the race produced an even split 5-5 between the team bosses. Despite the stalemate at the meeting, held late Wednesday night at a meeting held at upmarket Crown Towers, they persuaded F1 and AGPC that there simply was no appetite to proceed, 25th anniversary of the race in Melbourne or not, behind closed doors or not.

A comrade had been struck down by potentially lethal disease in a far-off land, and that was it. During the meeting news filtered through that about a dozen more McLaren crew members were heading for quarantine, and that tipped the scales in favour of cancellation. (As this was written we received confirmation the number is now 14).

Chastened Carey faced the media after returning from Hanoi
Thus, began an extended game of ‘Who Blinks First’: Liberty or AGPC squabbling about who should cancel the race, both acutely aware of the old adage of whoever pulls it, pays for it. Compounding the matter was that Carey was still en route from Hanoi, and thus F1’s managing director Ross Brawn was effectively the man sitting in the hot seat.

All the while FIA officials stood by, relaying information to president Jean Todt in Europe, but the governing body was unable to intervene as it was a commercial matter, and by EU decree may not involve itself in such issues. It supports whatever decisions, but ultimately commercial issues are sorted between commercial rights holder and the race promoter.

According to various sources matters thus came to a head during an early morning meeting in Melbourne, attended by F1 and AGPC representatives and local government officials, plus Martin Pakula, Victoria’s Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, who would ultimately need to decide whether $60m of public money should be written off. His response during this three-hour meeting can only be imagined….

Equally, AGPC, led by chairman Paul Little, demanded that F1 cancel the race, while Brawn and co. pushed and pulled in the opposite direction. Another stalemate seemed in the offing until the decision was effectively taken out their hands by the intervention of the state’s Chief Medical Officer Andrew Wilson – and endorsed by Premier Daniel Andrews – who advised that mass gatherings should be prohibited.

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All the while team employees – most of whom dedicate themselves to F1 for the sheer love of it – and fans, who already pay heavily for their passion, became unwilling (and unwitting) pawns in power plays between a US-listed media giant and a state-funded Australian organisation, with each side digging in heels until the decision fell that all fans were to be banned from the event. Not surprisingly, extra police had to be deployed.

Albert Park, Melbourne, 2020
Melbourne’s 25th race is unlikely to happen this year
Matters were not aided by conflicting news reports, at times even within the same organisation. Nor, for that matter, was the situation helped by total radio silence on the part of F1, AGPC and the teams, who collectively failed to grasp that no news is not good news, but an opportunity for ‘fake news’ to spread. This global sport must do better.

The bottom line is that Melbourne’s 25th race will now be carried over to next year – unless trust has irrevocably broken down between the parties, which is possible after this unmitigated fiasco – for the City of Melbourne is unlikely to stump up the considerable build costs of the Albert Park (street) circuit two times in one year in order to hold the race this season. That is, of course, one of the downsides of such facilities in the current environment.

Where to now? Senior F1 figures believe that the season will start no earlier than the Dutch Grand Prix in early May, with some even suggesting that it could be delayed to Baku in June. Whatever, that means cancelling (at least) next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix and early April’s Hanoi round. Guess what: No decision has yet been taken as where F1 will be in seven days’ time…

2020 F1 season

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 102 comments on “How F1 failed its fans in Australian Grand Prix Coronavirus fiasco”

    1. “…whose ventilation systems efficiently circulate bacteria, including, crucially, the Covid-19 strain”

      well, it’s actually a virus and properly maintained planes from respected airlines have hospital grade filters to prevent any recirculation of contaminants.
      But agree it is a risk none the less with people packed together for hours

      1. I was coming here to make that exact same point, I’m tired of seeing this line of air recirculating spreading things being trotted out constantly.

        1. @watertower Thanks for pointing that out – this has been removed to avoid confusion.

      2. I’m no clinician, but given that recirculated air tends to dry out the nasal cavity (I had a nosebleed for that reason coming home from Australia), and mucus serves to flush out virus, a long haul flight probably isn’t ideal

      3. I don’t know much about the cabin recirculation systems, so I won’t make a comment about them.

        However, @dieterrencken could do with correcting the “bacteria, including, crucially, the Covid-19 strain”. As @watertower mentioned, it’s caused by a virus not a bacterium (as evidenced by the name Coronavirus).

      4. I believe that modern aircraft change the air in the cabin every 3 mins and do not recirculate old air in any meaningful volume. The HEPT filters are hospital grade. Really, disappointed.

        1. Correction : HEPA

    2. Massive waste of time, money, and a huge risk for everyone. Nobody comes out of this looking good.

      I’m probably most annoyed at the government, they were touted frequently to be proceeding on the advice of health experts, yet conveniently that advice changed at the very last second (to save whatever part of the face was left) without any real change of circumstance. If that’s the quality of our Australian and Victorian health experts, or the willingness of our government to listen to them if it isn’t, then it says a lot either way. Very embarrassing.

      F1 (as a whole) share the blame too no doubt, but at the end of the day they care about their fans and their product and would have longed to bring us a race. It at least makes sense from a purely passionate point of view where their motivation lies, as Brown says it was one of his hardest decisions, as a racer.

      The government on the other hand has no such excuse.

      1. Sharaf Sharaf
        13th March 2020, 9:50

        Agree 100% . The so called goverment medical officials were adamant that its safe to hold a Grand Prix despite the alarming trend

      2. You all need to keep in mind that this increasing contagion is not following a straight line on a graph, instead it is following a bell-curve, had the race been scheduled for the previous weekend, and had McLaren not imported the infection the race would have gone ahead, successfully. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but far easier to acquire than foresight.

    3. Excellent article, thank you.

      I’ll be amazed if the cancellation of the next rounds does not happen the same way, with some teams already at the track waiting to get racing. That’s the level of Mexican stand-off the F1 commercial deals seem to include.

    4. There’s no better time for Stroll Sr. to buy FWONK.

    5. Carey does have a nice novelty moustache though

      1. It’s to compensate for deficiencies elsewhere.

        1. Hoosier Daddy
          13th March 2020, 9:15

          I also heard he can’t grow a beard.

        2. He has a facial scar from, I believe an accident in his youth. The mustache serves to cover said scar.

          It’s a bit juvenile to be critiquing the man’s appearance rather than his behavior.

    6. Very interesting, enlightening and damning article.

      All the while FIA officials stood by, relaying information to president Jean Todt in Europe, but the governing body was unable to intervene as it was a commercial matter, and by EU decree may not involve itself in such issues. It supports whatever decisions, but ultimately commercial issues are sorted between commercial rights holder and the race promoter.

      Ah, so the ball is even more so in FOM’s court than the FIA. Not that I’d have expected stellar leadership from the FIA either.

      And I can now better understand FOM’s reticence – FWONK’s share price has been tanking quite badly since the virus impacted global markets, but it’s drop has been worse than many others – they are now at effectively their lowest ever value. Cancellations and payouts are likely going to decrease the health of their balance sheets unless they have a robust insurance plan in place to cover such a once-in-a-lifetime eventuality.

      1. @phylyp, I still think it’s likely to be a 22 in a lifetime eventuality.

        1. @hohum – you pessimist! :)

    7. First real test of leadership for Carey? Seems so.
      Can’t say he showed us he’s made of the same stuff as Napoleon, or Julius Caesar, …or Bernie.

      1. He’s on his way out anyway, not building an empire. Need Horner or Wolff, or the like, to step up and in to that role.

        If he’s leading the ship for the next set of regulation changes I’d be very surprised, and disappointed.

      2. Hes not made of the same stuff as bloodhungry warlords? Well thats a relief at least.

    8. Disaster, if they were there, they should have RACED, on CLOSE DOORS, they make all the teams move all their stuff, etc etc for what? Race with close doors STUPIDS!

    9. I can see this being the shove that Carey and Bratches have been due…

      1. The theme music is good tho…

    10. We all know that with Bernie, the race would have been held with only 10 cars, behind closed doors and with the army surrounding the circuit if necessary. I’m not saying that things have been done well. But it could have been worse.

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        13th March 2020, 9:41

        I was looking at a comment above mentioning Bernie and I was thinking precisely that.

        1. Me too Jose. I think Bernie would have put a crop duster rig on his helicopter and disinfected the entire circuit if it there was any chance of him losing a $

          1. …and hey, if it made the circuit slippery and caused loads of mayhem during the race – BONUS! :D

    11. Notwithstanding, all the correct and critical comments in this article I can see many reasons, even beyond F1, why it was important for this global event to go on.
      If we go Trumpian on everything and proactively do what hindsighters tell us then we bring everything to a drastic stop. Drastic measures like that and the social and economic consequences also result in a lot of misery (e.g. increased suicide rates during a recession).
      Of all the early GP races, this one in the summer of Australia was the best candidate to continue. I even applaud that many people in charge tried for so long to continue with this event.
      As 1 instance (and preventive quarantine of the people around that person) is the reason for a cancellation, then we can cancel all the next rounds.

      1. @coldfly I think it’s a bit naive to cite Mclaren’s confirmed case as the reason for this cancellation. The biggest risk, as with all other events globally, has always been the ease with which a virus can spread between a large group of people in close proximity.

        Put simply, if events like this continue to go ahead we’ll be living in a version of the world where we see earlier, and higher peak numbers of cases than if these events don’t go ahead. At this stage where there is no vaccine or treatment available for the most vulnerable amongst us, clearly delaying the peak is the most desirable outcome.

        My Dad has previously had an extreme case of pneumonia and now has very limited lung function. I know which version of the world I’d prefer us to head towards.

        1. McLaren’s case WAS the reason for this cancellation, @sparkyamg.
          Nothing else changed dramatically in any other part; Summer in Australia is still one of the safest places to be.
          If it were something related to public safety which changed, then they had opted for a ‘closed-door’ GP.

      2. With this much money involved for all parties, you need early Trumpian decisions. It cuts losses.

        We all know the race would have had little passing anyway, so from a fan’s perspective the race simply was exciting because it meant that we were back racing again. Not that the racing would have been good.

      3. @coldfly, Agreed. We’ll have to stop this, people will start talking.

    12. Failed its fans, failed its employees, failed public health. A massive blunder.

    13. antony obrien
      13th March 2020, 9:02

      Nonsense wise after the event article. Its an unprecedented situation, even if that is the level of panic over a flu style bug that kills those already likely to die. Sports events are still going ahead in the UK, Cheltenham festival for 1 and we are in a very fluid position, GLOBALLY. Stop kicking the sport that gives you your living and look at the multitude of differing responses throughout the globe. Its not the time for finger pointing and frankly your article should’ve been self isolated.

      1. You mean Cheltenham festival is THE one. All Premier League and EFL football suspended until 4th April.

      2. This isn’t a simple event with local draw that you are in your region or locality and can have the event. This is a massive global draw with serious financial impacts on the logistics.

    14. Atleast Bernie was leader, knowing when and how to make tough decisions, and he cared for F1.

      1. I can’t imagine things would’ve gone any differently under Bernie.

        1. I can imagine Bernie ignoring the 5 teams who didn’t want to race and forcing the event to continue.

          1. I can imagine Bernie threatening to sue the government for financial loss if they stopped the GP.

    15. This was all about the money!
      They could’ve cancelled it a lot earlier, but nobody wanted to take the financial responsibility for that and in the end they made it even worse with people within the paddock getting infected.

      I hope we will see at least a couple of races this season.
      Would be great if they started the season in Monaco (and that’s not that unlikely). That would be quite a challenge for the teams.

      1. @srga91, Surely you are not blaming the authorities for the infection of the McLaren team member, obviously he/she arrived in Australia already infected elsewhere.

        1. @hohum
          No, I’m not. But they are responsible for spreading the virus further, considering the infected person was also in contact with members from other teams.
          If the teams never went to Australia, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. We don’t even know right now, how many other members of the F1-community got infected.

          F1 made a massive mistake by deciding to just go there and see what happens. They didn’t do anything, apart from putting people’s lives at risk (all of them).
          F1 only went there, because Liberty Media feared that they would have to cover the costs, if they themselves (alone) cancelled the race. The race promoters didn’t call off the race for the same reason, so they are equally to blame.

          1. @srga91, If the team followed advice the team member would have been isolated immediately they showed symptoms, I don’t see F1 responsible for what happened before symptoms were apparent. Had they scheduled the race a week earlier, it is possible the team member would not have been infected at all.

    16. So there was a 1 in 2000 chance the race was going to be cancelled (or 0.05%). I probably would have taken those odds well.

      It’s one of those things that the media applaud a governing body if all is well and then are pretty quick to turn around with hindsight and lambast them if it goes wrong.

      I agree that the communication to the fans today was woeful. I and a few thousand others were stuck outside the circuit gates in close proximity without any communication at all about a cancellation or lock out. Clearly the decision was made a lot earlier in the day with drivers leaving the country and team personnel packing up their equipment.

      1. Duncan Snowden
        13th March 2020, 11:18

        Well said. There were no travel warnings in place, large gatherings haven’t been banned in Australia, and sporting events went ahead last weekend without incident (and will go ahead this weekend; it’s easy to list those which have been cancelled, far harder to list those which haven’t). Dieter presents the decision to go to Melbourne as obviously stupid. It wasn’t.

        Let’s not forget that it was a McLaren team member who tested positive. Nobody at Ferrari or AlphaTauri, from the worst-hit region of what is now the worst-hit country outside of China, has. Dieter portrays FOM and the FIA as reckless and irresponsible, but clearly precautions were taken. Not enough, perhaps (wouldn’t it have been sensible to test people before they left home?), but they were.

        1. +1

          Now, a nitpick: Australia does not have tough Health and Occupancy laws, anywhere. On the other hand, we do have fair and reasonable health and safety laws.

          The event should have gone ahead.

    17. The last sentence pretty much says it all doesn’t it.

      I can just see Carey & co arriving in Bahrain next weekend to find that the teams and drivers haven’t turned up.

    18. Hoosier Daddy
      13th March 2020, 9:28

      “A comrade had been struck down by potentially lethal disease in a far-off land”

      Who is that referring to?. I haven’t read of any team member or official that was “struck down”, just tested positive which does not even imply any symptoms at all. Plus the fact that it is a potentially lethal disease is not in itself relevant to the decision. I mean the same statement would be true if someone caught the flu. What difference did the geographical location make?

      Not saying I think the race should have proceeded but that statement was poor journalism.

      1. They wouldn’t have been tested the person without symptoms. The fact that it this virus is currently killing about 3.5 in 100 is extremely relevant. That’s potentially dozens of deaths within the teams. And no, it’s not just an old persons illness. Reports from doctors in Italy are showing that a lot of people in their 40’s and 50’s are succumbing to to covid 19. I take it you’ve never been seriously ill in a foreign place? A place that you’re not allowed to leave for at least 14 days with a potentially life threatening illness?

        That was a very well written article. There are still a lot of unknowns so yeah, it’s easy to nit pick. Great job Dieter, thank you for the article. I completely agree with the sentiment.

        1. The virus is NOT killing 3.5% of those that have it. Nowhere near everyone who has it is being tested for it so the real figure is very likely to be much lower – 1% or below. Italy have a very old proportional population and they are struggling. The number of infected there is likely far higher than official figures in any case as only those unwell enough to go to hospital are being tested for it, which is only a fraction of those that will have it. That is based on evidence of those areas who have done more widespread testing, such as in Korea, and not just a random statement not backed up by any evidence.

          There are other factors that are involved in the death rate too, such as smoking/existing lung issues, being overweight, etc. which also is a slim section of the F1 paddock. I’m sure those affected in F1 will recover and I sincerely hope they do, and I want to make very clear I’m not dismissing C-19 as not a serious issue before the trolls descend.

          It’s the right decision to cancel it now but people are just trolling for the sake of it for the most part on the ‘delay’ to the decision. Even at the beginning of this week there were far fewer reasons to think of cancelling it. It’s all well and good having 20/20 vision now!

          I presume now they’ll cancel the first 2 months of the season now and see where we are in a few weeks time – hopefully in June things will be better.

          1. Steven Van Langendonck
            13th March 2020, 11:13

            Sorry, but the World Health Organization has set the mortality at 3,5%. It also agrees well with the current figures: about 130.000 cases worldwide with about 4700 deceased.

            Don ‘t like the idea? Tough!

            1. That’s 3.5% of those tested, not 3.5% of everyone that gets infected. They acknowledge in their own documentation the ‘real’ death rate is lower due to people with mild symptoms/asymptomatic.

              It’s not a case of ‘not liking it’, just a case of everyone getting their facts in order rather than being doom-mongering trolls.

            2. Pat (@patrick1972)
              13th March 2020, 14:50

              130k is the number of registered and confirmed cases. The actual number of people having C-19, but are not tested is likely to be much higher and therefore the mortality % would be (much) lower than 3.5%

            3. That’s right (much more cases likely than confirmed ones, many not severely affected => lower mortality rate, but they are equally, and highly contagious), but yet there is no ultimate cure, it takes more than a month to heal, and it’s spreading at about exponentially, while the healed people not having immunity. At this high amount of cases the virus has a lot of room to mutate even (these mutations can be good or bad for us either). If there are already 1million people infected then it’s not far at all from sickening literally almost everyone. And then those rates can go much worse. Actually I don’t really believe in the figures from Iran, despite of being second most severe, now it seems like they handling it more effectively than Western Europe, what is quite unlikely. I’m very far from being xenophobic, but here in Hungary, a lot of Iranian university students turned out to be infected in the previous days. They are the largest part of the cca. 20 reported cases here. It foreshadows how Iran handles their communication, and maybe suggests things about the xenophobic Hungarian government’s politics and low quality healthcare system either. I have read many cases where guys asked for testing themselves at the national Infectious diseases institute because they returned from countries like Italy, but they were refused and not examined properly by them or local top tier hospitals. I guess the lower case numbers here is due to that they not had the assets to do their job properly so they only found the obvious ones yet. And I’m sure many governments are playing like this or not having the capacity to handle it suddenly.

          2. 6% mortality rate from diagnosed in Italy, that is fact, and about the same in ICU. Only 0.6%bin South Korea do. It is more dangerous to elderly flu than influenza, because there is no vaccine, that is why ever government is taking drastic action. Don’t downplay it, leave that to the idiots on Fox News, who’s age demographic ironically is over 65.

    19. Great article as always.

      Curious to know, what components / equipment travels via sea-freight. I thought all cargo of all teams travels by air.
      Thanks

      1. @sumedh All of Haas’s good luck travels by seafreight.

      2. You should checkout a video on youtube from the channel wendover productions, called “the insane logistics of formula1”. F1 teams arent stupid, if they can ship hospitality equipment via sea freight, over air, they will.

        https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=f1+logistics

    20. Regarding the aspect of whomever is left with the bill, is there a gap in the contracts regarding these types of situations?

      Although to be fair, if the clause was “pandemic”, the WHO only declared the virus a pandemic overnight, mere hours before FP1 was due to start.

      1. It’s called ‘force majeure’ in contracts, and likely to end up with extensive meditation and court cases.

    21. It’s always easy to criticize things from the comfort of our home.

      Had the race be planned for March 8th, we would have gone ahead and raced.

      1. IF is F1 spelt backwards

          1. And it’s what Murray said (shouted) many, many times during his broadcasts.

      2. Tyres for example, plus all the garage kit – they have triplicate sets which leapfrog.

    22. The 25th ‘anniversary’ will take place next year. This race would’ve been the 25th race on the current Australian GP-venue, but 25 years will have passed since the inaugural race took place next March, so not entirely the same thing.

    23. @Robbie I’ll be the lone voice support your argument. I am a 74 year old (high risk) Brit travelling in India and I think the economic impact is uncharted and likely to be massive. The tourist trade here effectively stops this week which will deprive many people of any income. Given that transmission occurs within a metre of an infected person does being in a large crowd bring you closer to an infection than going to the supermarket.? Yes statistically there will likely be more infected people present but will you be statistically more likely to be in the metre contact zone. I guess that and the economic impact drove the delayed decision.

    24. Hey, but at least none of us are talking about the confidential Ferrari engine settlement anymore, right??

      1. Actually I’m working on that right now.

        1. Please only if it is new news and not an opinion piece.

        2. Lots of time to think, sit, call, check and write (and others to react/talk with you) I guess @dieterrencken – I read today (eventually from italian motorsport site) that Merc. may have changed their approach after phone calls between the higher-ups, above the F1 teams; I suspect that with the others now having time, either they drop it, or they have extra time to develop their strategies.

    25. A PR disaster.

      Best case scenario – F1/FOM/LM can’t take the hit and go bust. All current contracts cease.

      An opportunity for the F1 teams to take back control of their sport, as the UK Premier League have done. All secret and special rules are thrown out of the window and the teams start from scratch with equal votes and share of the income. With no Bernie stirring the pot, getting the teams to agree will be much easier than ever before. They could also sideline the FIA’s power over the sport.

      1. That looks like a sure recipe for bringing F1 to a final end. Why so anti-F1?

      2. Bernie was good, I would hate for the manufacturers to get more control in this sport, they are here for money first, they don’t care at all for an even playing field or even pay.

    26. I’ll be amazed if there is a race before June – maybe even longer.

    27. Let’s hope that 2021 can be the first leap year in formula 1 history. Is the 70th Anniversary postponed to next year too? Is it based on years ago or seasons completed? Stay tuned, but preferably, stay home.
      Kudos to Hamilton for his courage and candidacy yesterday.
      https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/coronavirus-could-be-spread-by-air-conditioning-scientists.html
      “Airlines have already sought to reassure passengers that their air-conditioning systems are fit to prevent the coronavirus spreading in the cabin, with Etihad suggesting their system is as watertight as a hospital operating theatre” Then again as the article states”The size of the coronavirus is not yet known, but a similar respiratory illness, Sars, was recorded at just 120 nanometres.” A fibre of human cartilage is 70nm.

      1. @pierre

        If another passenger is breathing a virus down the back of your head for 3 hours, no filter in the world will help.

        1. If another passenger is breathing a virus down the back of your head for 3 hours you should probably stop sitting on his lap.

          1. true… but half the talking and breathing would be ricciardo, and he is probably staying put in his home country. (/joke)
            fortunately I have some old races to watch or rewatch in lieu. I doubt that F1 will take place next year either, and certainly not this year anywhere. It is 18 months for a vaccine. lets not forget with this thing, if it doesnt kill you, it might also damage you. F1 drivers need to be 100% capacity. Italy is starting to have younger cases. the things (5 varieties so far) will mutate , for better or worse, and require matching new vaccines, like every years new flu) .

    28. Sky Sports subscription cancelled this morning.

      We won’t see a race until June at the earliest, this situation is only going to ramp up exponentially until it peaks in April.

      1. PEAKS in April, really, why? Optimist.

    29. How it failed?!?!

      Simple. By cancelling the race.

      1. Missed you, dude. What took you so long?

    30. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      13th March 2020, 10:39

      Autosport reported that the Bahrain gp would be held twice, in order to compensate for the soon-to-be-cancelled Vietnam race.
      I’m really hoping that the virus spread slows down once the temperatures go up around the globe. I’m praying we have at least 12-15 races this year.
      Until then, stay safe everyone!

    31. I don’t know if F1 failed fans here, it is unprecedented circumstances, I would say the virus is at fault here. What difference is it if was cancelled last week or today, last week it looked mainly ok, and would have caused more uproar if suspended theb. things transpired rather quickly. I think I he USA gp in 2005, and Schumacher’s last lap team order passes at Austria, plus his attempt at a dead heat in Indianapolis with barichello were 3 events I remember as more disappointing for fans. I find this different because there is lots of positive comments about this race being suspended even on the actual day of suspension.

    32. Ridiculous situation and I imagine more money and CO2 will be wasted flying to Bahrain now. The best F1 can do is cancel this season and push the 2021 rules back to 2022

    33. I’m glad I’m not the only one reading the article and finding it anti Liberty/F1. Why does the writer continually imply political overtones in every sentence. The facts are simple. The race was cancelled appropriately . No one wanted the millions spent to go to waste. With the current restrictions in place at the time all the equipment was sent down under? Completely reasonable. Unfortunate? Absolutely. All the bashing of those in charge making hard decisions? I suppose the writer could do better. If you expect this race fan to continue reading? Leave your personal politics out.

    34. I think in hindsight it’s easy to criticize and there were a lot of different ways this could’ve been handled.

      However, there was only one way after McLaren withdrew and the race started to look in serious danger of happening. That was yesterday. They had all day to cancell and avoid having all that people outside the gates. And they waited and waited until the gates were flooded to say anything. That’s seriously disappointing. At that point they had all the information and they kept negotiating to avoid payment and the media backlash.

      Of all the mistakes they made, that was probably the most disappointing one. It truly became a fiasco, the whole night people going on twitter trying to find out what was happening and they didn’t say a thing. How’s that taking care of your fanbase?

      I’ve said it before, Ross and all those folk from Liberty are a huge let down.

    35. 2000 people in the F1 circus … 70% Covid19 infection rate … based on the age of the majority of F1 personnel, there is between 0.2% & 0.4% risk.

      Effectively that means between 3-6 people realistically at risk.

      They are no more at risk whether they carry on like normal or stay at home trying to dodge an inevitable infection.
      The percentage risks of them contracting other dread diseases during any season travelling, or coming to harm in a travel related incident, or as a result of an event in another country (like violent crime in Brazil for example) are higher than their chances of becoming a Covid19 fatality.

      Summary … nett additional risk of going ahead with the season as planned … 0.00001%

      Worth the potential multi-billion dollar losses … I think not.

      1. That would require no spectators at any race though.

    36. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      13th March 2020, 15:30

      Captain Hindsight. Where was this damming article a week ago? It was clearly a difficult decision for all concerned.

      1. @rdotquestionmark

        Good point, everyones an expert today, condemning the actions of Carey…

        Anyone with two brain cells can grasp the fact that this is a complicated issue….

        THINK PEOPLE!

        1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
          13th March 2020, 17:55

          I just don’t like finger pointing, blame culture behaviours. They’re not useful, and very easy in hindsight. The decision should have been made earlier but the exponential rate in which this situation escalated in the last week was bound to catch people off guard.

    37. Did the FIA not have staff in Melbourne? Because this was an open-and-shut staff health issue. A number of the FIA staff would inevitably have been in close contact with the McLaren staff member who tested positive, simply by nature of how the paddock is constructed and how foot traffic moves through it. As such, the FIA had people who needed quarantining. Neither could they have guaranteed the safety of replacement staff, since COVID-19 lingers for days on surfaces and there was no evidence of quarantining going off pre-cancellation. The 14-day quarantine rules everyone’s been hearing about are part of the WHO’s protocol for COVID-19, that most nations (though not the UK or USA) have been using this as the legal basis for their response. (This is not to say they’ve all followed it at all times in practise, but it has effects on what national governments are willing to accept as permissible and impermissible risks).

      This is one of the few occasions where the FIA can and should have intervened to cancel the race.

      Likewise, did Liberty and the promoter not have staff at the Grand Prix? They, too, will have had people in the firing path of the microbe, and thus a quarantine need preventing them from safely playing their roles at the event.

      There should never have been a team vote, though I am reassured that 5 teams actually know more about sensible policy in this context than the other powers-that-be apparently do. There should never have been a blame argument. The moment the test came back positive, that was the cue for the FIA, Liberty and the promoter to cancel the race immediately and together, sharing the losses equitably, according to their and their insurers’ ability.

      A week ago – even two days ago – running the race conventionally was in a valid option space (I would argue that in both cases cancellation and closed-doors were also in a valid option space, and I see arguments for all of these given what was known back then). A little over 24 hours ago, that ceased to be the case, and running behind closed doors ceased to be possible either. It should not have taken another 11 hours and 45 minutes to do the inevitable – especially given that large crowds were permitted to be pooled into areas for a practise session that had no chance of running.

      The FIA had a crisis cell for this specific situation. It should have known all this and acted. Having delayed this long, it has run the risk of getting sued for delay… …and I don’t see how it, Liberty or the part of the government in charge of promoting the Australian Grand Prix could defend itself in a court of law. All of them had, individually, the necessary authority and need to cancel. None of them did so until more harm had been caused. That was inexcusable.

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