“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, the FIA and Formula 1 convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening,” the joint statement read.
“Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead. The FIA and Formula 1, with the full support of the AGPC have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix is 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.”
The statement followed a rocky 24 hours for Formula 1, which began in Thursday’s press conference when Lewis Hamilton said it was “shocking” that the race was going ahead amid the global coronavirus outbreak. Asked why he thought it was being held, the six-time champion responded: “Cash is king,”
Then came news that McLaren was withdrawing from the race because a staff member had tested positive for coronavirus. A meeting between the remaining teams and F1 officials was scheduled for the evening.
The teams’ view, that the race should be cancelled, was leaked when the meeting broke up in the early hours of Friday morning. A lack of official comment led to a long period of uncertainty
Despite the decision being common knowledge, circuit organisers geared up for Friday practice as normal. Confused teams and journalists arrived, still waiting for confirmation that the Grand Prix would not take place.
AGPC initially announced that the race weekend would continue without spectators, even though thousands of ticket-holding fans were already waiting at the gates. News filtered through that Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen had already flown home.
Then Mercedes issued a statement, saying that the world champions had written to the FIA to call for the race to be cancelled.
“We share the disappointment of the sport’s fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned,” said the team. “However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority.