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Australian GP under threat as McLaren pull out after positive coronavirus test | Sport


McLaren has withdrawn from the Australian Grand Prix after one of its team members tested positive for the coronavirus putting the opening race of the season into doubt.

The team issued a statement on Thursday evening in Melbourne stating that the decision was made with the intent of insuring the safety of everyone involved, including fans and the entire F1 paddock.

Lewis Hamilton had earlier heaped pressure on race organisers, claiming they were putting lives at danger with 300,000 fans expected through the gates of Albert Park over the next few days.

A few hours later McLaren confirmed that a member of their team had tested positive for coronavirus. The individual was one of eight F1 personnel who were tested for coronavirus on Wednesday but the only one confirmed to have the virus. The other seven results, including four team members from Haas who had shown symptoms, all returned negative. One further individual not linked to any team was being tested as of Thursday night Australian time.

McLaren’s statement read: “McLaren Racing has confirmed this evening in Melbourne that it has withdrawn from the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, following the positive test of a team member for the coronavirus. The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities.

“The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine. The team is cooperating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.

“Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, and Andreas Seidl, team principal of McLaren F1, informed Formula 1 and the FIA of the decision this evening. The decision has been taken based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners, but also to the team’s competitors, Formula 1 fans and wider F1 stakeholders.”

Earlier in the day, Hamilton said he worried about the fans who would be arriving at Melbourne Park. “I am really very, very surprised that we are here,” he said. “I think it’s really shocking that we are all sitting in this room. There are so many fans here today and it seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a little bit late, but we have already seen this morning that [US president Donald] Trump has shut down the borders with Europe to the States and you are seeing the NBA being suspended, yet Formula One continues to go on.

“It’s a concern I think for the people here – it’s quite a big circus that’s come here and it’s definitely concerning for me.”

Before the test results had returned the deputy chief health officer of Victoria, Annaliese van Diemen had stated if any were to return positive results, their close contacts would be placed into “immediate quarantine”. This would have had a huge impact on the ability of any team to function.

The chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, meanwhile, had told Melbourne radio station 3AW, “If [the tests] turn up positive, we need to consider what it means for their close contacts and if they have a number of close contacts across a number of crews, then those individuals need to be quarantined,” Sutton told Melbourne radio station 3AW. “If that effectively shuts down the race, then so be it. We’ll make that call.”

In the end, F1 took the decision themselves. The postponement of the opening race of the season has major repercussions for the sport going forward. Next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, which was already set to be staged behind closed doors, now looks unlikely to take place, particularly with F1 personnel in quarantine, while the inaugural race in Vietnam, scheduled for 5 April, is also under major threat. Following the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix, the season could now start in the Netherlands on 3 May, but that is also subject to change.

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