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'We've been robbed': fans' anger at last-minute Formula One cancellation | Sport

There was a mixture of anger and disappointment from fans outside Albert Park after discovering at the last minute the Australian Grand Prix had been cancelled.

The FIA and race organisers waited until the morning of the first free practice session in Melbourne to announce their decision to call off the first grand prix of the season due to fears over the coronavirus.

Staff at the circuit had been told to turn up to work on Friday morning and fans arrived expecting to see some racing, only to be barred from entering the site. They were left standing outside locked gates and, without any official announcement for hours, wondering what was going on.

Many fans who had arrived in Melbourne from interstate, having spent thousands of dollars to get there for the weekend, were left disgruntled over the handling of the situation.

“Every year I have been to Melbourne since 2008,” said Shane Hyland from Newcastle, New South Wales, who was sporting a Lewis Hamilton baseball cap and Mercedes top. “In all fairness it should have been called off a lot earlier. I am out of pocket about three grand or more and now I have to get an early flight home.

“The way we were told at the gate was terrible, there was no information, we had to find out on an app on my phone. We stood there for an hour and a half until a guy walked past in a Ferrari shirt and he said, ‘the event’s cancelled guys’.

“They should have cancelled it more than a week ago, as soon as they knew the extent the coronavirus was spreading, they should have said, ‘look, Melbourne is off’. I will probably get the ticket price back, I was told, and that is about it. It’s a tough weekend.

“It’s like F1 arrived, they set up but secretly they thought if this goes the way we think it is going we are out of here. A lot of people are saying we have been robbed.”

Gayna Darling, from Sydney, a longtime fan of F1 who was hoping to add to the three times she had seen the Singapore GP with her first race in Melbourne, said she was “absolutely gutted” to miss out.

“We are gutted they cancelled it at the last minute. They should have made the decision earlier. We had a flight, hotels… we made it as far as the corner before the gate and then it was done.

“It has cost around two grand but we will stay and amuse ourselves in a bar. They should either have cancelled it early or carried on.”

The decision to call off the race was made public at 9am local time, following a crisis meeting with teams and an update from the Victorian government’s chief health officer.

“I want to express our disappointment on behalf of the fans,” the F1 chief executive Chase Carey said. “We are sorry not to have it. [But] in many ways this is an unprecedented situation. I have never lived through anything like this.

“You have to digest [information] and make the decision you think is right and I think we did here.”

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