Formula 1 on the brink of chaos as coronavirus wreaks havoc on Australian GP

Image: TeamTalk
Image: TeamTalk

Formula 1 is in an unprecedented crisis as the ever-worsening coronavirus situation grips the Melbourne paddock and threatens the entire 2020 season.

The NBA season has been suspended, Formula E is close to halting its entire calendar for two months, the US has banned travel from Europe, and the World Health Organisation has finally declared a global pandemic.

And yet, at Albert Park, the show goes on.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel says: "We shouldn't spread too much panic, because in the end it's impossible to assess what is actually going to happen."

READ: Hamilton calls out F1 for putting 'cash' before paddock's safety amid coronavirus fears

However, it is definitely not business as usual. Team members of the Haas, McLaren and Williams teams have symptoms, and are now in isolation and awaiting test results.

There are rumours that staff of Ferrari and Alpha Tauri also have symptoms.

Haas boss Gunther Steiner told Blick newspaper: "They're all from different teams. We need to be particularly careful."

He said the affected Haas team members are an engineer and three mechanics. "At the moment we can cope," said Steiner.

Tense situation

Media day on Thursday (12 Marhc) is vastly different than usual.

Daniel Ricciardo has been excused from some duties, Max Verstappen is enforcing a two-metre zone from journalists, and the entire paddock is wondering if a confirmed COVID-19 case will mean the race and perhaps even the season is off.

In Melbourne, state chief health officer Brett Sutton told local radio that a positive case that originated in the F1 paddock will mean that "all of the people they've exposed" will be quarantined.

A source in Melbourne said: "If there is much more bad news, this grand prix is over."

READ: 'Different atmosphere' in F1 paddock as coronavirus fears hit season-opening Australian GP

And not just the race season is in peril. If there is an outbreak within F1's travelling circus, it is possible that entire factories will be closed.

A member of the Alfa Romeo team said: "The engineers could work from home, but that is not possible with production."

When asked to predict what will happen next, Renault sporting director Alan Permane said: "We are planning from hour to hour, day to day. But in the worst case scenario, we expect the season to end after two races."

In the dark

Some are pointing the finger at the FIA and Liberty Media, alleging a lack of communication and action in the face of the sport's worst ever crisis.

Amid reports that the Grand Prix Drivers' Association is concerned and angry, Alex Albon said: "We don't know what has been put in place at the minute. It's a serious problem."

READ: UPDATE - Three F1 team members tested for coronavirus at Australian GP

Renault's Cyril Abiteboul, whose 2020 livery reveal event in Melbourne was almost completely overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis, told Canal Plus: "We have to be very careful about our message.

"I think it is our duty to be a role model. We have to find a balance between the appropriate and vigilant response and the principle that the show must go on. If you're not worried, you're living on another planet. It was inevitable that F1 would be affected by the coronavirus.

"Of course I want us to race, but not at any price."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Brought to you by
Voting Booth
Do you think Mercedes will return to form later in the 2022 F1 season after two poor races?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, don't discredit them.
33% - 607 votes
Who cares, F1 is exciting again!
44% - 804 votes
No, it's Ferrari's turn to dominate again.
23% - 423 votes