The coronavirus takes its first casualty among teams as McLaren announced its withdrawal from the opening race of the 2020 season.
Teams and drivers have gathered in Melbourne for the Australian GP under a cloud of doubt as coronavirus fears spread like a veldfire throughout the paddock. McLaren, one of the cornerstone teams in Formula 1, had a team member test positive for the coronavirus.
McLaren said in a statement: "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."
Other teams like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, who hail from Italy, are also under suspicion, given that Italy is the second most infected country after China.
Though both teams have made their way to Australia, it comes as a shock that it was a non-Italian team who is the first to suffer under the coronavirus.
Will the race continue?
The big question following McLaren's withdrawal is whether or not the Australian GP will continue or not. In short, the race will take place, but the FIA might consider a number of factors.
Because all teams made their way to Australia, the race will go ahead. The FIA and Liberty Media (F1 owners) announced earlier in March that if one team can't be allowed into Australia, the race will not go ahead. F1 is a team sport and every constructor plays a role in the success thereof.
McLaren's announcement should not result in the race weekend being called off, because teams are allowed to withdraw from a race out of their own accord. McLaren's decision was in the best interest of the team and the broader F1. Unless an announcement from the FIA states otherwise, this weekend's Australian GP will continue.