The teams are already in Melbourne and the Formula 1 season opener was ready to open the gates to fans, but Australian GP organisers, Formula 1 and the FIA have agreed at the last minute to cancel the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes after McLaren publicly withdrew from the race following the positive test of a team member for the coronavirus. A further 14 staff have entered a two-week quarantine after coming into close contact with the positive case. Autosport reports that a majority of teams were unhappy to continue with the event and just three teams were willing to race. Below is the official statement from the organisers.

“At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

“In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately.

“Last night a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. A further seven individuals returned negative results, confirming that they do not have the Covid-19 virus. Additionally, a ninth individual has been assessed and tested for the Covid-19 virus, with the results of this test pending. This individual is not associated with any Formula 1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers.

“Our first priority is the safety of everyone including attendees, our personnel, all event partners and members of the local community. Further information regarding refunds for ticket holders will be communicated in due course.”

Even before that statement was released, champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team publicly called on organisers to scrap the race.

“The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has today sent a letter to the FIA and F1 requesting the cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix.

“We share the disappointment of the sport’s fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned. However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority.

“In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event.

“We empathise strongly with the worsening situation in Europe, most especially in Italy, and furthermore we do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control. Our team will therefore begin pack-up preparations at the circuit this morning,” the statement read.

According to Autosport, there was some confusion before the 11am local time confirmation of the first outright race cancellation since Bahrain 2011. Apparently, race organisers said they were pushing on with the event even while several drivers were reported to have already headed to the airport. Later, it was announced that fans would not be allowed entry to the circuit should the race weekend continue, after gates were due to open to the public.

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