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Covid-19 Strikes Formula 1, Melbourne’s Round Gets Cancelled.

A statement from motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, has confirmed that the Melbourne F1 event, and all of the support events, has been cancelled. This link has the relevant information as of 10.45am March 13.

Update: it seems that the FIA may have had its hand partially forced by Mercedes. The team has advised the FIA of their desire to not participate in the scheduled first round in support of McLaren’s decision to withdraw after a member of their team was found to be Covid-19 positive. There is also the common sense part of this, with Mercedes stating as part of their notification: “We share the disappointment of the sport’s fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned. However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority. In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event. We empathise strongly with the worsening situation in Europe, most especially in Italy, and furthermore we do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control.”

It does appear that another and as yet unconfirmed reason was a decision by two drivers to depart Australia prior to the official announcement.It can only be presumed that their teams had notified the FIA of their intent if this is in fact the situation.

Comments from drivers include veteran Valtteri Bottas and rookie Nicholas Latifi. Bottas said via Twitter: “All I want to do is race. But safety and health comes first. Hope to be racing soon again! Stay safe everyone 🙏🏼” whilst a disappointed Latifi said: “It goes without saying that I was extremely excited to finally make my debut in Formula 1 this weekend but it will have to wait. The safety and well being of everyone involved has to be the priority. Stay safe everyone and hopefully we can go racing sometime soon.”

Australian hopeful, Daniel Ricciardo, echoed those thoughts with: “I’m devastated I can’t compete at my home GP here in Melbourne & get the season started. 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 issue for many is the timing. Up until around 9am on Friday morning, March 13, it appeared that the day’s schedule would run, but unbeknownst to many and including F1 commentator Martin Brundle, the decision to cancel had in fact already been made, it simply hadn’t been communicated effectively.

The fallout from the decision is expected to be huge.

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