The season-opening Australian Grand Prix has been officially cancelled after a long period of confusion while organizers fought over who takes responsibility.
An agreement that the race would be cancelled was understood to have been reached overnight Thursday and into Friday after a McLaren team member tested positive for coronavirus and the team withdrew from the event. However, confirmation of the cancellation did not come when originally expected, and Friday morning brought mass confusion as Formula 1, the FIA and promoter the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) all battled over who would have to pick up the financial burden.
With fans turning up to the circuit and behind held at the gates while the AGPC claimed the race would go ahead as planned – and later behind closed doors – the situation started moving at 10am local time when Mercedes announced it had submitted a letter calling for the race’s cancellation.
Shortly afterwards, a joint statement released by the FIA, Formula 1 and the AGPC confirmed the race will not go ahead.
“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 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 Australian Grand Prix Corporation (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 AGPC then released a statement placing the responsibility for the cancellation squarely at F1’s door, opening with: “At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.”
There was no mention of what will happen to next weekend’s planned Bahrain Grand Prix.