“Cash is king,” reigning Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton told Motorsport.com in Australia, hours before the entire McLaren team dropped out of the opening race of the season, with nobody quite sure why the race is still going on. “But honestly I don’t know. I can’t really add much.”
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2020 12:22 p.m. Autosport is reporting that the Australian GP is set to be canceled today following a meeting of team bosses. FIA will accept any decision the majority of teams come to and that most teams do not want the race to go forward. No official decision has been made yet, and we will update this story when we know more.
The big news today is that McLaren dropped out of the Aussie GP after a member tested positive for coronavirus, as Motorsport reports:
The McLaren team member was one of five F1 team personnel who had been tested for coronavirus over the Melbourne weekend.
Four members of the Haas team, believed to be one engineer and three mechanics, were also tested for coronavirus after displaying symptoms.
Haas confirmed on Thursday night that all four of its team members had returned negative results from the tests.
Let’s look at Hamilton’s words again, speaking not long before his former team dropped out:
“I am very, very surprised that we are here,” said Hamilton, when asked by Motorsport.com if he was comfortable with being at the grand prix.
“I think it’s great that we have races, but for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.
“So many fans here already today and it seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a little bit late, but already this morning we’ve seen [Donald] Trump shutting down the borders from Europe to the States. We are seeing the NBA being suspended, and F1 continues to go on.
“I saw Jackie Stewart this morning, looking fit and healthy and well, and some people as I walked into the paddock, some elderly individuals. So it’s a concern for the people here. It’s definitely concerning for me. So no is your answer.”
Hobby driver Kimi Raikkonen echoed these words today as the Aussie GP banned autograph signing and selfies, per Motorsport:
“It’s nothing to do with us, that it’s like this,” Raikkonen said. “I don’t know if it’s the right thing that we are here. Probably not.”
“I heard there are some people getting ill in the paddock, nobody knows what the story is on that. It’s not just for us, it’s also for [the fans].
“We’ll see how things work out.”
This all comes a few days after the FIA, F1's governing body, told the press it has a “crisis cell” for monitoring The Virus as Autosport reported on the 6th:
The FIA said: “An FIA Crisis Cell has been established and convenes every second day to consider the latest developments around the world.
“The FIA continues to closely monitor the situation and its implications, together with its Member Clubs and Promoters, and follows the advice of relevant authorities including Governments and the World Health Organization.
F1's managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn said earlier this week that the sport could not simply stop because of the coronavirus.
“I think the key thing is to try and maintain the sport in the safest possible way,” he said. “We can’t take unnecessary risks, but we can’t just shut down completely.”
Most of the response from F1 thus far has been focused on whether or not a travel ban would keep a team from being able to compete.
At least the Bahrain GP later this month will run with no fans being allowed entry. Race as normal, empty stands.
Australian Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott was asked if he’d follow suit, as Autosport reported at the time. “Not a chance,” he said, just three days ago.