F1 cancels season-opening round at Australian GP after coronavirus case
2020's season-opener not going ahead in Melbourne this weekend after McLaren team member diagnosed with COVID-19
By James Galloway in Melbourne
Last Updated: 13/03/20 12:08pm
Formula 1 will not run at the Australian GP with the sport's season-opening round cancelled after a McLaren team member contracted coronavirus.
Formal confirmation arrived in a joint statement from the FIA, F1 and the Australian GP Corporation on Friday morning in Melbourne.
With McLaren already having withdrawn from the event on Thursday evening, a majority vote among the remaining nine teams resulted in F1 activities at Albert Park being called off.
"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," the statement read.
"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."
Track action at the 2020 season-opener had been due to begin on Friday, but Australia now becomes the second early-season F1 casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese GP - which was scheduled to be the season's fourth round in mid-April - was postponed indefinitely last month.
The Bahrain GP is scheduled to take place next week, with the desert event already due to take place behind closed doors. The inaugural Vietnam GP in Hanoi is then scheduled to follow a fortnight later.
Both these races are also now in doubt.
"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," read the joint F1-FIA-Australian GP statement.
"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."
I applaud the decision by F1, the FIA and the AGPC to cancel the Australian GP. The health and safety of the F1 family and local community must come first. As a racer, this was the most difficult decision I have had to take. As a CEO, it was the easiest decision to take.— Zak Brown (@ZBrownCEO) March 13, 2020
Earlier on Thursday and F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton had expressed his "surprise" and "shock" that F1 was planning to go ahead with its Melbourne event.
Hamilton has backed the decision to call off the race, posting on social media: