Australian GP timing was a ‘perfect storm’

Date published: March 25 2020

The timing of the Australian Grand Prix was nothing short of a “perfect storm” according to AGPC boss Andrew Westacott.

As the coronavirus outbreak took hold around the world, Formula 1 headed to Melbourne for the start of the 2020 season.

The teams had barely touched down when a McLaren team member showed signed of the virus and went into self-isolation.

The unnamed member tested positive with McLaren withdrawing from the grand prix weekend on the Thursday evening.

10 hours later, and just two hours before FP1 was scheduled to begin, the Australian GP was cancelled.

By then, though, fans were queueing outside the circuit with many left angry with the late call.

“If you look at the landscape five days earlier, there was 86,000 people going to a cricket game at the MCG,” Westacott said in a ‘Below the Bonnet’ podcast.

“We were right on the cusp with Grand Prix, and then a week later people have got the ability to cancel events into the future.

“The timing was probably the perfect storm, but it was anything but perfect for all of the teams, whether it’s Supercars or TCR or the staff at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, our sponsors and the fans that were outside the gate when lots of decisions were being made.

“We had to take input from the chief health officer, who is part of the Victorian government under the Department of Health and Human Services. That particular individual feeds up into a cohort of chief health officers around the country.

“The FIA is involved. The teams are involved. Formula 1 is involved. The Victorian government is involved and then there’s timezones that aren’t necessarily conducive to making decisions when we had the event going on the Thursday, but things changed overnight.

“That’s why there was, sadly, some frustration from the fans at the gate.

“There were a number of different scenarios. There are considerations of whether you go ahead without Formula 1, or whether you ultimately take all the inputs. And we, at the end of the day, took all the inputs.

“But all of these things had been compressed within an hour or three and unfortunately you’ve got to decide a complete outcome before telling people.

“We had to advise the right things to people at the right time. That’s the way it panned out.”

The whole situation was helped by Formula 1 boss Chase Carey sitting on a plane as he flew from Vietnam to Melbourne.

“We certainly knew that there were the views of the teams [by Friday morning], but those are things that need to be ratified and finalised via discussions with the FIA and Jean Todt and Formula 1 and Chase Carey,” Westacott added.

“And one of the things was Chase Carey was on plane from Vietnam at the particular time this was all happening.”

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