Pulling out of Australian GP was the only option for McLaren, says Brown

2020 F1 season

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The McLaren team member who tested positive for Coronavirus during the Australian Grand Prix is no longer showing any symptoms, the team has confirmed.

Results of tests on 14 other team members who came into contact with the original case are still being awaited. The first team member’s test results were handled as a matter of priority, but the other 14 cases are being handled normally along with others.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown praised his team’s response after the positive test result was announced. The team swiftly announced its withdrawal from the race, and almost 12 hours later F1 confirmed the grand prix had been called off.

“I’m proud of how the whole team, both in Australia and back at base, handled the situation in a moment of real pressure and concern for their colleagues,” said Brown. “The focus, calmness and professionalism was outstanding across the team. We had leaders stepping up everywhere and that is testament to our people.”

Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl decided in advance they would pull out of the race if a team member tested positive for the virus.

“We had been continually scenario-planning together with the team back in the UK, so we knew what our options were in the event of various outcomes,” he said. “Andreas and I already agreed that if we had a positive case in the garage there was only one option.

“As I said before, as a racer it was the hardest decision I’ve had to take but as CEO it was the easiest. Our people come first and Andreas feels very strongly about this too.”

Brown and Seidl were at a meal with a McLaren shareholder on Thursday evening when they learned of the positive test.

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“We immediately returned to the team hotel to join our race team leadership,” said Brown. “While Andreas focused on leading the team, I focused on our board and shareholders, who were absolutely supportive I must say, while informing the other teams, F1 and the FIA.

“I’m happy to report that our team member affected with the virus is recovering well and the symptoms have gone and our people in quarantine are in good spirits. The support they have been getting from their team-mates, our partners, members of the F1 community and fans from around the world has been fantastic and our thanks go out to all of them.

“Our focus is now on the dialogue with F1, the FIA and the other teams on working through the 2020 calendar and managing the team over the next few months. It’s early days and this is an evolving situation but we are planning ahead and will stay flexible.”

Seidl remained in Australia longer than Brown to help support the team but has since returned to Europe. Other members of the team have stayed in Melbourne with their 14 quarantined colleagues.

“I want to recognise our team members who have had to stay in Melbourne under quarantine at the moment,” said Seidl. “This is not an easy situation. Special thanks to our racing director Andrea Stella and his guys, who volunteered to stay down under for the next 14 days supporting our guys in quarantine.”

The team’s drivers Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris “have been obviously concerned about their team mates”, said Seidl. We have to keep them physically away from the rest of the team, even though they are both fine, but they are in constant communication.”

“We also appreciate our fellow teams in the paddock who offered immediate help on Friday to dismantle the garage and pack the freight, which was obviously a challenge for us missing 14 of our core guys. This is the spirit of F1 and racing we all embrace.”

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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...
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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11 comments on “Pulling out of Australian GP was the only option for McLaren, says Brown”

  1. No, Zak, it was not the only option. You could have dithered, hemmed and hawed for much longer. As we saw others do on Thursday and early Friday.

    You’re likely the only ones coming out of this smelling of roses, in my eyes. And to hear that Seidl stayed back in Australia just to be close to the members quarantined there impresses me further.

    Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl decided in advance they would pull out of the race if a team member tested positive for the virus.

    “We had been continually scenario-planning together with the team back in the UK, so we knew what our options were in the event of various outcomes,”

    I’m amazed. How could they do this, when I’m being told – by others, not McLaren – that this was an “unprecedented situation”?

    1. How they could pull out when one in the staff got contracted with an deadly and contagious disease?
      Doesnt take rocket science to figure out why they did it and if this dude hadnt been randomly contracted you would be bashing McLaren just like the rest of F1.

    2. Actually, ‘contingency planning’ is exactly that. In business I spend more time planning for unprecedented events than for recurring events; most staff knows what to do.

      1. @coldfly – apparently, my sarcasm targeted at those claiming “unprecedented circumstances” was poorly expressed. I agree, and I was drawing attention to the fact that McLaren had a robust plan in place in advance which allowed them to act quickly and decisively, while others were more keen on burying their heads in the sand when it came to difficult choices.

        @rethla – my “how could they do this” was a humourous reference to how could they have contingency plans for something unprecedented, not to them pulling out.

    3. Stop being disengenuinous, this is very much an unprecidented situation.

      People are insufferable, is really the only lesson we can learn from covid 19.

      1. Sorry but there is a lot more to be learned from this if you look in the right places. Claiming that all you’ve learned is that people are insufferable – something even some insufferable people know – is pointing to a lack of depth in your understanding.

      2. It is an unprecedented situation in some ways, but the way the phrase is being used by politicians and others as an excuse is what is disingenuous.

        There are some medical aspects to the case that are unprecedented. The rapidity of the spread as well (due to the symptoms masquerading as a regular flu/cold).

        Likewise, the situation in China gave us a good framework of how things would go down. It suddenly rearing its head in Iran should have been another warning call.

        The likelihood of a GP’s cancellation? Far from unprecedented. The moment the Chinese GP was called off should have had them planning in advance for various related contingencies “what if one of us gets it?”, “what if it is declared a pandemic?”, and should have had a plan to execute on in advance for future GPs as well, such as the Australian GP, and gotten the stakeholders in on the plan in a timely manner.

        You know what would have been an unprecedented situation? Something truly coming out of the blue. Like a meteor. Not a disease that has been rampaging around a few countries for several weeks.

  2. It will be interesting to see how all of this affects next season with its new rules. I think the FIA should do the right thing and allow teams to do some testing to compensate for the lack of running. Maybe they could run up to the same amount of time they usually run on a race weekend. Or maybe the teams will just enjoy the savings that will result from the cancellations. :-)

    1. There are no savings to be had here

  3. Zak Brown is doing a far better job than I had expected. He’s rid McLaren of Whitmarsh’s management mess and turned the team around after changing to Renault power. Now he’s put the FIA, F1 and the other teams to shame with his sensible actions over the weekend. If he could only get over his bromance with Alonso…

  4. the solution is easy, Tesla put his car in space. we put the F1 cars and their drivers in orbit to quaranteen them. the pits are to be ‘manned’ by robots. no people allowed in the circuits at all. robots will also collect any damaged cars, just ask Japan how it does work at Fukushima. it might be the end of the world, it does not need to be the end of F1.

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