Coronavirus looms over first four races of 2020

"The people in the Gulf are taking the coronavirus very seriously"

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By GMM

9 March 2020 - 08:38
Coronavirus looms over first four (...)

Melbourne will not be following Bahrain’s lead by excluding spectators from its 2020 grand prix.

Just days before the season kicks off in Australia, serious questions about the viability of the entire world championship remain.

China has been postponed, Bahrain has announced that round two next weekend will be held without spectators, and a cloud hangs over the third race in Vietnam.

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he will not be going to Bahrain.

"The people in the Gulf are taking the coronavirus very seriously," he told Blick newspaper.

"I have declined the King’s annual invitation."

And an official in Vietnam told us: "The decision lies with the motorsport federation and the experts. They will assess the situation and make the final decision."

Melbourne, though, is going ahead.

When asked if organisers are considering following Bahrain’s lead by excluding fans, Australian GP chief Andrew Westacott told local sports radio SEN: "Not a chance.

"When you look at 86,000 (spectators) at the MCG last night, and the footy the week after, we’ve got to go around things sensibly and keep moving on through life while taking the necessary precautions," he said.

The biggest issue at present is Italy’s new lockdown of its ’red zone’ in the north, which while not affecting Alpha Tauri could spell trouble for Ferrari and Pirelli.

But Ferrari has confirmed that its staff are en route to Australia.

"The Alpha Tauri cars and the Ferrari cars are on their way from Avalon as we speak, so it’s really good. The key personnel are on their planes," Westacott confirmed.

Other members of the F1 world, however, are more concerned.

"Of course I’m worried," Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul told Canal Plus.

"I am now sending my people out on the road and who knows, maybe someone will get infected. I think Formula 1 is being too light-handed on this.

"We all have to be responsible but the sport can also take more responsibility itself. I also want us to race, but I don’t want to run any risk," he added.

After the initial trio of races in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam, F1 will be returning to Europe. Zandvoort, the first European race, is not complacent.

"It is keeping our mind busy, but there is nothing concrete yet. We must stick to the guidance of RIVM," race boss Jan Lammers, referring to the Dutch health agency, told NOS. "We have no influence over that."

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