Australian GP reportedly cancelled as coronavirus hits McLaren
MELBOURNE – The season-opening Formula One Australian Grand Prix on Sunday will be postponed after the coronavirus struck McLaren, the BBC and Germany's Bild paper reported.
The BBC said it had been told by two senior Formula 1 sources on Thursday that the race is off, but there was no official confirmation from F1 or the governing body FIA.
F1 organizers and the motorsport governing body FIA were considering the next steps after McLaren withdrew from the race due to a team member contracting the coronavirus.
"Following the outcome of the test on a member the McLaren team, Formula 1 and the FIA have been in close contact with them on their decision and have been coordinating with all the relevant authorities on the next steps," a statement said.
"Our priority is the safety of the fans, the teams and all personnel at the race."
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) said it was "currently in discussions with F1, the FIA & the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to the broader implications of this test result."
McLaren said the team member tested positive for the coronavirus self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities in Melbourne.
The AGPC said on Twitter that eight people had completed tests for the virus with only the McLaren staff member being positive. A ninth person, who is "not associated with any F1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers," was waiting on the outcome of a test.
McLaren team chiefs informed the governing FIA of the decision to withdraw from Sunday's race a day before practice is due to start at Albert Park.
Mercedes driver and reigning F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton had earlier questioned why the race was going ahead when so many other sporting events around the world were being cancelled or closing doors to fans.
Local organizers consistently said the race weekend would go ahead as planned with fans in attendance even while other sporting events around the world were cancelled or imposed restrictions.
The Chinese Grand Prix in April has already been postponed and fans will not be allowed to attend next week's Bahrain Grand Prix.dpa