Red Bull boss Christian Horner says Formula 1 considered putting the paddock in ‘lockdown’ in attempts to continue with the Australian Grand Prix, but did not get the teams’ support.
In the wake of a McLaren team member contracting coronavirus, the Woking-based outfit withdrew from the season opener in Melbourne.
That move prompted late-night talks on Thursday with the other nine teams, plus F1 and FIA chiefs, to discuss the next steps.
Speaking to Autosport about those discussions, Horner said that he had been in favour of pushing on under certain circumstances – which included an event sealed off to anyone but F1 personnel.
“Obviously we discussed the different scenarios,” he said. “There was a discussion of locking the paddock down and taking further precautions.
“The health authority and the FIA were okay to continue, if the majority of teams were okay with it. But unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
The idea of continuing to run on Friday to allow further evaluation of the situation failed to get majority support, which prompted F1 to make the call to cancel the race.
Horner is clear he was up for attempting to keep going with the weekend, and said it was “frustrating” matters had been taken out of his team’s hands.
“Obviously it’s very disappointing not to be racing,” he said. “But we have to consider the health of our staff and personnel and, at the end of the day, the FIA and the promoter have decided to cancel the event. It’s frustrating.”
F1’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn, who was involved in the team discussions and is understood to have favoured attempting to carry on with the event, said that the sport was caught out by how quick the coronavirus pandemic grew.
“Formula 1 has to function, we have to make it work so we looked at the whole situation and when we decided to go, we looked at the different dynamics,” he told the official F1 website.
“Probably what has surprised everyone is the rapid expansion of this problem.
“The escalation of new cases, certainly in countries like Italy, where it’s gone almost vertical. No one could have expected that.
“I have spoken to [Ferrari chief] Mattia Binotto many times in the last few weeks, his mood changed in the last five or seven days, from what he was seeing in Italy.
“So we were on this ship that sailed and we were optimistic we could get through it, that we could get Formula 1 started and just bring a bit of relief in difficult times.
“Once we had the positive case, once one team couldn’t race because of that, clearly we had a problem we needed to address.”
Published at Sat, 14 Mar 2020 13:47:14 +0000
Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott will discuss the possibility of rescheduling the race for later in the year with Formula 1 following its cancellation.
Officials from the FIA, F1 and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation called off the race on Friday just two hours before the planned start of practice, after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the F1 paddock on Thursday evening.
A member of the McLaren team tested positive after showing symptoms, and has been placed into a two-week quarantine with 14 further team members who had been in close contact with the individual.
F1 is monitoring the viability of upcoming races, but the season could now start as late as June, followed by a significant rescheduling of the calendar.
Asked if the Australian Grand Prix had been scrapped completely for 2020, AGPC CEO Westacott said the announcement of the cancellation had been deliberately worded to avoid confusing fans.
“It’s important to say that we used the word cancellation because of the immediacy of the timing of it,” said Westacott.
“It was important to make sure the fans who were here in Melbourne, some of the fans who were at the gate, knew that it wasn’t a postponement or didn’t get the impression it was a postponement for some period of hours or days or something.
“The word cancellation was used deliberately here.”
Westacott (above left) said talks with F1 would follow at a later date over a potential new date for the race.
“I’ve learned in the world of Formula 1 that you never say never,” Westacott said.
“We clearly had been working on the here and now with Chase Carey and the FIA and Formula 1.
“We’ll work through matters, but we haven’t started to think about future staging or anything like that.
“It’s clearly a normal topic of discussion that will happen in the fullness of time.”
But Westacott conceded the AGPC would not be able to leave up the structures put in place for the grand prix around Albert Park, with the area required to return to its usual usability.
“We can’t leave it here for months. One of the things we respect here is there are sporting activities here,” he said.
“We recognise that one of the privileges we have is to occupy a beautiful park in the CBD of Melbourne, so we want to minimise the impact of the build and the dismantle.
“Clearly this changes the way we dismantle the circuit and return it back, but we can’t be leaving it here for days and weeks.
“We would expect to be dismantling and removing the infrastructure and returning it back to the sporting clubs of Albert Park and Melbourne.”
Published at Sat, 14 Mar 2020 12:10:45 +0000