F1 managing director Ross Brawn says the sport is between a rock and a hard place amid the coronavirus outbreak, insisting the sport can neither take “unnecessary risk” nor shut down completely.
The ramping COVID-19 crisis which took root in China earlier this year has so far led to the infection of over 100,000 people around the world and almost 3,500 deaths.
Many countries have implemented travel restrictions and canceled public and sporting events. Formula E has postponed its Rome E-Prix in Italy, a country hit heavily by the coronavirus epidemic, while F1 was forced to temporarily scrap the Chinese GP from its calendar.
The evolving situation has led to a veritable logistics nightmare for F1 for its first three races of the 2020 season taking place in Australian, Bahrain and Vietnam.
Yet, everyone is heading Down Under to Melbourne for the curtain-raiser event, but challenges and threats remain according to Brawn.
“We are all facing the challenge of the coronavirus,” explained Brawn, speaking earlier this week at an F1 sponsorship event at Silvestone.
“I think the key thing is to try and maintain the sport in the safest possible way. We can’t take unnecessary risks, but we can’t just shut down completely.
“I mean if the whole economy shut down completely, that would have a much more serious impact than the coronavirus. But the coronavirus is a very serious threat, so we have to take the necessary reactions.”
Brawn said that Formula 1 was actively monitoring the situation with the sport’s teams, the race organizers and with local government authorities. But circumstances remain fluid.
“For every country we’re working with the local health authorities to decide what are the appropriate actions to take,” he added.
“All the teams for instance are minimising the amount of staff that travel. So we’re taking every sensible precaution we can, and we have to follow the advice of the health authority.
“At the moment, the first three races are going ahead. But this is a situation that is changing day by day. So we have to react and we have to respond accordingly.”
Meanwhile, the FIA announced on Friday the creation of a special coronavirus “crisis cell” to deal with the impact of the outbreak.
Professor Gérard Saillant, the President of the FIA Medical Commission, gave a detailed presentation on the development of the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.
“An FIA Crisis Cell has been established and convenes every second day to consider the latest developments around the world,” read a statement from the FIA.
“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.
“The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming competitions and take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public, including the postponement of competitions where necessary.”