Story By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – ADELAIDE, AUS – Amid global concerns of the growing COVID-19 outbreak known as Coronavirus, the international racing community has seen its first signs of concern as McLaren announced early Thursday morning that they would no longer participate in the opening weekend of the 2020 Formula One championship as a team member has been tested positive for the virus.
In a statement released on social media Thursday, McLaren said:
“McLaren Racing has confirmed this evening in Melbourne that it has withdrawn from the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, following the positive test of a team member for the coronavirus. The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities.
The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine. The team is cooperating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.
Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, and Andreas Seidl, Team Principal of McLaren F1, informed Formula 1 and the FIA of the decision this evening. The decision has been taken based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners, but also to the team’s competitors, Formula 1 fans and wider F1 stakeholders.”
The FIA responded with their own statement, making it a point to reassure fans and teams that the FIA is handling the threat of Coronavirus seriously:
“Following the outcome of the test on a member the McLaren team, Formula 1 and the FIA have been in close contact with them on their decision and have been coordinating with all the relevant authorities on the next steps. Our priority is the safety of the fans, the teams and all personnel at the race.”
There has been no official word from event organizers or local government on the state of the upcoming Australian GP, however many large public gatherings around the world are being cancelled including the NBA who just suspended their regular season due to a player’s positive test for the virus.
RPW will give updates as they become available.
*Update: The Australian Grand Prix has officially been cancelled. All support class racing was also cancelled. The next Formula 1 event scheduled to take place is in two weeks time in Bahrain. However, many statements have already come from industry insiders and team leadership that the Bahrain GP may not happen either, as restrictions barring fans from attending the Bahrain GP have already been put in place.
“I think it’s fairly inevitable that if we’re not racing here we won’t be racing in Bahrain.” Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Boss said, ““That’s yet to be confirmed, I believe, but it’s difficult to see how teams will be able to (race).”