The organiser of the Australian Grand Prix says that he is still hoping to hold the race at some point this this year, although he admits that the chances are looking increasingly slim.
“In F1 you never say never,” insisted Australian GP Corporation CEO Andrew Westcott. “We will work though matters. We haven’t started thinking about future staging or anything like that, but it will happen in the fullness of time.”
The race weekend was abandoned first thing on Friday morning, even as fans lined up at the gates. The announcement stated that the race had been ‘cancelled’, but Westcott said that as far as he was concerned the possibility was still open that it could be rescheduled later in the year.
“It’s important we used the word cancellation [on Friday} because of the imminency of the timing of it,” Westcott explained.
“It was important to make sure that the fans in Melbourne at the gate knew that it wasn’t a postponement for some period of hours or days,” he added. “The word cancellation was used deliberately.
“We will work those through with the commercial rights holder in the days and weeks following this announcement,” he added. “We will be making sure that appropriate contractual measures are looked after in that manner. There are going to be a lot of things.”
Even so, the chances of staging the race later in the year seem remote because of the work involved in resetting the temporary street circuit in Melbourne’s Albert Park.
While F1 hopes to reschedule races later in the year on ‘off’ weekends or by making use of the sport’s summer break in August, these spots are likely to go to races closer to home that are under threat.
Despite F1 stating that racing would not resume until ‘the end of May’, organisers of the Dutch Grand Prix say that as far as they know the race at Zandvoort was still on.
“We haven’t received any official announcement yet,” the event’s sporting director Jan Lammers told Motorsport.com. “F1 and the FIA haven’t said ‘The Dutch GP has been cancelled for the initial date of May 3.’
“An official message is still pending,” he insisted. “Of course, no one would be surprised if there will be more clarity soon, and if the Dutch GP is rescheduled eventually.
“But there is no point in going through all kinds of scenarios yet. We are waiting for clarity from F1 and the FIA before communicating anything.”
It certainly seems that Zandvoort is top of the to-list when it comes to finding a new date for it to go ahead in 2020.
“Personally, I think we are pretty high on F1’s priority list as well,” Lammers agreed. “But again, formally we didn’t receive a clear message yet.
“We want to understand everything ourselves before we can and will communicate anything. I hope fans will understand this and keep their enthusiasm for a couple of months.
It’s been suggested that F1 could condense events into a two-day programme in order to pack everything in. Lammers said he understood the suggestion and would go along with whatever the sport concluded was for the best in the circumstances.
“Apparently they are considering it,” he said. “I am happy to leave that statement to them. But in Zandvoort, that doesn’t seem like the best option to me.
“If other races have almost no fans attending Friday practices, then it sounds like a decent plan. But for Zandvoort that wouldn’t be the ideal scenario.
“If Zandvoort is characterised by anything it is by our ‘Super Friday’ and by the fact we are sold out for every single day. You will hardly find anything like that at other Grands Prix.”
With a national emergency coming into effect in Spain this weekend, it leaves Monaco on the bubble as to whether it will go ahead as planned or whether racing will now not resume in Baku on June 7.
But already there are doubts that even this prognosis might be too optimistic.
Azerbaijan has already joined nations around the world in suspending all major sporting events for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
And sports news source Azerisport has reported that high-level talks are already underway between the promoters and F1 management about potentially delaying the street race in Baku if necessary.
“It wouldn’t work at Ferrari for him. They are Italians. He would have to really learn the language so he’d know what they were saying behind his back, for a start,” adding that in his view that the team was currently infatuated with Charles Leclerc.
“They fall in love with a driver there and it is hard for the other guy,” he said. “Ferrari favoured Leclerc 100 per cent [in 2019].
“The problem with all the Italians, they don’t want a fight, don’t want an argument with anyone,” he elaborated.
“Instead of saying to someone who is doing a bad job, ‘Sort yourself out or I’ll sort you out — please yourself, but I want results,’ they say, ‘Let’s have dinner so we can talk about it. Be friends’.”
Ecclestone queried whether current Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was the right person to address that side of Ferrari culture.
“He’s an engineer,” Ecclestone explained. “They need someone in there who can make people understand that when you say something it happens – not maybe, or a discussion.
“I would have got Flavio Briatore to run Ferrari. Flavio would do what he always did with Benetton and Renault: he’d steal the best people from other teams.
“The problem is that in the end Flavio would have let people think Ferrari belonged to him!” Ecclestone added.
While there is no doubt that Mercedes have got the best out of Hamilton in recent title-winning seasons, Ecclestone was also critical about the way that principal Toto Wolff managed the relationship with his star driver.
“Mercedes try to rein him in a bit, I’d give him total freedom,” he proposed. “I’d just tell him what time the next race starts and say be there for then. Apart from that he could do whatever he wants.
“I’d cut his pay and let him do his own sponsorship, anything,” he added. “He is looking for what he’s going to do when he stops racing. Fashion, music, all that.
“There is no need for him to worry about winning one more championship than Schumacher,” Ecclestone continued. “If he wants to stop racing, he should not carry on just for that reason. He should carry on because he wants to drive.
“I think Lewis is not sure of himself in general and that extends to his driving,” Ecclestone added. “When he wants to know what sort of time his team-mate is doing or what’s happening with the Ferrari guys, he’s not terribly confident.”
Asked to rate Hamilton in the all-time pantheon of F1 greats, Ecclestone said he would probably put the Briton “top four or five” but said be believed that Alain Prost was still the greatest of all time, followed by Nelson Piquet, Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.
“Lewis has the best equipment and best team, the best everything,” said Ecclestone. “It is hard to say this guy is better than so and so.”
Ecclestone wasn’t in Melbourne this weekend for the aborted season opener, and says he has no interest in running the sport again.
“Times change,” he acknowledged. “I’ll be 90 if I hang on a bit longer. I used to go around the world seeing which young ladies I could pull – well, if I could pull them now it’s not going to be much help, is it!”
Formula 1 CEO executive Chase Carey responded to Lewis Hamilton’s remark which suggested that F1 had travelled to Australia amid a global pandemic because “cash was king” for the sport.
In a press conference conducted in Melbourne on Thursday, as a cloud of uncertainty set in over the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton admitted to being “shocked and surprised” by F1’s decision to push ahead with the race despite the global coronavirus crisis.
With many countries implementing protection measures, travel restrictions and cancelling sporting events, many expected F1 to follow a commonsense approach, similar to Formula E, and pull the plug on the opening races of the 2020 season well before the F1 community headed Down Under.
Hamilton reasoned that the sport had gone ahead with its initial plans for financial reason.
“Cash is king, but honestly I don’t know,” said the Mercedes driver. “I can’t really add much. I don’t feel like I should shy away from the fact of my opinion.”
On Friday morning, after the Australian Grand Prix was officially cancelled, Carey faced the media in the paddock and was asked to a respond to the Briton’s dig.
“I guess if cash was king, we wouldn’t have made the decision we did today,” said F1’s boss.
One could perhaps consider Carey’s reply as disingenuous given the fact that the majority of the teams had decided to call it a day on Friday morning, leaving F1, the FIA and Australian Grand Prix organizers with no other choice but to shut down the event.
Furthermore, had the race gone ahead as scheduled, it could have represented a health hazard for the F1 community and fans, and potentially led to massive liabilities for the sport and the organizer.
“I’ve sort of addressed it in many different ways, so I can keep saying the same thing,” added Carey.
“The situation today is different than it was two days ago, it is different than it was four days ago.
“Trying to look out and make those sorts of predictions when you know it’s changing this quick, it’s challenging.
“We’re a global sport,” he added. “We’re not just dealing with a single country issue; we’re dealing with an array of complexities.
“I do think we were trying to digest a lot of different information to make the right decision at the right time, and I think we did that.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says a total lockdown of the F1 paddock in Melbourne was among the options considered by F1 and organizers to enable the Australian GP to run its course.
After a McLaren team member tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, the Woking-based outfit withdrew from the season-opening event, a decision that set in motion a series meetings that ultimately led to the race’s cancellation.
Red Bull was among those teams willing to race, or at least to run on Friday, as F1 chief Ross Brawn suggested, and then continue the race weekend if no additional team members tested positive for the COVID-19 disease.
Team bosses convened at the Crowne Hotel in Melbourne along with Brawn to debate the merits of keeping the race weekend alive and cast a vote on the issue.
Haas and Williams abstained, and the initial tally was split down the middle, with Mercedes, Red Bull, AlphaTauri and Racing Point in favour of going racing, and Brawn handed the responsibility of making the final call and ending the gridlock.
But during the night, a phone call from Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff incited the latter to switch camps, thus awarding a majority to those in favour of calling it a day.
While frustrated by the turn of events, Horner recognized that the subsequent cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix was the only reasonable course of action in light of the health and safety risks linked to the maintaining the event.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” Horner said. “The situation globally is changing hour-by-hour and day-by-day.
“When we arrived in Australia the intention was to go racing but unfortunately following the positive test of a person within the paddock the decision was made to cancel the event.
“Ultimately the safety and wellbeing of staff, the fans and the paddock is hugely important.”
McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl has remained in Australia to uphold the morale of team members stranded in quarantine in Melbourne.
A McLaren employee tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday and the case led to the Woking-based outfit’s withdrawal from the Australian Grand Prix, a decision that set in motion the event’s cancellation on Friday morning.
As a matter of precaution, McLaren subsequently place 14 additional team members in isolation in Melbourne.
The remainder of the team has flown back to the UK but all personnel which made the trip Down Under has been advised to remain at home and restricted from returning to the McLaren Technology Center for a period of 15 days.
But Seidl, acting as the true leader he is, isn’t leaving his team members behind on their own in Australia.
“I sorted out the team all night and for the moment I stay with my employees in Melbourne – just to support them,” Seidl told F1-Insider.
Along with McLaren Racing chief Zak Brown, Seidl made the call to pull the team out of the Australian Grand Prix, insisting he had no other choice as the health and safety of his employees was paramount.
“I had to act immediately and decided to withdraw the team from the race,” added Seidl.
“My decision was fully supported by the team owners. There was no other option for me. In such a case, the safety of my employees is my top priority.”
All the tyres shipped to Australia in time for the 2020 Australian Grand Prix are to be destroyed, following the short-notice cancellation of the event on Friday due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Even though none of the tyres had actually been used on track in Melbourne, F1’a rules and safety procedures require that all the compounds delivered to Albert Park in time for the aborted race must now be scrapped.
Races held outside Europe see the freighting of the wheel rims handled by the teams, with Pirelli mounting the tyres on arrival at the destination. Once that’s done there’s no going back.
“When we strip a tyre from the rim, we give a stress to the bead,” Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola told Motorsport.com in Melbourne.
“We are not confident about fitting the tyre again, because of the level of forces acting on these tyres is huge.
“The only problem is for tyres that are already fitted, because in that case those tyres are going to be stripped.
“We finished mounting the tyres on Thursday afternoon, and then we had to dismount everything,” he said. “We don’t want to take any risk.”
It amounts to 1800 tyres in total that will now need to be dispensed with once they are shipped back to the UK.
The write-off of the entire Australian tyre consignment is the biggest ‘wastage’ of tyres that the sport has seen. But even for a normal dry flyaway race weekend, over 500 sets of wet and intermediate compound tyres routinely end up being scrapped.
Closer to home, unused tyres from European races can be transported by road without being removed from their rims, meaning that they can still be stored and used for subsequent events.
“For the European events we can carry them over,” Isola confirmed. “If we don’t use them we keep them fitted, and we load our trucks with tyres and rims.”
Isola said in light of this week’s development, Pirelli would now work with the FIA and the teams to find better ways of transporting tyres to and from flyaway races that will avoid this weekend’s issue arising again.
Fortunately the tyres already in Bahrain and Vietnam for the now-postponed races in both countries can be kept in storage until more is known about how the season will be adjusted to cope with the coronavirus situation.
“It’s not a problem. We use sea freight for most of the tyres, and they are in thermal controlled containers. It’s like having them in a warehouse, it doesn’t make any difference for them. “If there is any change in the calendar, we can use them.”
In the meantime, the destruction of the tyres isn’t a total waste as they will end up being made into fuel to power an Oxfordshire cement factory.
“We crush the tyres in order to fit them in fewer containers, and send them back to the UK where we recycle them in a cement factory close to Didcot,” Isola explained.
“We burn them at high temperature, and we create energy, but not pollution,” he continued. “We are investigating many possible ways for recycling F1 tyres, but at the moment this is the way we recycle them after all our analysis.”
McLaren boss Andreas Seidl’s popularity among F1i’s discerning readers shot up big time this weekend, and it did so for all the right reasons.
While the F1 community heads back to base following the jumbled cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, one man has stayed behind to help carry the burden of some of the crews his commands, exemplifying the values of leadership.
As a wise measure of precaution, McLaren has quarantined in Melbourne 15 members of its staff, including the employee who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, and whose condition led to Seidl and Zak Brown’s bold decision to withdraw McLaren from the Aussie GP and to the events that would force upon F1 the cancellation of the season-opening race.
The group will remain in self-isolation for 15 days, but its morale and spirit boosted by Seidl’s unwavering support and presence.
The German’s distinguished track record in motorsport as a disciplined and scrupulous team manager – highlighted by the outstanding success of Porsche’s LMP1 squad in the WEC – is well chronicled.
But Seidl’s qualities as a supportive team leader, mindful of the well-being of his troops, are just as remarkable.
This wasn’t lost on F1 fans and our readers in particular who sanctioned the short story we did on the McLaren F1 boss’ decision to remain with his men in Australia with a deluge of ‘likes’, re-tweets and comments on Twitter, some of which we have posted here-under.
The actions of the remarkable Mr. Seidl remind us that there is no ‘I’ in the word team. And that no McLaren man is ever left behind.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is just one of a number of established motor racing stars taking refuge in the virtual world of Esports following the shutdown of racing around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled on Friday at the last minute, with the season not expected to resume until the end of May at the earliest.
It’s left drivers literally twiddling their thumbs in the meantime – and now they’re planning on putting their unexpected spare time to good use by taking part in an All Star Esports battle online racing event on Sunday.
As well as Verstappen, the field includes Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud and fellow IndyCar drivers Colton Herta and Felix Rosenquist, after the US open wheel series was also placed on hiatus until May.
Juan Pablo Montoya will also be taking part, as will his son Sebastian – himself a rising star in the world of motorsport.
Formula E stars Antonio Felix DaCosta, Max Gunther and Andre Lotterer have also signed up, as has leading WEC driver Neel Jani and British F3 talent Billy Monger. Mercedes’ inaugural F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh is another name on the all-star roster.
The race is scheduled to take place on Sunday from 1pm GMT and will be live streamed on YouTube for free, with commentary from BBC Formula E and F1 esports commentator Jack Nicholls.
The event has been put together by Torque Esports in partnership with leading race simulation software rFactor 2, using the Formula ISI 2012 package. Which Grand Prix track layout will be featured remains a top secret – but it definitely won’t be the Albert Park Circuit the F1 drivers had been expecting.
“We got wind that Australia wouldn’t be going on, we guessed that the IndyCar race might be canned, and we already knew that the Formula E races were done,” Torque Esports CEO Darren Cox told Reuters.
“We started on Thursday morning to put together a plan,” he continued. “In 48 hours we’ve turned around what was nothing into something that looks like one of the races of the year,”
“We thought some of the real drivers would fancy a go but the reaction has been absolutely massive. It’s snowballed really.”
It’s not the only virtual motor race taking place this weekend in lieu of cancelled events. Lando Norris will also be in action online, in an event dubbed “Not the Aus GP”.
Even before the formal cancellation of the real world Grand Prix, Norris had already been pulled out of the Melbourne race after one of the McLaren team personnel tested positive for coronavirus. Now he’ll get another chance to go racing this weekend.
“Racing in Australia but not actually in Australia,” the 20-year-old said on Twitter. Like Verstappen, Norris is a passionate regular gamer, so he will be immediately up to speed for the replacement event that will pit him against a field of top gamers.
The event has been organised by Veloce Esports, and will be live on Twitch.TV and YouTube from 5.45pm GMT on Sunday afternoon.
Ferrari has confirmed that it is shutting down all operations in Italy with immediate effect until at least March 29 because of the worldwide spread of coronavirus.
As well as the F1 operation in Maranello, the shut-down also includes facilities at Modena and the production of its range of top-of-the-line road cars.
The company said that up to now it had been working to continue production, but that it was proving impossible to maintain its supply line chains to enable operations to keep going.
Premium brakes maker Brembo said on Friday it was also temporarily closing its four Italian plants next week. Tyre manufacturer Pirelli has also announced a cut in production at its Settimo Torinese plant near Turin, after a worker there tested positive for the coronavirus.
Fiat Chrysler and industrial vehicle maker CNH Industrial had already announced a temporary halt to operations and slowed the rate of production at their Italian plants in compliance with with the Italian national government’s anti-coronavirus measures.
However all non-manufacturing activity will continue at Ferrari, with staff expected to be “leveraging the opportunities provided by smart working” for the duration.
“At a time like this my gratitude goes first and foremost to Ferrari’s women and men,” commented Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri. “Their tremendous commitment over the past few days has demonstrated the passion and dedication that defines our marque.
“Together with our suppliers they have ensured the company’s production,” he continued. “It is out of our respect for them, for their peace of mind and those of their families, that we have decided on this course of action.
“Our clients and fans are also top of mind for us at this time, as we prepare for a strong restart.”
Ferrari said that the shut-down followed “a number of rigorous preventative measures already implemented by the company to guarantee the highest health standards.”
A source told Reuters said the company will adopt further measures including sanitisation of key areas around the facilities. The source added that there had been no positive coronavirus cases among Ferrari’s workers so far.
Ferrari workers will continue to receive their full salary during the temporary shutdown, and will not have to use their regular holiday allowance to cover their time away from the office.
Racing Point F1 owner Lawrence Stroll is set to boost his stake in Aston Martin, but the move comes on the back of another collapse this week of the luxury automaker’s share price.
In January, Stroll and a consortium of investors stepped in to provide Aston Martin with an influx of capital of £182m in exchange for a 16.7 per cent holding in the beleaguered company.
The group also agreed to provide Aston with a short-term loan of £55.5m. Overall, Aston Martin was expected to raise a total of £500m from investors through a rights issue to help it revive its fortunes.
However, the company’s dwindling stock price of late, impacted by the potential economic fallout linked to the global coronavirus pandemic, has forced Aston to scrap the original terms of the bailout plan led by Stroll.
Aston warned that the pandemic has already “impacted customer demand in China and Asia-Pacific region and has potential to do the same in other markets”.
The new agreement, announced on Friday evening, will see Aston Martin Lagonda raise £536m, rather than £500m, with the Stroll consortium injecting £171m – instead of £182m – in exchange for a 25 per cent stake rather than its initial 16.7 percent planned holding.
Furthermore, Stroll’s short-term loan to Aston has been raised to £75.5m to allow the struggling business to cope with its financial obligations until the rights issue is closed at the end of the month.
Dutch and Spanish Grands Prix organisers are keeping communication channels wide open with Formula 1 and the FIA following the cancellation of the first three races of the season.
After the Australian Grand Prix was scrapped at the 11th hour on Friday, F1 and its governing body pulled the plug on Bahrain and the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix.
While the decisions came as no surprise given the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the official statement released by F1 and the FIA stipulated that the 2020 F1 season was now set to start “at the end of May”.
The timeframe implies a de facto adjournment or cancellation of the Zandvoort and Barcelona races, scheduled respectively for May 3 and May 10.
“Based on reports from Formula One Management and FIA, we are in joint consultation with them about the possible consequences for the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix,” said the Dutch race officials on Friday.
“These are not yet fully known, but in the event of possible postponement, all tickets will remain valid. As soon as more news is known, we will share it with all parties involved.”
However, Dutch GP boss Jan Lammers admitted to being surprised by the presence of the words “end of May” in F1’s official statement, and isn’t dismissing a “typo”, although such an error seems quite improbable.
“At the moment it is still difficult to say much about it because conflicting messages are still being released,” the former F1 driver told Dutch website GPBlog.
“I don’t know what the reason is, it will be miscommunication or a typo. When there is clarity about the statement, we have something we can talk about.
“At the moment there is no clarity yet because FIA and FOM contradict each other in their reporting. Only when that is clear can we say more and provide more information. We are also full of questions ourselves.”
The Circuit de Catalunya had announced earlier in the day the cancellation of all events scheduled at the venue in April, while it continued to monitor the situation linked to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will continue monitoring the evolution of the pandemic, staying in permanent contact with the different bodies and health authorities in order to continue implementing the applicable measures and recommendations, ensuring the health and safety of our visitors,” read the statement from Barcelona.
“We are sorry for the inconveniences that these changes may have caused, and we offer our apologies to all fans and customers that have been affected by these extraordinary measures.”
The NTT IndyCar Series has succumbed to the inevitable and joined the list of sporting championships around the world to suspend competition as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.
The US open-wheel series was due to start its new season this weekend with the Firestone grand Prix of St Petersburg in Florida.
But concerns over COVID-19 meant that organisers had already been forced to condense the race weekend schedule, and to hold the event behind closed doors in front of empty grandstands as a TV-event only.
However on Friday, officials for the series went even further, and announced that the race would not go ahead at all, and that all races for the next month and a half would also be cancelled.
“After careful consideration, including regular communication with our event promoters, health officials, and the city administrations in our respective race markets regarding COVID-19, we have made the decision to cancel all NTT IndyCar Series events through April,” a statement from the series said.
“This begins with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg which was to begin today and run through Sunday, March 15.
“[It] continues through the AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas which was to take place April 24-26.”
As well as the St Pete event, the races affected include the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park as well as the popular race at COTA, a venue shared with F1. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in California scheduled for April 19 had already been cancelled due to growing health concerns.
It means that the series still now start the 2020 season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,with the GMR Grand Prix road race on May 9.
That will be followed by the series’ marquee event, the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. That’s the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix is scheduled to take place, if F1 is able to resume its own season by then.
The statement from the organisers added: “Although we are disappointed to delay the start to this IndyCar season and will miss our incredible fans who support us each year in St. Petersburg, Birmingham, Long Beach, and Austin, the safety of our fans, participants, staff, partners, and media will always remain our top priority.
“We will continue to coordinate with public health experts and government officials as we determine the appropriate plans for resuming our schedule.”
It’s a big blow for Roger Penske, who as well as running the preeminent Team Penske Squad also became the owner of the IndyCar Series as a whole, and of IMS itself.
In addition, stock car series NASCAR has also announced the postponement of forthcoming events events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, both of which had been expected to run without fans in attendance.
“We believe this decision is in the best interest of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, officials and everyone associated with our sport,” NASCAR said in a statement.
“We will continue to monitor this dynamic situation as we assess future race events,” NASCAR added.
It means the next scheduled top-level NASCAR Cup race will be on March 29 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“It is a great race with great fans and a wonderful weekend. We have a big impact on the economy here and it has an impact on our economy as well.
“Formula 1 has to function, we have to make it work so we looked at the whole situation and when we decided to go, we looked at the different dynamics.
“Probably what has surprised everyone is the rapid expansion of this problem,” he admitted. “The escalation of new cases, certainly in countries like Italy, where it’s gone almost vertical. No one could have expected that.”
Brawn said that he had been in constant communication with senior figures in the sport about the progression of coronavirus, including consulting Ferrari’s team principal about the situation in Italy.
“I have spoken to Mattia Binotto many times in the last few weeks. His mood changed in the last five or seven days, from what he was seeing in Italy.
“We were on this ship that sailed and we were optimistic we could get through it, that we could get Formula 1 started and just bring a bit of relief in difficult times.”
However that all changed when one of the McLaren track personnel working at the track tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, forcing the team to unilaterally withdraw from the event.
“Once we had the positive case, once one team couldn’t race because of that, clearly we had a problem we needed to address,” Brawn concurred. “Having one case with 14 people having to go into isolation, that effectively knocked that team out of operation.
“We had mapped out with the health authorities what would happen if we had one case, five case, ten cases,” Brawn continued. “But what you never know with those cases is what the association is with the people around.
“If that one case had been someone with a different profile, different responsibility, it might not have impacted a team that much. There are certain things you can spend forever predicting and you’ll never know what is going to happen.
“In reality, we found the case, the person who was positive in the paddock. That is the credit to the authorities. They were identified, they were tested, the procedures worked.
“There was consultation with the teams, the medical authorities, the FIA and the promoters here,” he said. “It’s not a total autocracy as in we just can’t make a decision.
“I’ve been up all night. We had so many issues to work through. We had to get the teams together again and hold a meeting. It all takes time,” he stated. “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.
“We’re talking to the FIA, which is in Europe on a Europe timezone, and we had to speak to Jean Todt,” he added. “It was a pretty stressful period. Considering we dealt with everything in 12 hours – for something that important – was good.”
For his part, Carey agreed that his team on the ground had performed well in the crisis. He himself had been out of contact at the crucial period as he was flying into Melbourne following meetings in Vietnam about the maiden Grand Prix there which has now also been indefinitely postponed.
“I think we’ve made the right decisions, I think we worked well with our partners,” Carey said. “I think we’re all disappointed to not have [the race], but these are challenging times and I think we’ve made the decisions we have to make.
“It was a joint decision between the FIA, our Australian partners, ourselves, and certainly input from the teams. As would be expected, there were a range of views,” he added
“We were dealing with things real time in a very difficult challenging situation. Were there differing views and differing opinions? Yes. I think that’s what everybody tried to wrestle through.
“But I think we got to the right place, and I think we all agree we got to the right decision.”
The FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships have made the expected announcement that their opening races of 2020 scheduled to take place next week at the Bahrain International Circuit have been officially postponed.
The decision was taken as part of a wave of announcements across the world of sport in response to the growing spread of coronavirus.
The confirmation comes just hours after Formula 1 called off this week’s Australian Grand Prix at the last minute and postponed next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The two championships run as support events at Grand Prix weekends. The announcement said that the decision had been reached “conjointly with the FIA and F1”.
“We’re sorry we have to postpone our opening round,” stated F2 and F3 CEO Bruno Michel on Friday. “But of course the safety of everyone in our paddock and the fans has to come first.”
He said that the two championships hoped to reschedule the races for later in the season. The teams had recently spent three days at the venue at the start of March for pre-season testing.
“We conducted our pre-season tests at Sakhir and we’re looking forward to racing there as soon as possible,” commented Michel. “We will communicate a revised 2020 F2 and F3 calendar at a later date.”
Currently the next race on the F2 calendar is scheduled for May 1-3 at Zandvoort, followed by rounds at Barcelona (May 8-10) and Monaco (May 21-23).
But with the FIA and Formula 1 suggesting that the Grand Prix season won’t get underway until “the end of May”, the likelihood is that some or all of these races also face postponement or cancellation.
That means racing might not resume until Baku on June 5-7. However it’s still hoped that the other races might be rescheduled for later in the year.
Meanwhile the ABB FIA Formula E championship has put its racing schedule on ice for a two month period, meaning no racing will take place in Paris, Seoul or Jakarta this year.
The series hopes to resume competition in Germany on June 21, followed by rounds in New York and London.
In the United States, the NTT IndyCar Series is due to hold its season opener at this weekend at St Petersburg. However organisers have been forced to condense the schedule and hold the race behind closed doors.
The Long Beach race planned for April 19 has already been cancelled, but other events in the open-wheel championship are currently still planning to go ahead.
The cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix will have major financial repercussions for Formula 1, just one of the many reasons why the decision to call off this weekend’s race proved so difficult to reach.
Races in Bahrain and Vietnam are also expected to be formally cancelled in the next few hours, adding to the earlier postponement of the China GP. Races in may at Spain and Monaco are also believed to be in doubt.
If a national or regional government calls off the race – as happened in China – then the organiser doesn’t have to pay the large hosting fee for holding the race. But if the decision is made by the promoters then they are liable for the full sum, as well as for refunding ticket sales.
“We are going to work through with the fans on the refunds applicable to their ticketing arrangements,” said Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.
“We’re reaching out and we’re saddened for the fans,” he told Autosport magazine. “Not only is it the fans, but there’s the element of sadness and disappointment that we have for the 600 suppliers, the 12,000 staff that work the event on the weekend
“A cancellation of this nature has a lot of consequences. Some of those are contractual, and some financial.
In the case of Australia the decision was jointly reached by the FIA, the organiser and Formula 1 management, making it unclear who will pay for what – and how much the F1 teams will also lose out.
“The cancellation has many consequences, including financial ones,” said AGPC’s Paul Little. “There are many things to clear up with Formula 1.
”Australia pays Liberty about $35 million,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor Und Sport. “If they fail, the total is missing in the pot. This is also partly on the heads of the teams.”
The comments were expanded upon by Haas f1 team manager Guenther Steiner.
“At Grand Prix that pay more than $25 million, we lose money,” Steiner explained. “Below that, the loss is offset by the savings of not driving.”
The teams have already lost potential revenue from the postponement of the China race and now face more losses from losing events at Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam.
“We assume that the pot from which it [prize revenue] is distributed will turn out smaller,” confirmed Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer.
“The teams survive on their funding from racing,” acknowledged F1 head of motorsport Ross Brawn. “This will have an impact on team budgets for the future and it will have an impact on our economics as a company,” he said.
“Each race you lose has an impact,” he added. “[But] we are used to a fair degree of cutting our costs to suit, so there is resilience in the sport and we have plans to rebuild the season, try to accommodate as many of the lost races as possible.”
One of the question marks hanging over this weekend’s decision not to hold the Australian Grand Prix is whether it’s technically a postponement or an outright cancellation.
China is officially currently listed as ‘postponed’, but on Friday the race in Melbourne was unequivocally stated as being a ‘cancellation’.
“We officially used the word cancellation to clarify,” confirmed a spokesperson for the Melbourne event. “With the word postponed, some fans would have thought it might only be moved by a few hours.”
But in his comments to the media on Friday, Formula 1 chief executive Chase Carey suggested that it was more accurate to think of the event as being delayed rather than cancelled.
“We are trying to help the Australians to hold this wonderful race at a different time,” he stated.
However unlike China, the Australian Grand Prix is not held at a fixed racing facility but on a temporary street circuit constructed in Melbourne’s Albert Park, which has to be dismantled after the race it finished. That makes it hard to ramp up the preparations again later in the year.
“We cannot leave the infrastructure forever. We will dismantle them first and then advise whether the race can take place at a later date. ”
Monaco faces the same problem. It takes around six weeks to ready the streets about the city for the historic Grand Prix every year.
While preparations in the principality are ongoing, it’s now more than possible that this race too will fall foul of the global impact of coronavirus.
The lead time means that a decision will be needed by early April. But for F1 to lose the undoubted jewel in its crown would be a huge blow to the sport in its 70th season.
The coronavirus outbreak could force Formula 1 to push back its reforms of racing and technical regulations by a full season, according to speculation in the paddock in Melbourne this weekend.
The cancellation or postponement of the Australian and Chinese Grand Prix, and the expected decision to similarly drop Bahrain and Vietnam together with question marks over May’s races in Europe in the Netherlands, Spain and Monaco is forcing F1 management to rethink the whole season.
“I don’t think anyone has experienced [a situation] this in their lives,” F1 head or motorsport Ross Brawn told the official F1 website. “I’ve been through financial crisis, dramas – and the scale of this at the moment is massive.
“We are taking stock of the situation now and what we have learned from this weekend,” he said. “We have to be realistic about when that can start again, which is what we’re working on at the moment.
“We have plans to rebuild the season and try and accommodate as many of the lost races as we can,” he added. “I think people have to show some tolerance now in terms of how we build the season, for the rest of the year.”
It is now seems likely that the season won’t be able to get underway until Azerbaijan at the start of June at the earliest. The season would then run continuously, with postponed races rescheduled through the summer when the sport would normally be taking its traditional month-long hiatus in August.
“By freeing up the August break we give ourselves several weekends when we could have a race,” Brawn told Sky Sports F1. “I think we can build a pretty decent calendar for the rest of the year, but it will look different.
“Maybe we take a hiatus, we take a pause,” he suggested. “We use that opportunity to say ‘right, for this time at the beginning of the year we won’t have any races. We’ll look at relocating those races later in the year.”
But in the meantime, the suspension of racing could require teams to effectively shut down operations for the next two months, partly due to teams agreeing a voluntary isolation for all staff who have been in Melbourne until at least March 29.
Team personnel for Ferrari and AlphaTauri returning to Italy will now be subject to the country’s tough travel ban for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile there’s also the matter of a complete lack of any track time, which will deprive teams of the real world data required to develop upgrade packages.
“The work will only start again on Monday, May 30th,” commented Alfa Romeo team manager Beat Zehnder, who told Auto Motor Und Sport that there was only so much work the team could do on its current cars with the season in stasis.
“In this case we would shut down the factory completely for two weeks in April,” added Racing Point team manager Andy Stevenson. “The same program that we normally go through in August.”
Packing in rescheduled races into the latter half of the season would also give teams no time to develop their new cars for 2021 when new sporting and technical regulations are being introduced, including 18-inch wheels.
“If necessary the [current] season could be even extended to 2021,” Auto Motor Und Sport reporter Toby Gruner suggested on Twitter. “Next-generation F1 cars might be postponed to 2022 in that case.”
Alas, the Australian Grand Prix was scrapped, but the class of 2020 still lent their new helmets to the event’s traditional Thursday photo shoot.
So here they are, all in one place.
It’s a colorful array, with Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘street art’ motif a definitive stand out.
Valtteri Bottas had the luxury of submitting two lids to the selection: his familiar regular design that he’ ll use at most rounds this year, and a special Aussie GP “Save the Koalas” design that may never be worn unfortunately.
The Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races have officially been put on hold, following the cancellation earlier today of the 2020 season opener in Australia.
“Due to the continued global spread of COVID-19 and after ongoing discussions with the FIA, and race organisers a decision has been taken by all parties to postpone the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Vietnam Grand Prix due to take place on March 20-22 and April 3-5 respectively,” said a post on the official F1 Twitter feed.
“Following the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation this week and the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, Formula 1, the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern,” a formal statement elaborated.
The latest decision to postpone the next two races comes as no surprise, with both countries having introduced tough new travel restrictions for people arriving from overseas to tackle the spreading coronavirus pandemic. April’s Chinese Grand Prix was formally postponed last month, while Bahrain had already stated it would run behind closed doors as a TV-only event.
Team members who were present this weekend in Melbourne have already agreed to a voluntary period of self-isolation once they return to their home country, lasting until March 29. Around 14 members of the McLaren track staff will remain behind in quarantine in Melbourne after one of the team personnel tested positive for coronavirus.
As for when the season is likely to actually get underway, there is now doubt over the Dutch and Spanish races, and even the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
“Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the Championship in Europe at the end of May,” the statement noted. “But given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”
That could mean the start of the season might have to wait until Baku. However the latest announcement did not confirm that anything had been officially decided at this point beyond the fate of the Bahrain and Vietnam races.
While it’s still hoped that postponed races can be rescheduled for later in the year, the logistical problem of planning for long-haul races means that some of the postponed events will inevitably result in de facto cancellations.
“Formula 1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam and the local authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve,’ the official statement from F1 noted.
“The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule,”added F1 chairman Chase Carey. “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.”
Holding races on temporary street circuits such as Melbourne and Monaco is another complicating factor in rescheduling events.
Lewis Hamilton has fully endorsed the decision to cancel this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix at the 11th hour.
In the days leading up to the event, the reigning world champion had spoken out about the decision to go ahead with the race, saying it was ‘shocking’ that it hadn’t been postponed earlier
But once the FIA, Formula 1, race organisers and local promoters finally pulled the plug early on Friday morning, Hamilton was one of the first to speak up in support of the cancellation.
“Sadly, this the right decision,” the Mercedes driver posted on social media. “No one wants this, we all want to get in our cars and get racing, but we have to be realistic and we must put health and safety first.
Other drivers in Melbourne also took to social media to voice their support for the decision to abandon the 2020 season opener.
“All I want to do is race, but safety and health comes first,” said Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas. “Hope to be racing soon again! Stay safe everyone.”
“We’ll have to wait a bit longer to get back in the car,” added Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. “I was really looking forward to get back behind the wheel but this is the best decision, the health of everyone is the priority. Stay safe everyone.”
“We were all looking forward to the start of the 2020 season,” echoed Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on Twitter. “Of course I’m disappointed, but we all understand that in the end this was the right decision. Feeling sorry for all the fans and everyone involved. Stay safe.”
“Stay safe everyone, and let’s hope this whole COVID-19 situation gets better soon,” contributed Pierre Gasly. “Shame we can’t race here in Australia, but keeping everybody health & safety is priority. Was really looking forward to start the season, but we will have to wait. Lets hope for better news soon.”
“Can’t remember ever being more excited for a race weekend than this one but cancelling was absolutely the right call,” said Williams’ George Russell. “Everybody’s safety has to come first. Stay safe people.”
And there was particular sadness for the Renault drivers, with the cancellation of this weekend’s Grand Prix meaning that Esteban Ocon’s return to the grid after a year’s enforced sabbatical had been indefinitely delayed.
“Will have to wait some more days to get officially back racing,” he wrote. “Of course, very disappointed but this is the best decision for us drivers, teams and fans. Hopefully the whole situation will get better soon. Stay safe.”
And for Daniel Ricciardo, losing the chance to race before his fans at his home race was a major disappointment – although he too fully supported the decision.
“I’m devastated I can’t compete at my home GP here in Melbourne & get the season started,” he posted.
“Ultimately though the right decision has been made & I think everyone can understand this is something we’ve never seen before. Sorry to all fans who came out for the support. Much love.”
The immediate future for Formula 1 remains unclear. Although the Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled to go ahead next weekend behind closed doors, this now seems impossible with multiple members of the McLaren track staff now in quarantine in Melbourne or set to go go into self-isolation back in the UK.
Discussions are ongoing as to whether the season can start before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June, and what the longer-term consequences of the situation will prove to be for F1 and the world of motorsport.
“The decision, made in coordination with the relevant local authorities to temporarily freeze races held in highly-populated cities, was taken as the most responsible course of action, due to the continued spread of coronavirus and the World Health Organization officially declaring COVID-19 a pandemic,” read a statement published on the Formula E website.
“With the well-being of staff, spectators and the entire championship workforce being the number one priority, precautionary measures put in place will restrict races from running during a set timeframe.
“The series is implementing a flag system traditionally used in motorsport, to determine different phases and time windows where races could be rearranged or remain unaffected. Red representing no races, yellow keeping the opportunity open and green going ahead as planned.
“Months marked as red flags are March and April, with May currently categorized as a yellow flag and both June and July given the green flag, should the situation improve and stabilize.
“As a consequence of the suspension, it will no longer be possible to race in Paris and Seoul, or Jakarta as previously announced on the originally scheduled dates.
“Working in collaboration with the FIA and local authorities in each event location, Formula E will closely monitor the situation and evaluate options to organize and reschedule races following the temporary suspension.”
Formula E founder and chairman Alejandro Agag said:
“Right now is the time to take responsible actions and this is why we have decided to temporarily suspend the season and move forward with introducing measures to freeze races from taking place over the next two months
“Motorsport plays a major part in our lives and it is important, but what is more important is the health and safety of our staff, fans and their families, as well as citizens in the cities we race.
“The ABB FIA Formula E Championship will be back in full force, once the ongoing health crisis and spread of COVID- 19 has subsided.”
IndyCar has cancelled general admission for the series’ 2020 opening round scheduled to take place at St. Petersburg on Sunday as the US contends with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was given the all clear earlier this week, but city mayor Rick Kriseman admitted the rampant COVID-19 crisis had since compelled him to revise his outlook on the race.
“The World Health Organization has since called this a global pandemic,” Kriseman told the tampa Bay Times.
“My most important job is public safety and health. It is for that reason that we are cancelling general attendance at the (Grand Prix).
“We are working with the promoters and IndyCar and will have more announcements later as to whether the race itself will run.
“I don’t make this decision lightly. I strongly believe life must carry on, as best we are able. But the reality now is that’s just not possible.
“I am disappointed. I love this race. But I love this city and our residents more.”
In Florida, Miami-Dade County has put a temporary ban on mass gatherings, a decision that has forced NASCAR to run its its March 22 race at an empty oval at Homestead.
Also, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring has been postponed until November by the WEC due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver took the un precedented decision to suspend the league’s 2019-20 season until further notice, a move that has logically put pressure on sporting event organizers nationwide to act equally responsibly.
“The Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), organiser of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique (May 8-10, 2020) and Grand Prix Formula 1 (May 21-24, 2020), is fully aware of the spread of the Covid-19 and the worrying situation that this generates,” the ACM stated.
“These are the reasons why the ACM is in permanent contact with the Monegasque Governmental Authorities, the sports and commercial entities of Fl, the Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA) and the Formula One Group (FOG).
“Preparations for the build-up of the circuit have just started with the first structures being installed in the coming days.
“The ACM is ready to take all of the necessary precautions and will continue to comply with all measures as recommended by the official health authorities.
“We will also continue to update you as the situation develops.
“Based on the latest information provided to the ACM, both the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the Grand Prix Formula 1 2020 are currently expected to take place on the dates as originally planned.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc says the Scuderia’s rivals who have protested its confidential agreement with the FIA on its 2019 power unit must implicitly trust F1’s governing body.
The FIA and its president Jean Todt have come under heavy criticism from seven F1 teams which have threatened legal action against the institution if it does not fully disclose the content of its secret agreement sealed with Ferrari.
The crux of the matter relates to the FIA’s investigation into the legality of the fuel flow system exploited by Ferrari in the second half of the 2019 season and the governing body’s inability to assess whether the device breached or not the technical rules.
Given the complexity of the issue, the FIA struck a deal with the House of Maranello, the precise terms of which are unknown, which in turn has led the seven protesting teams to question the official body’s transparency and integrity.
Predictably, Leclerc backed his team’s settlement with the FIA and its confidential nature.
“They should also trust the FIA for doing their work and I think it is completely understandable that they don’t explain absolutely everything,” Leclerc said on Thursday in Melbourne.
“There is a lot of work also for us on all the parts. So, if you make all of this public you will make all the work a team has done public and for me that is understandable.
“I fully trust my team, that is for sure, and I trust the FIA for making sure everything was okay so for me it is done, and I look to the future.”
Ferrari heads into this weekend’s season opening race after a disappointing performance of its new SF1000 in pre-season testing.
While the Scuderia’s controversial predecessor was fast as a bullet on the straights, the new car hasn’t displayed anywhere near the same velocity potential, a short fall Leclerc explains by the amount of downforce add to its 2020 design.
“We added downforce on the car which as a result lost speed in the straight but that is what we expected,” explained Leclerc.
“Now time will tell whether we did it too much or not but for sure we are going quite quicker around the corners, especially in Barcelona, so I think this is the main reason.”
The Australian Grand Prix is reportedly set to be cancelled after a majority of teams said they were uncomfortable with the event going ahead after a McLaren team member tested positive for the coronavirus.
F1 teams gathered late on Thursday at Albert Park to assess the fluid situation on the back of McLaren’s decision to withdraw from the race, with discussions also including F1, the FIA, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and representatives from the state of Victoria’s Department of Health and Human services.
The Formula 1 community is basking in mixed feelings in Melbourne. On the one hand there’s an excitement to go racing after the winter break and on the other there are doubts about the usefulness of it all given the global coronavirus outbreak.
For now, the show must go on so here’s our first batch of pictures from Albert Park.
Formula E is reportedly set to suspend its current 2019/20 season for a period of two months due to the global onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a report from Motorsport.com, the all-electric series, which has already postponed its Sanya and Jakarta rounds, will also bypass its Paris and Seoul races that were scheduled for April 18 and May 3 respectively.
An official announcement is expected after this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel says he trusts Formula 1 and the FIA’s decision to press ahead with this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix amid the coronavirus crisis, but the Ferrari driver also admitted it was “fair to question” the call.
A day after the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 disease a global pandemic, criticism has ramped up against F1 and Australian authorities for not calling off the sport’s opening round of the 2020 season.
Speaking during Thursday’s FIA presser in Melbourne, Lewis Hamilton admitted to being “shocked” and “very surprised” by F1’s decision to go ahead with this weekend’s event.
Vettel acknowledged that it was a difficult call but insisted that he ultimately trusted F1 and the FIA’s judgement.
“Of course, you realise that a lot of sport competitions, big events get postponed and cancelled,” he said. “Like Lewis said it’s fair to question why you’re here.
“Obviously, we have to trust the FIA and FOM [and] to take precaution as much as I can. But I think the answer that nobody can give you at the moment is how much you can control what’s going on.
“So as a matter of fact, we are here so I think you just try to take care as much as you can.”
“My stand on it is that it’s very difficult at the moment to really categorise and say it is great.
“I don’t know if serious or not serious, but that’s why I think you have to ultimately put yourself into other people’s hands and trust them.
“I think we all did getting down here. The flights weren’t cancelled, we were all allowed to travel, so we trusted whoever we flew with.”
Later in the day, the German driver said that if a growing number of staff members fell ill or were quarantined, he was hopeful drivers would “pul the handbrake” on this weekend’s event.
“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 and that.
“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.”
Local hero Daniel Ricciardo also accepted to put his fate in the hands of the sport’s governing body.
“Honestly from my side I have to put my trust in the FIA,” said the Renault driver.
“And also, I think, we may all have opinions, but at the end of the day I’m here to compete and race cars. I’m not really much more than that in this situation.
“There are people who are spending more time investing in it than I am, I’m kind of just following guidelines. I came here knowing we were going to compete.
“So to be honest, I don’t want to say selfishly, but I just got my head down and focused on the race.
“I’ve been training and preparing, obviously getting a bunch of e-mails with guidelines and this and that. But I honestly haven’t spent too much time digging into details.
“It’s kind of left to the others for now. So it’s mixed. But the racer in me is happy that I’m here for sure.”
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen believed that if the decision to travel to Australia had rested only with the teams, then F1 likely wouldn’t be in Melbourne.
“I don’t know if it’s the right thing that we are here. Probably not,” said the Finn.
“But it’s not up to us, it’s not our decision. I think if it would be purely all the teams’ decision we probably wouldn’t be here.”
As part of its coronavirus risk-management procedures, Australian Grand Prix organizers have banned fans from soliciting autographs and selfies from the drivers.
A big favorite of the fans, Raikkonen backed the move which is a necessary precautionary measure.
“It’s just a part of all this situation,” he said. “I try to minimise the risk for everybody, it’s not just for us but also for the fans.
“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].
Christian Horner believes that the gap between the ‘Big Three’ teams at the top of F1 and the rest of the midfield squads is closing fast, meaning Red Bull has to be wary of being caught by the likes of McLaren and Renault.
Racing Point is another team that has shown significant improvement over the off-season, as have AlphaTauri. Even Williams is a quantum step ahead of where it was in 2019, although they still seem destined to be near the back again this season.
“I think it is inevitable that the grid will concertina a little bit, which is healthy for Formula 1,” said the Red Bull team principal. “I think the gap has [narrowed].
“That happens with continuous regulations,” he explained. “When you have stability, the designs converge and some of those converge closer than others.”
That could be taken as a swipe against Racing Point, whose ‘Pink Merc’ contender for this season bears a striking resemblance to last year’s title-winning Mercedes W10.
But Horner insisted that his team was still firmly focussed forward, looking to those ahead of it in the constructors championship.
“The most important thing for us is to converge that gap with Mercedes,” he confirmed. “That is our target, as they are the absolute benchmark.”
Horner was feeling positive about Red Bull’s prospects following the two three-day pre-season test sessions held last month at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“We’ve done a lot, considering each driver only got three days in the car going into the first Grand Prix,” Horner said.
“It is very little time, but we’ve managed to cram a lot into that time and been productive.
Although Mercedes topped the overall timesheets, Red Bull was close behind while Ferrari was strangely off the pace – although many pundits expect a degree of ‘sandbagging’ by the Scuderia to disguise their true potential until the first race of the season this weekend in Australia.
Even more encouragingly, the Silver Arrows suffered a number of engine-related glitches. That leaves Horner hopeful that his team’s power units supplied by Honda could prove to be the class of the field this year.
“Compared to 12 months ago our mileage is up significantly,” Horner explained. “It feels we are better prepared going into the season ahead than we were 12 months ago.
“The relationship between ourselves and Honda is more mature,” he said, one year on from Red Bull’s changeover from Renault to Honda power units.
“There has been continuity over the winter with those regs, so I think we are in reasonable shape.”
Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner has insisted that the squad won’t make the same sort of mistakes that plagued its 2019 campaign.
Having made its debut on the grid in 2016, the American team peaked in fifth place in the 2018 constructors championship, only to slump to ninth at the end of last year following a series of problems with the VF-19.
But Steiner said that Haas had learned valuable lessons from the experience and had adjusted its approach for 2020 as a result.
“I’m taking things on board,” he told the media this week. “We are not going to make mistakes like last season.
“We are working a little bit different,” he continued. “There can still be mistakes, but I think if I would say we didn’t learn our lesson and be stupid like last year that wouldn’t make me feel great.
“We learned our lesson. We are humble, and we’ll try to be like two years ago again. Let’s speak about two years ago.”
Steiner was happy that his drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were making “the right noises” about this year’s car.
“Obviously a driver is never happy, and especially if you think what happened to us last year,” he acknowledged. “We were very happy with it, then it is ended up not to be good!
“Everybody’s very cautious. We are very cautious in our prediction for this season,” he noted. “We don’t want to be, ‘It’s all good, it’s all good’ and then fall hard.
“We do a diligent job and try to do the best and see where it takes us,” he said, adding that last season’s slump might even work in the team’s favour when it comes to the this year’s campaign.
“We are a little bit of a dark horse because we play it different,” he pointed out. “We change around a lot of things. Normally here there is a pattern in it, and we’re changing the pattern a little bit.”
The main fact to know about Pirelli ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix is that all teams will race in 2020 with the same tyres as last year, a first for the Italian company in F1.
Pirelli also brings to Melbourne the same compounds as in 2019: the hard C2, the medium C3 and the soft C4, a selection that worked very well last year at the fast Albert Park street circuit which is mainly about traction and braking.
“Tyre-wise, the drivers should be well-prepared for Melbourne, as they have exactly the same selection as last year, so there should be plenty of relevant data,” explained Mario Isola, Pirelli’s head of F1.
“Perhaps the only question mark concerns how these tyres perform on the 2020 cars, which have already proved to be a lot faster than their predecessors, but plenty of information about this was gathered at pre-season testing in Barcelona last month.
“In the recent past, Australia has been a one-stop race for most drivers, and for now there’s no reason to think why it should be different this year, which marks the start to the end of an era: the final season of 13-inch tyres in Formula 1.”
But a new title sponsor, together with the introduction of a budget cap in 2021 that should help bring spiralling costs under control, could help Abiteboul win the argument to keep Renault on the grid.
“I think it helps and it’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com in Melbourne on Wednesday, ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
“It is something we said over the winter, and everything is pointing towards a good direction,” he added.
“I can’t confirm here now, simply based on the partnerships, that we are long term committed. But it’s definitely helping a lot.”
However he admitted that the situation was far from resolved, and that Renault could still pull the plug despite investing heavily in building up facilities at the team’s headquarters at Enstone.
“Until things are done, things are not done. There is still discussion,” he acknowledged on Wednesday, stressing that much depended on the new rules and regulations for F1 that will come into effect in 2021.
“Sorry, we’re going back to Formula 1 politics,” he continued. “But discussions are going on on Concorde, and until Concorde is signed, it is not signed.
“We still have a number of controversies to address,” he added. Asked to identify the key factors of the new agreement, Abiteboul said: “Better money distribution, and good financial regulations.
“There is also the economic environment, which is a challenging one, and everything like that is going in the right direction.”
The team also hopes that its new partnership with DK World will help it meet its ambitious climate change targets.
“After the ambitions expressed by Formula 1 to become fully carbon neutral by 2030, we are constantly evaluating ways to reduce our carbon footprint and our turnaround time,” the team said.
“We expect that working with DP World will reveal opportunities for tangible solutions to some of the logistical challenges faced by our F1 team’s supply chain”.
Mercedes has been forced to make changes to the rear brake ducts of its new W11 contender ahead of this weekend’s season opener, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The changes were made after the FIA issued a new technical directive following a complaint from Red Bull, which questioned the legality of their rivals’ braking system.
Red Bull’s engineers felt that the Mercedes rear brake vents did not comply with Article 11.5 of Formula 1’s technical regulations relating to how far air ducts around the rear brakes are allowed to protrude within the existing rules.
Details of the new technical directive circulated to teams this week have not been publicly released.
However, according to Auto Motor Und Sport, as a result Mercedes was left with no choice but to make changes to their car in order to comply with the new requirements.
It’s not the only potential headache for Mercedes this weekend. The innovative but controversial new Dual Axis Steering system – which allows drivers to change the toe-angle of the front wheels by pulling the steering wheel toward them or pushing it away – is also likely to be a point of contention.
“From our perspective the system does not comply with the rules,” Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko told the German publication this week.
“Our lawyers are checking whether the DAS system is legal,” he added. “We will protest when Mercedes uses the system in Melbourne.”
Mercedes isn’t the only team facing official protests this weekend, with Renault also said to be planning an immediate complaint to the stewards about the design of this years Racing Point RP20, which closely resembles last year’s Mercedes.
Meanwhile Mercedes itself is concerned about the reliability of its new 2020 power unit after the squad and its customer teams suffered a number of engine-related problems during last month’s pre-season testing.
The issues had different causes, with cooling problems with the MGU-H in the first week of testing and bearing failures in the second.
However the latest word from the team is that they have investigated the causes behind these glitches and believed them to have been satisfactorily resolved.
“We managed to get through most of our programme as planned at the winter tests,” said team principal Toto Wolff. “However, we faced some reliability issues that we needed to resolve.
“We’re glad that we encountered these issues in testing rather than at a race weekend as we could work on fixing them without any penalties.”
FIA president Jean Todt has robustly defended his decision to reach a ‘secret deal’ with Ferrari over the legality of the team’s 2019 power unit.
The governing body revealed at the end of February that it had “reached a settlement” with the team over issues surrounding the fuel-flow rate in last year’s Ferrari engines used by the works team, Alfa Romeo and Haas.
But rival teams were upset that the details have been kept confidential, and that there has been no public confirmation that Ferrari actually broke the rules. A letter from all seven non-Ferrari affiliated teams demanded more details and answers.
The teams raised a number of questions in a lengthy submission that gave Todt and Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey five days to respond, which they have now done.
“Three options were available,” Todt explained, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. “Closing the case, bringing the matter before the International Tribunal, or entering into a settlement.
“Such decisions fall to the president of the FIA, in accordance with the FIA judicial and disciplinary rules.
“The president informed and consulted with several other key FIA officials as well as the Formula 1 CEO with the objective of building a consensus on how best to address the case.
“He solicited and received recommendations from the FIA technical, legal and financial teams and also took advice from an external experienced attorney.”
For his part, Carey himself somewhat distanced himself from the decision, saying that neither he nor his colleagues at Liberty Media had played any part in the investigation. However he stated he was broadly in support of the FIA’s approach to the issue
A former Ferrari team principal during the Schumacher championship years, Todt agreed that the FIA was “not fully satisfied” that the Scuderia’s engine had been legal “at all times” last season.
But he said that the complexity of the systems involved had made it impossible to prove beyond doubt that Ferrari had transgressed the rules. He added that the terms of the settlement with Ferrari meant the FIA could not release further details with the team’s permission.
A new sealed fuel-flow sensor has been added to this year’s technical regulations in an attempt to ensure the same potential loophole cannot be exploited again in the future.
But that has done little to assuage the anger of the other teams in the paddock. The newspaper reports one anonymous team member as demanding: “If they can’t regulate the sport technically, is the FIA fit for purpose?”
Three Formula 1 team members are reported to be ‘self-isolating’ in Melbourne after being tested for coronavirus in Australia ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix.
According to Reuters, one member of the McLaren contingent and two from Haas were swabbed at Albert Park’s bespoke quarantine stations after displaying symptoms of having a fever, one of the early signs of having contracted COVID-19.
The results of the tests won’t be known for some hours, but F1 teams are taking no chances given how closely everyone works within the paddock during Grand prix weekends. Australia currently has 112 confirmed cases of the virus across the country.
As a result, the affected team personnel have returned to their hotel rooms where they will ‘self-isolate’ to ensure that there is no risk of passing anything on to their colleagues.
“Two members of team have been quarantined and remain in their hotel rooms. They displayed symptoms of a cold,” said a Haas spokesperson.
A representative of McLaren confirmed that “One team member has self-isolated in the hotel as a precaution, in line with our policy, after showing symptoms similar to Coronavirus.
“We expect to receive the results overnight. The team is operating as per our normal schedule,” the team added.
After the news broke, Renault pulled Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon from a team media event in order to safeguard the drivers from any potential exposure.
It’s not clear what the consequences of a positive test would be on this weekend’s event, after Formula 1 management said that they would be taking a scientific approach to the situation.
At the moment, the season opener is expected to run as planned before a full crowd of spectators estimated at around 100,000 people. However, the usual driver autograph sessions have been dropped in response to the situation.
“Autograph sessions will now be conducted as Q&A interview sessions,” said a brief statement issued by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. “Drivers will continue to utilise Melbourne Walk but will not be closely interacting with fans for selfies, autographs or other direct engagement.”
However the following race in Bahrain has already been restricted to ‘participants only’ which means it will go ahead as a ‘TV-only’ event behind closed doors with no one in the grandstands.
Next month’s Chinese Grand Prix has already been indefinitely postponed due to the risk of coronavirus, as have several upcoming MotoGP motorcycling events. Formula E has also been forced to cancel multiple races including e-Prix planned for Sanya, Rome and Jakarta.
In the wake of Italy’s national government putting the entire country under a travel ban until April 3, Australia has ramped up precautions at airports for those arriving from overseas.
No Italians will be permitted into the country under new rules introduced on Wednesday night. That won’t affect F1 as teram personnel from Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Pirelli had already arrived in Melbourne.
Renault unveiled in Melbourne on Wednesday the 2020 livery of its new R.S.20 as well as the French outfit’s title partner, logistics company DP World.
During pre-season testing in Barcelona, Renault ran its 2020 contender in an all-black livery, but the team’s car has reverted to a familiar matte black and gloss yellow scheme ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
Based in Dubai, DP World – a world leader in trade and a leading provider of smart logistics solutions – will see its name included in the team’s official appellation which becomes ‘Renault DP World F1 Team’ as from the 2020 season.
“We are delighted and honoured to welcome DP World to the Renault family,” said Renault Sports Racing chairman, Jérôme Stoll.
“This is an extremely interesting and exciting collaboration across multiple disciplines. We look forward to working with DP World, a leading global logistics provider, to explore ways of improving our efficiency and mitigating our environmental impact.
“After the ambitions expressed by Formula One to become fully carbon neutral by 2030, we are constantly evaluating ways to reduce our carbon footprint and our turnaround time.
“We expect that working with DP World will reveal opportunities for tangible solutions to some of the logistical challenges faced by our F1 team’s supply chain and by extension, the automotive industry at a larger scale.
“We also look forward to cross-fertilising our engineering skills through shared innovation.”
“As instructed by the governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan – and in consultation together with Formula E, the FIA, Ikatan Motor Indonesia (IMI) and the organising committee of the Jakarta E-Prix (OC) – it will no longer be possible to race in Jakarta on the scheduled date of June 6, 2020.
“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the escalating number of cases in Indonesia and Jakarta, the decision has been taken as the most responsible course of action, to protect the health and safety of championship participants, staff and spectators.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely with the relevant authorities and the organising committee of the Jakarta E-Prix, in order to assess the possibilities of rescheduling the race at a later date.”
Formula E is still in the process of re-scheduling its Italian and Chinese rounds, but so far no definite replacement dates or venues have been decided.
FE co-founder Alberto Longo revealed that the all-electric series, which typically races on street circuits, could stage replacement races on permanent tracks as part of its contingency plans.
“With the growing number of COVID-19 cases in countries where Formula E currently has events scheduled to be held, we are evaluating contingency plans to lessen the potential impact of coronavirus and maintain the highest possible number of races on the calendar for season six,” said Longo.
“It is a fluid situation, developing on a daily basis and we remain realistic and flexible in our approach to alternative options, which will be communicated in due course.
“These include adding double-headers to existing events, using permanent facilities and racing behind closed doors if necessary and advised to do so by local authorities in any given location.”
Ferrari and Red Bull have made identical tyre choices for next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix in terms of Pirelli’s softest compound, the pair taking a conservative approach compared to front-running rival Mercedes.
While Mercedes has stocked up on 7 sets of the soft C4 tyre, its main opponents have gone for just six sets of the red-walled rubber.
Ferrari and Red Bull are the only teams with the low C4 inventory while McLaren, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams have all chosen 8 sets of the soft tyre.
Furthermore, with regard to Pirelli’s medium tyre, choices are staggered among the top teams’ drivers, with Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Alex Albon set to received 5 sets of the yellow compound with their respective teammates taking on 4 sets of the C3 rubber.
Sky F1’s Martin Brundle would love to see Lewis Hamilton join the enemy in 2021 and move to Ferrari, although the former F1 driver isn’t holding his breath over such a prospect.
Hamilton heads into the final year of his current contract with Mercedes and all signs point to the six-time world champion extending his stay with the Silver Arrows outfit before sailing off into the sunset at the end of his F1 career.
Yet Brundle would love nothing more than for Hamilton to defy the odds and pass through the gates of Maranello at the end of the year.
“I hope he does go to Ferrari because that would be a great story,” Brundle told Standard Sport.
“To match Michael Schumacher and win a championship with three different teams, that would be impressive.”
Hamilton considers Mercedes as his extended family and one with whom he could also enjoy an appealing and lucrative after-life once he hangs up his helmet.
Furthermore, with Charles Leclerc locked down by the Scuderia until the end of 2024, only Sebastian Vettel’s departure would allow for Hamilton’s arrival, while a Leclerc-Hamilton line-up could also generate more than a few headaches for Ferrari’s management.
As enthusiastic as Brundle feels about a potential move to Italy for F1’s super star, the chances are slim.
“I asked him this question the other day and he said ‘I’ve got red in my crash helmet, red’s one of my favourite colours’ but he’s got his feet under the table at Mercedes,” admitted Brundle.
“They’re probably the best team, paying him a shedload of money and he can be a Mercedes ambassador for the rest of his days.
“You’ve got to think long and hard before you walk away from all of that really just to change the colour of your team.
“We’ll see what Ferrari do this year but, do they look like they’ve got the might of the current Mercedes team? I don’t know. W
“We don’t know where Mercedes are heading in the future so let’s wait and see.”
In 2018, Guenther Steiner, the team manager of US outfit Haas, suggested that there were no drivers currently in the US ready for a promotion to F1, a comment that sparked an angry reaction on the other side of the Atlantic, with the likes of Andretti calling Steiner’s stance “wrong and arrogant”.
Newgarden cut his teeth on European tracks during his early years in the sport, racing in British Formula Ford and in the then GP3 championship.
The Penske driver would have gladly remained in Europe and perhaps tried his hand at F1 had he not run out of funding.
“Yeah, definitely. When I was 17, I got to go to Europe,” he told the New York Times.
“I wanted to stay over there and try for Formula 1. I did really well, but then ran out of money after my second year.
“Formula 1 is very glitzy and glamorous, but if you’re not in a Ferrari or a Mercedes you might as well not show up. There’s zero chance you’re going to win the race. That’s demoralizing.”
Formula 1 announced on Tuesday a new long-term global sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabian energy group Aramco.
The deal will see Saudi Aramco become the sport’s sixth global partner alongside well-known sponsors DHL, Emirates, Heineken, Pirelli and Rolex.
In a statement released on its website, F1 said that Aramco selected motorsport’s premier category for its “dynamic appeal and growing global fan base”, while F1’s international platform will connect the giant oil and gas producer to “an engaged audience of 500 million fans and allow it to better communicate its success stories to the world”.
Anyone even remotely in tune with the world’s business affairs might be struck by F1’s partnership with a company that is also the world’s single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, or in other words, the world’s biggest polluter.
F1’s deal with the state-owned giant comes just a few months after it announced a comprehensive sustainability plan and green campaign that will lead to the sport having a net zero carbon footprint by 2030.
The era of fossil fuels is slowly but surely drifting away, but where some might see a counter-intuitive – if not destructive – commercial move by F1 in terlms of reputation, the sport’s chief executive Chase Carey sees an opportunity to profit from its partner’s “technological innovation” in the energy sector.
“We are delighted to welcome Aramco to the Formula 1 family as a long-term Global Partner as we start our 2020 season,” said Chase Carey.
“We are looking forward to sharing our combined expertise and working with Aramco on technological innovation and we will benefit hugely from its capabilities and expertise in the fuel and energy sector.”
Aramco’s presence in F1 clearly implies that a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is likely just around the corner.
“The start of a Formula 1 season is always a very exciting time,” said Abiteboul ahead of this week’s Aussie GP.
“After a good end to pre-season testing in Barcelona, we head to Australia with ambition but with a hint of caution given the relative unknown of the competition level of our rivals.
“The first race is the time everyone on the grid shows their true hand.
“We are as best prepared as we can be for the start of the year thanks to the hard work across Enstone and Viry over the winter months.
“These efforts were exemplified in pre-season testing with solid engine reliability and a performance level, which fitted with what we expected to see.
“Now we aim to see the benefits of our preparation come to fruition at a race weekend.”
Renault will rely once again on the outstanding talent of Daniel Ricciardo to help the team inch closer to the front-runners, while the equally gifted Esteban Ocon returns to the fray after a year on the sidelines.
“The car and driver line-up have great potential for a good season,” said Abiteboul.
“Daniel is highly motivated for 2020 and especially for his home race. Esteban too has a hunger in his eyes to prove why he deserves to be on the grid, and I believe this combination is the perfect recipe for success.
“As a team, we need a clean first weekend, everything to run as smooth as possible and then we will almost certainly reap the rewards from it.
“The season is going to be long and there will be some opportunities along the way, which we have to seize.
“Our objectives are set, we are well prepared and we’re looking forward to opening the season.”
Honda is pulling out the stops to fight for the championship this year, a determination that supports Max Verstappen’s target of securing a podium finish at every race in 2020.
Honda achieved a breakthrough last season with Red Bull Racing when it returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2006, courtesy of Verstappen’s triumphs in Austria, Germany and Brazil.
But the Japanese manufacturer’s ambitions, which match those of RBR and its star driver, is to help bring the title back to Milton Keynes, and its worked tirelessly over the winter to prepare for that objective fine tuning the performance of its power unit but more importantly, strengthening its reliability.
Speaking of “both teams” – Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri – Honda’s unchanged supply deals for 2020 has helped it maintain its focus on development.
“It gives us huge stability in terms of our team management,” added Yamamoto-san. “Everybody looked very, very positive in the garage during testing and quite confident, so we’re really looking forward to the season.
“Basically, we have kept the same structure internally this year because we just want to focus fully on the development.”
AlphaTauri is by no means considered to be of inferior importance to Honda, but Red Bull and Max Verstappen logically carry the biggest hopes of clinching the title.
“We are making every effort to be there and fight for the championship,” said the Japanese engineer.
“We had some unfortunate races last year, losing out in some of them, but we must avoid having those sort of races this year.
“Max says he wants to get on the podium at all the races, which is an aim we must support.
“From my point of view it’s all about management. The structure is really efficient and there are many things we have learned from our first year with Red Bull, such as how to put personnel into suitable positions and what is the most efficient way to operate.”
Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko typically forecast RBR’s win tally over the season, but Yamamoto-san won’t go out on a limb and offer any bold predictions.
“There are no real specific targets,” he admitted. “But speaking about last year, Helmut kept saying five wins and my view was probably four wins.
“In the end we had three wins, but there were a couple of races where we missed out such as Mexico, and the other one was probably Monza, so we could have won more.
“As Honda we have to make sure that we provide everything for Max and Alex [Albon] as well for them to be able to race and maximise each potential result. Then we will be able to see how many we can win.
“Last year we had 11 podiums – nine for Red Bull and two for Toro Rosso – so my view is there are 11 circuits where the Red Bull teams have some sort of an advantage.
“We have to see how many we can win among those 11, because those are the ones where we have opportunities.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff views 2020 as a “massive challenge” that will have knock-on effects on 2021 as teams prepare this year for next season’s regulation changes.
The reigning world champions head to Australia as outright favourites after dominating pre-season testing in Barcelona.
However, it wasn’t all clear sailing for Mercedes at the Circuit de Catalunya, with several engine failures encumbering its reliability record in Spain and forcing its engineers to resolve the issues ahead of this week’s curtain raiser in Australia.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says the Scuderia will do its best in Melbourne to put a smile back on the face of the Tifosi amid Italy’s ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The Ferrari team has safely managed to make its way to Australia despite the strict lockdown forced upon the Lombardy region and 11 provinces, including Modena, the home of the Italian outfit.
Ferrari didn’t exit pre-season testing with a great sense of confidence in its ability to fight for a win in next weekend’s curtain raiser at Albert Park, but before heading Down Under, Binotto ensured the red squad would give it its all, for it self and for the good people of Italy.
“After a long winter working on building and developing our car, the time has come to get a first indication of our performance level and how effective are the improvements we have introduced over the past few months,” Binotto said in the team’s Australian GP preview.
“We know that the opposition is strong, but we also know that it is the start of a long season where development rate, reliability, and our operational effectiveness will be key.
“We are gearing up to tackle all these challenges as a united team, conscious of the progress that needs to be made and proud of the support of our fans worldwide.
“At what is a difficult time for Italy and the world as a whole, as part of a global sport, it is our obligation to try and put a smile on people’s faces as they prepare to watch the first race of the season with the same sense of anticipation as ourselves.”
The Scuderia enjoys a good track record in Melbourne, its drivers delivering eight wins to the team since 1996, with Sebastian Vettel securing Ferrari’s last two triumphs in 2017 and 2018.
Formula 1 says it is taking a ‘scientific approach’, in consultation with official health authorities, to assess risks and protect its community against the coronavirus outbreak.
In an update long awaited by the media and fans on the global COVID-19 crisis as it relates to the Formula 1 World Championship, the sport insisted “the health and safety of the F1 fans, family and wider communities” is paramount.
F1 also highlighted the protective measures the sport and promoters will put in force at upcoming races to minimize disruption and contagion.
“Due to the fluid nature of the virus, F1 will continue to take a scientific approach to the situation, acting on daily advice from the official health authorities and the advice or measures each host promoter may enact,” F1 said in a statement published on its official website.
“F1 has itself implemented a number of measures based upon advice from Public Health England, including the suspension of all non-essential travel.
“Dedicated teams of experts will be deployed at airports, transit points and at circuits to safeguard personnel, focused on the diagnosis, management and extraction of suspected cases.
“Bespoke quarantine points are being installed by promoters for any suspected cases.”
F1 confirmed that Bahrain organizers, which will hold its March 22 race behind closed doors, will “implement screening procedures on entry and specialist medical facilities onsite, as well as enhanced sanitation at the circuit.”
Unusually, Formula 1 offered no update on the current situation in Vietnam, a country where new cases of just emerged.
It repeated however that it remained “in constant dialogue with promoters, governmental bodies and expert health authorities to ensure the safeguarding of everyone inside and around the sport”.
Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn says the sport hasn’t reaped a big financial benefit from its Netflix’ “Drive to Survive” series, but the F1 chief insists the deal isn’t currently about money.
The popular docu-series which chronicled the 2019 season with a behind the scenes and ‘fly on the wall’ approach that appealed to the fans has just kicked off its second season on Netflix.
It’s unknown how much Formula 1 receives from the streaming company, but Brawn hinted that it wasn’t a significant figure, insisting instead that the deal was primarily an investment for the future of the sport.
“I think it was really great to show the fans the other side of F1, because most of the fans have only seen what goes on at the track or the interviews at the track,” Brawn said, speaking at an F1 sponsorship event last week.
“Suddenly you see behind the scenes, both at the race tracks and at the factories and the bases the teams operate from. I think it gave people a fascinating insight.
“What we’ve discovered is it’s been very appealing to the non-race fan: in fact it turned them into race fans!
Last year, The Circuit of the Americas boss Bobby Epstein revealed the considerable boost provided to the US Grand Prix by ‘Drive to Survive’, while Mexican Grand Prix promoters noted a significant increase in female attendance at their event which they also traced to Netflix’s series.
“Some of the promoters in the past season have said they’ve definitely measured the increase in interest in F1 that has come from the Netflix series,” Brawn added.
“And while Netflix in itself wasn’t for us a hugely profitable venture, in terms of giving greater coverage for F1, it’s been fantastic. And that’s the type of initiative that we’re doing, we’re looking at taken an holistic view of how we can lift F1.”
The F1 chief says the sport’s involvement in the virtual world through its ‘F1 E-Sports Series’ follows a similar investment approach which aims to attract a new demographic to F1.
“E-racing, for instance, is a fascinating crossover,” he said. “The new generation are very engaged in E-Sports of all sorts. And we want to make the connection between F1 and Esports.
“Our E-Sports initiative has been a fantastic success. All of the F1 teams have put teams forward. And it’s really engaging a new area, a new age group, and a new interest in the sport.”
Racing Point technical director Andy Green expects teams to be challenged by Pirelli’s tyres this season despite the product’s unchanged specifications.
Formula 1’s exclusive tyre supplier had initially planned to introduce a new-spec tyre for 2020, but the Italian company’s product was unanimously rejected by the teams following unsatisfactory tests conducted in the latter part of the season.
Pirelli is therefore supplying the same spec tyre as last year, but teams are now forced to run higher pressures to compensate for the increase in downforce levels of the 2020 cars, and Green fears that change will prove troublesome for teams.
Alfa Romeo boss Frédéric Vasseur says this week’s opening Australian Grand Prix is akin to a “milestone” event for the Swiss outfit after a winter of hard work and testing.
Like its rivals, Alfa Romeo will have a clear idea where it stands in F1’s pecking order and among its midfield opponents, an estimate that always amounts to futile guess work during pre-season testing when teams typically play their cards close to their chest.
“The season may only be starting, but the first race already feels like a milestone after all the months of work in the factory and the two weeks of winter testing,” Vasseur said before heading Down Under.
“We come to Melbourne eager to find out how we compare to our rivals: whatever the outcome, we will not rest on our laurels or despair.
“This first round is the start of a new chapter, one in which we aim to make progress week after week: the goalposts move every new race as we, as well as our rivals, develop our car, so we will need to be delivering our best from here to Abu Dhabi.”
Kimi Raikkonen expressed a more pragmatic view of next weekend’s opening round, rightly arguing that each race distributes the same amount of points, regardless of when or where it takes place.
“It doesn’t really matter if it is the start or the end of the season, every race is worth the same amount of points and is an occasion to do our best,” said the Finn.
“It is always hard to predict our performance for the first race of the season.
“Even though we gave our best during the six days of winter testing in Barcelona, we will first know where we really stand after Australia.
“All the team worked hard to improve even more the car in comparison to last year. We all did our homework and I am confident that we can achieve good results in Melbourne.”