F1 was “playing with fire” trying to race in Melbourne, says Ricciardo

2020 F1 season

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Daniel Ricciardo has said Formula 1 was “playing with fire” by trying to go ahead with the Australian Grand Prix in the face of growing concerns over the global pandemic.

F1 abandoned the race on Friday morning of the event, shortly before practice was due to begin.

Ricciardo told The Age newspaper he “had some tunnel vision” ahead of the event “because Melbourne is such a busy and chaotic race”.

“I hadn’t given too much thought to the whole corona situation but deep down I had some concerns,” he said. “We were definitely playing with fire.”

The race promoters have defended their attempts to press ahead with the race, pointing out that large sporting events took place in the city the previous weekend. But the escalating threat from the pandemic, and the discovery a McLaren team member had tested positive for the virus, led to the late decision to cancel the season-opening grand prix.

When the cancellation was announced, fans were already queuing outside the track waiting to get in, as the gates had not been opened at the scheduled time. Some drivers, such as Sebastian Vettel, had advanced warning the race was going to be called off.

“One of the people I spoke to was Max [Verstappen] just to see what he was planning on doing,” said Ricciardo. “My thoughts once it was cancelled was to get out as soon as possible before things turned into a bit of a shitshow. I wanted to get a feel from some of the other drivers with what they were going to do before I got on a plane.”

During the race weekend Ricciardo said he placed his faith in the sport’s governing body to make the correct decision regarding the race.

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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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12 comments on “F1 was “playing with fire” trying to race in Melbourne, says Ricciardo”

  1. I am torn between trying to understand that he is just ultimately an employee who needs to do what he is told by his team and the FOM and laying into him for not speaking up then as Lewis did. I for one always thought he spoke what was on his mind but as the last paragraph of this article indicates, he did quite the contrary. But then experience is a great gift and I am sure the Drivers will now be emboldened to speak up about such things after the Aus GP fiasco.

    1. From my perspective, if a driver didn’t speak up or act, I’m not going to hold it against them. If they did speak up, then good (i.e. Hamilton), if they did act, even better (i.e. none of them).

      To me, that’s because they don’t have a leadership responsibility, so theirs is just another voice, and another opinion, and I’ve long since stopped caring about what famous people or celebrities say in anything other than their area of expertise.

      Let’s switch gears up a bit, though. In the Grosjean/Vettel messaging one another article, it was pointed out that they might have been in contact as two of the three heads of the GPDA. Now, there is where I’d probably say that Grosjean, Vettel and Alex should have been a little more proactive, got the drivers together to get a view of where the opinion of the drivers lay, and then made a statement on behalf of the GPDA. That might’ve been more impactful than just individual voices, and would have given some weightage to the fact that the GPDA is another group – maybe with not as much sway as the FIA or FOM, but not something to be ignored, nonetheless.

      1. @phylyp Is Alex one of the three heads of the GPDA? If yes, then I wasn’t aware of that until now.

        1. @jerejj – Yep, Alex/Seb/Romain are the three directors, and Alex himself is chairman. (link 1, link 2)

          1. @phylyp My bad. I mixed up Alex Wurz and Alex Albon, LOL. Of course, I was aware of the former being in the GPDA, but I just somehow mistakenly mixed them up, hence, the confusion.

          2. @jerejj – I could have been clearer in my comment as well, now that we actually have an Alex in an F1 context, so your mix-up is perfectly understandable :)

      2. theyre drivers not doctors…. cut them some slack

  2. To be honest, had the race been planned 1 week beforehand, it would have gone ahead without issues.

    1. @paeschli You mean if it had originally been scheduled to take place on March 8 instead of 15? Yes, holding the race seven days earlier indeed would’ve been more achievable, although, I still wish to an extent that they would’ve let the race go ahead on its original slot with the three teams that were willing to keep on racing. I wouldn’t have minded about getting another 2005 Indianapolis US GP in the form of a six-car race.

    2. It would have gone ahead. The issues would only have been discovered after the race.
      Likewise the Champions League match of Atalanta – Valencia (February 19th) was held 4 days before Corona was first registered in Italy. So it spread the virus over Italy and Spain and many thousands lost their lives.

      There is no way to know what would have happened if the race had been held as planned or a week earlier, but with Atalanta – Valencia as a guideline I’m glad it wasn’t.
      i miss the racing but lives matter more now.

  3. NeverElectric
    31st March 2020, 6:45

    Seems so obvious now. But when Hamilton criticised F1 for proceeding with the race as the Melbourne weekend got underway and the race was still on, many – including in this forum – lobbed invectives at him. As usual.

  4. Hindsight

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