Motorsport

Australian GP in chaos as McLaren pulls out

Voicing criticism: Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, second from right, seen with Nicholas Latifi, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, has come down hard on the decision to host the Australian GP.

Voicing criticism: Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, second from right, seen with Nicholas Latifi, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, has come down hard on the decision to host the Australian GP.  

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton slams plans to hold the race

McLaren pulled out of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Thursday after a team member tested positive for coronavirus, throwing the race into chaos.

The employee was among eight Formula One personnel who went into isolation after showing flu-like symptoms typical of the virus this week in Melbourne. The other seven — including four from the Haas team — all returned negative results, organisers said.

“The decision (to withdraw) 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,” said McLaren.

The decision casts doubt over whether the race will be run without a full complement of teams, and whether others will follow suit.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation said it was “currently in discussions with Formula 1, the FIA and the (Victorian) department of health and human services in relation to the broader implications of this test result”.

World champion Lewis Hamilton earlier on Thursday said he was stunned the race was going ahead as fears mount about the spread of the disease.

Shocked

“I am really very, very surprised that we’re here. I don’t think it’s great that we have races but it really is shocking that we’re all sitting in this room,” he said at an official pre-race press conference packed with media.

“It seems that the rest of the world is already reacting a little bit late, but you have seen this morning with (President Donald) Trump shutting down the border to Europe to the States, the NBA suspended, yet Formula One continues to go on.

“It’s a concern I think for the people here. It’s quite a big circus that’s come here, it’s definitely concerning for me.”

The first F1 practice sessions are due to start on Friday. In an attempt to limit interaction between drivers and fans, autograph sessions have been replaced by question and answer interviews, with selfies banned.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 2:54:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/motorsport/australian-gp-in-chaos-as-mclaren-pulls-out/article31052725.ece

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