Australian F1 race without fans? Not a chance, say organisers

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc drive through turn two during the Formula One F1 Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit in Melbourne, , March 17, 2019. — AAP/Julian Smith picture via Reuters
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc drive through turn two during the Formula One F1 Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit in Melbourne, , March 17, 2019. — AAP/Julian Smith picture via Reuters

MELBOURNE, March 9 — The season-opening Formula One race in Melbourne will proceed as planned this week and there is ‘no chance’ fans will be excluded because of coronavirus fears, Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott said today.

The fourth round of the championship in Shanghai in April has been postponed, while organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix said yesterday that their race would go ahead without spectators March 22.

Westacott, however, said there was no prospect at all of Australia following suit with yesterday’s race at Albert Park, especially after a record crowd packed into Melbourne Cricket Ground for yesterday’s Women’s T20 World Cup final.

“Not a chance,” Westacott told SEN radio in Melbourne today.

“When you look at 86,000 at the MCG last night ... we’ve got to go around things sensibly and keep moving on through life while taking the necessary precautions.”

More than 107,000 people around the world have been infected by the virus and 3,600 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. Several international sporting events have been affected.

Most Formula One teams are based in England but Ferrari and Honda-powered AlphaTauri (formerly Toro Rosso) are located in Italy, which has seen a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

“The interesting thing is the Italian freight,” Westacott added.

“The AlphaTauri cars and the Ferrari cars are on their way from (the airport) as we speak, so it’s really good. The key personnel are on their planes (and) ... we’re expecting them in the next 12 to 24 hours.”

Professor Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer for the Australian government, said today that he did not see the Formula One race, which attracts around 300,000 people a year to Albert Park, as a risk to public health.

“There’s no evidence of community transmission in Victoria at the moment,” he told reporters in Melbourne. “I’m not feeling at all concerned going to mass gatherings or walking down the streets in Victoria. So I don’t think that there’s a risk at the Grand Prix.” — Reuters

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