In Brief

‘Cash is king’: Lewis Hamilton shocked that the F1 Australian GP is going ahead

Melbourne race is in doubt after McLaren withdraw

“Cash is king”. That was Lewis Hamilton’s blunt reply when the Formula 1 world champion was asked why the Australian Grand Prix was still going ahead despite global concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. 

Ahead of Sunday’s season-opening race in Melbourne it’s reported by the BBC that team members from Haas and McLaren are in self-isolation after being tested for coronavirus. 

It was then confirmed on Thursday that the McLaren official had tested positive for the virus and the team had withdrawn from the race. 

Speaking before the McLaren announcement, Mercedes driver Hamilton did not hold back when asked for his thoughts on the race taking place. 

At a packed media conference, the Briton said: “I am really very, very surprised that we’re here. I don’t think it’s great that we have races but it really is shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.

“It seems that the rest of the world is already reacting a little bit late, but you have seen this morning with [President Donald] Trump shutting down the border to Europe to the [United] States, the NBA suspended, yet Formula 1 continues to go on. 

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

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McLaren withdraw - will the GP be off?

McLaren announced on Thursday that they had withdrawn from the Australian GP after a member of their team tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement the Woking team said: “McLaren Racing has confirmed this evening in Melbourne that it has withdrawn from the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, following the positive test of a team member for the coronavirus.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.”

F1 said in a tweet: “Following the outcome of the test on a member the McLaren team, F1 and FIA have been in close contact with them on their decision and have been coordinating with all relevant authorities on next steps. Our priority is the safety of the fans, teams and all personnel at the race.”

According to the BBC and Sky Sports the season-opening grand prix will be called off.  

Coronavirus impact on sport events: what’s postponed, cancelled or being played behind closed doors?

Vettel: drivers would ‘pull handbrake’ 

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was also in the press conference this morning and the German said that if the situation gets worse F1’s drivers would stand up and make a “big decision” if needed. 

“I hope others would agree, and we hope it doesn’t get that far, but if it were to get that far then for sure you pull the handbrake,” said Vettel. 

“I think we are a group of 20 guys and I think we’ve got together over the last years for various circumstances on various topics, and I think we share common opinion on big decisions. 

“I would qualify it is a very, very big decision and ultimately, as I said before, you look at yourself. And we would, I think, be mature enough to look after ourselves and pull the handbrake in that case.”

13,000 sign petition 

More than 13,000 people have signed a petition to get the Australian GP cancelled.

Titled “Ban the Melbourne Grand Prix - don’t bring Coronavirus to Melbourne!” the petition says: “The Victorian Government are not taking their duty of care seriously in regards to the Coronavirus and the Grand Prix. 

“They are allowing the Grand Prix to go ahead despite two of the major race teams coming over from their home base in Modena, Italy.  

“Both Ferrari and AlphaTauri teams, as well as the tyre supplier Pirelli are based within a few short kms from the epicentre of the coronavirus in Italy. They will be travelling with over 100 team staff and crew each as well as any supporters.”

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