F1 unsure if Melbourne season opener is on

Mon, 2 March 2020, 07:35

Mar.2 (GMM) A very dark cloud is now hanging over Formula 1’s 2020 season.

With pre-season testing now complete, only China has been cancelled so far amid the worsening coronavirus crisis.

But everyone in the paddock is unsure about what is going to happen next.

“I assume that we will be in Melbourne,” said Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. “I have a ticket anyway.”

Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt said the country should go about its ordinary business.

“Go to the Chinese restaurant, to the football, or to the grand prix,” he said.

Victoria’s state minister Martin Pakula agrees, declaring on Wednesday: “I’ve got the latest information from both the Commonwealth and Formula One Management, and the grand prix is going ahead as planned.”

But while the event may have a green light, it’s a different story for F1’s travelling circus – especially the sport’s Italian contingent, including Ferrari, Alpha Tauri and Pirelli.

Some Italians entering Australia are being forced into two-week quarantine periods.

Team boss Mattia Binotto wants clarity before Ferrari heads to Melbourne.

“We need to protect our employees,” he said. “I don’t think we can discover on a plane what can be or what will be the situation.”

Franz Tost, boss of Faenza based Alpha Tauri, thinks that if Italian teams are locked out of Australia, the other teams should follow suit.

“If some teams are not able to race, I think it would be unfair to start the season,” he said.

F1 CEO Chase Carey has been insisting that Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam will go ahead but he now acknowledges that there may be “hurdles”.

But Carey would not comment on speculation that the season may not be able to begin until Zandvoort in May.

“We don’t pay attention to wild speculation,” he said. “We are working on the basis that we will have a full world championship.”

However, as it stands, with mere days before staff members need to head from Europe to Australia, no one is sure what is going to happen.

“We just have to wait a few days and then we will know some more,” said Vettel.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz added: “I think if suddenly everything stops and the whole world stops travelling or people have to stay at home all day, that would be a shock.”

And Max Verstappen said: “We’re going to see what Formula 1 and the FIA decides, but at the moment we are waiting to see if everyone can go to Australia.”

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