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Mayhem, misery and mismanagement in Melbourne

NEWS STORY
12/03/2020

Never in the recent history of Formula One, has the sport been in such an utter shambles.

With three hours before the opening practice session, while many sections of the media are claiming that the race is off, there has been no official comment from either the FIA or Formula One (mis)Management.

At 15:21 (GMT) Sky claimed that the race was "set to go ahead", and while Autosport reported at 16:07 it was cancelled, and Reuters echoed the claim at 17:16, Sky too eventually conceded at 17:52 that the race "won't go ahead".

Most of these reports were based on comments made following a meeting of team bosses with senior F1 management and the FIA.

At 07:45 (Melbourne time / 20:45 GMT) the Australian Grand Prix Corporation issued a fresh statement. It read:

"The gates will open at 8.45am and track activity will commence as scheduled at 9.10 am.

Ancillary events, sponsor functions, the hospitality program and all activations and fan engagement activities will commence as planned.

The broader implications arising from the McLaren withdrawal are being discussed with the FIA and Formula 1® following lengthy discussions overnight.

There will be a series of ongoing discussions with key stakeholders through the morning and updates on any changes to the program will be communicated as promptly as possible."

Meanwhile, it is understood that Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have already left Melbourne and are heading home to Europe on the same flight. Indeed, at around the time they were leaving, F1 boss Chase Carey was just arriving in Melbourne having flown in from Hanoi.

The American will arrive at the circuit to discover that Ferrari, like McLaren, Mercedes and Renault, are in the process of packing up.

Indeed the German team requested the cancellation of the event, and in a note to F1 and the FIA wrote: "We share the disappointment of the fans. However, the physical & mental health & wellbeing of our team members & of the wider F1 community are our priority.

In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event.

We empathise strongly with the worsening situation in Europe, most especially in Italy, and furthermore we do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control.

Our team will therefore begin pack-up preparations at the circuit this morning."

An hour before the ill-fated 2005 United States Grand Prix, when Pitpass asked a senior FIA official whether the race would be happening, the response was: "f***ed if I know".

Fifteen years later and the attitude appears not to have changed.

Journos and F1 personnel who have waited through the night for an official update on what precisely is happening, head into the race weekend none the wiser.

To compound fans misery, despite the AGPC's promise that the "gates will open at 08.45", they didn't and over an hour later they still haven't.

Furthermore, Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has said that fans won't be allowed in following his meeting with the chief health officer of Victoria, Brett Sutton.

"He advised they have a choice to make this morning, running no event or running an event with no spectators," said Andrews. "But on public health grounds there will be no spectators at the grand prix this weekend."

As the sport faces one of the biggest crises in its 71 season history, there is talk of a massive overhaul of the calendar, with suggestions that much of the first half of the season, including Monaco, postponed or cancelled.

The resultant damage to the sport and individual teams would be catastrophic.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Melbourne, here.

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1. Posted by 4-Wheel Drifter, 12/03/2020 23:16

"Well, expensive, yes. But hardly catastrophic. If thee are no races until June or July a lot of money will have been lost. but motor racing will manage to return and so will motor racing fans. Maybe not on the same financial level, but I remember when motor racing was looked down upon by th monied classes and it was still exciting and, in my memory, even more exiciting than today. Might not, that is, be a bad thing at all."

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2. Posted by Thunderdownunder , 12/03/2020 22:51

"Yep, you’re right. Been waiting at the gate for an hour after they were supposed to open. No announcements, lots of rumours. "

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