The 2020 F1 Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled due to coronavirus
Updated at 1:30pm March 13th.
Formula 1 and the organisers of the Australian Grand Prix have announced that the first F1 race of 2020 has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Bahrain and Vietnamese GPs have also been postponed.
The news broke at around 9am Australian time on Friday, just a matter of hours before FP1 was due to begin. Although a large number of news sources had reported the cancellation the previous evening, it took Formula 1 the whole of Thursday night to come to a descision.
It's sad news, that’s for sure, but a story that seemed almost inevitable as governments have taken further measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, closing borders and creating quarantines.
The Bahrain Grand Prix (22nd March) and Vietnamese Grand Prix (5th April) have now been postponed, too. It had already been announced that spectators would not be able to watch the Bahrain GP trackside, while the Vietnamese government had imposed a 14-day quarantine on visitors from Italy. Evidently neither measure matched the escalating situation.
The official statement from Formula 1, the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation read: "Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening. Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead.
"Formula 1 and the FIA, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix are cancelled.
"We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course.
"All parties took into consideration the huge efforts of the AGPC, Motorsport Australia, staff and volunteers to stage the opening round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, however concluded that the safety of all members of the Formula 1 family and the wider community, as well as the fairness of the competition take priority."
What happens next isn't entirely clear. It's unlikely the race will be rescheduled as the 2020 Formula 1 calendar is already jam-packed. After Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam the next race would have been the Chinese Grand Prix, but that was postponed in February as the coronavirus spread through China.
So will the first Formula 1 race of 2020 be the Dutch Grand Prix on the 3rd May? Perhaps not, as the Dutch sporting events have started to be cancelled. With that in mind, the first race could be in Baku on 7th June, as Spain and France, and therefore Monaco, have all seen serious coronavirus outbreaks.
For the time being we'll just have to wait and see.