Ross Brawn believes Formula 1 handled the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix well, despite the last-minute timing of the decision.
The race weekend was called off just a few hours before FP1 was due to start, with most teams already in the paddock and fans being held and then turned away at the gates due to a lack of information being communicated on Friday morning. It had been made clear the race would be cancelled in the early hours following McLaren’s withdrawal when one of its team members tested positive for coronavirus, but F1’s motorsports boss Brawn says it wasn’t as simple as one entity making the decision.
“There was consultation with the teams, the medical authorities, the FIA and the promoters here,” Brawn said. “I’ve been up all night. We had so many issues to work through. We had to get the teams together again and hold a meeting. It all takes time.
“It’s not a total autocracy, as in, we just can’t make a decision. We have so many factors to take into account. I think we did a pretty good job of reaching the right conclusion with so many stakeholders involved. We’re talking to the FIA, which is in Europe on a Europe timezone, and we had to speak to (FIA president) Jean Todt.
“(F1 CEO) Chase (Carey) unfortunately was in the air, flying between Vietnam and here. So it was a pretty stressful period. Considering we dealt with everything in 12 hours, for something that important, was good.”
Although little information was transmitted to teams and media from Thursday evening local time onwards, Brawn insists the sport was prepared to a certain degree.
“We had mapped out with the health authorities what would happen if we had one case, five case, 10 cases,” he said. “But what you never know with those cases is what the association is with the people around. Having one case with 14 people having to go into isolation, that effectively knocked that team (McLaren) out of operation.
“If that one case had been someone with a different profile, different responsibility, it might not have impacted a team that much. There are certain things you can spend forever predicting, and you’ll never know what is going to happen. In reality, we found the case, the person who was positive in the paddock. That is the credit to the authorities. They were identified, they were tested, the procedures worked.”
Meanwhile, Carey said it would be too easy to criticize F1’s approach based on hindsight, given how quickly the global situation has been changing.
“I think we made the right decision as it evolved,” Carey said. “I think we feel we worked well with all of our partners to make that decision. Obviously we don’t control how various events evolve — specifically some of the infections and some of the illnesses. We felt we made the right decision when we moved here.
“In hindsight you’re always going to look at things differently. So it’s difficult to go back and look at it moving forward. In many places around the world, clearly the situation in just 24–48 hours is very different than it was not that long ago. People were traveling through Europe and the United States; within 24 hours they are no longer traveling between those countries.
“So I think these are issues that you have to deal with in real time, make efficient, effective decisions and try and make sure you’re getting all the input and expertise you can to do the right thing. I think we got to the right place.”