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.
“The reality is, this is really serious with people dying every day,” he continued. “Lots of people ill and even if they are not ill, many people being affected financially and emotionally.
“No one really knows the extent of what we are dealing with, but we should all take precautions to keep as many people as safe as possible.
“I know it’s disappointing,” he acknowledged. “Sport unites us when times are tough. But it’s the right call.
“Listen to the advice everyone, keep safe. Hope to be back racing soon but in the meantime look after yourselves.”
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.