In Depth

‘FIAsco’: F1 slammed for handling of Australian Grand Prix cancellation

Confusion reigned on a dramatic day for Formula 1 fans and media

It did not come as a surprise that the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the timing of last night’s announcement left fans and media angry at race organisers. 

Yesterday morning at around 11.30am (GMT) McLaren confirmed they had withdrawn from the 2020 season-opening race after one of their team tested positive for coronavirus.

However, confusion then reigned for the next 12 hours as to whether the Australian GP would go ahead, be cancelled or take place behind closed doors at Albert Park. 

Conflicting reports and speculation dominated the Twitter trends as fans searched for information about the race down under.   

But finally, at 11pm last night, it was confirmed that the first race of the season would be called off. The announcement came just two hours before the scheduled start of first practice. 

A statement issued by F1, governing body the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) said: “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. 

“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.”

F1 managing director Ross Brawn defended the handling of the cancellation and said: “We had so many issues to work through. We had to get the teams together again and hold a meeting. It all takes time. 

“It’s not a total autocracy, as in we just can’t make a decision. We have so many factors to take into account. I think we did a pretty good job of reaching the right conclusion with so many stakeholders involved.”

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‘Greed of F1’

The decision to cancel was obviously the correct one in terms of public health and safety, but the hours of limbo between the two announcements added chaos to an already busy start to the season. 

Describing it as “one of the most chaotic days in a very long time”, Planet F1 reports on a dramatic chain of events that led to the race being cancelled. 

GPFans called it a “farcical situation” and the website’s Sam Hall slammed F1 owners Liberty Media by saying the Australian GP nightmare “highlights the greed of F1”. 

Hall wrote: “Formula One has always been a sport for the rich and the elite, but the money involved now is too vast, too gargantuan and it needs to be reigned in. Not only the money being spent by teams, but also the fees charged by Liberty Media. 

“This embarrassment will haunt both F1 and Liberty Media for years to come and has shown that those running the show value money over anything, including the health and well being of both those within and outside of the paddock. A disgrace that will take time to recover from.”

Coronavirus impact on sport: which events are cancelled, postponed or being played behind closed doors?

End of May start for 2020 season?

Last month it was announced that the Chinese Grand Prix in April would be postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Today, F1 has also confirmed that next week’s race in Bahrain and the inaugural grand prix in Vietnam have been postponed. 

A statement said: “As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the [2020] championship in Europe at the end of May but given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”

Chase Carey, Formula 1 chairman and CEO, added: “The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and its right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions. 

“We are taking this decision with the FIA and our promoters to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Formula 1 and our fans. 

“The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule, and we look forward to being back there as soon as we can. 

“We are also looking forward to Vietnam’s inaugural race and bringing the spectacle of F1 to one of the most exciting cities in the world.”

Twitter reactions to the Aus GP cancellation 

How fans and pundits reacted on Twitter to a crazy day in F1 history…

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