Australia & Bahrain GP's are go but Vietnam in doubt again over Coronavirus

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Formula 1's first two races are set to go ahead as planned despite concerns over Coronavirus, organisers say.

The illness, which has now infected over 90,000 people globally, has posed unexpected obstacles to the Australian and Bahrain Grand Prix's, particularly for F1 team personnel travelling from the hardest-hit countries like Italy.

But in a statement on Monday, Australian GP CEO Andrew Westacott insisted the season-opener will take place on March 15. 

“We are all systems go and gearing up for the 25th Formula 1 race in Melbourne next week," he said.

“The finishing touches are being put on the circuit, Formula 1 freight and personnel are arriving in the coming days and we’re looking forward to opening the gates to the public on Thursday 12 March."

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Westacott would then go on to reassure those heading to Melbourne that all precautions are in place.

“The health and safety of everyone at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix 2020 is paramount," he declared.

“The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has robust health, safety and emergency management arrangements in place at each event and we are working collaboratively with health agencies and related government and emergency services organisations in addressing this matter.

“We continue to closely monitor the situation in the lead-up to the Grand Prix and are taking guidance from subject matter experts, including Victorian and National Chief Health Officers and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

“At this stage, there is no indication of further travel bans, nor is there any indication that Formula 1 and the teams will not be arriving as usual.

“Formula 1 has again confirmed overnight that the Australian Grand Prix is going ahead and we’re looking forward to welcoming them and the teams to Melbourne.”

With Coronavirus having a relatively low impact on Australia, the threat of cancelling has always been lower, but in Bahrain, which has seen a spike in cases, things appear less certain after Formula 2 driver Christian Lundgaard was placed in quarantine upon arrival for testing in the country last week.

"The Bahrain International Circuit is working closely with all relevant government departments, including the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior, to mitigate the threat of the coronavirus disease [Covid-19]," a Grand Prix spokesperson said.

"Ministries have activated a number of public health measures, including but not limited to restricting travel from high-risk areas, introducing an extensive screening programme, and establishing quarantine facilities for suspected cases.

"It is in the context of these initiatives that the BIC is confident its preparations will result in a successful and safe Grand Prix later this month."

Still, those teams with strong links to Italy, namely Ferrari, their customer teams Haas and Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and tyre supplier Pirelli could be the most at risk of facing travel restrictions and quarantine periods.

And Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto called for guarantees to be given related to what team members will have to deal with upon arrival in each country.

"[Getting] to testing has been difficult. Some of our engineers going there have remained home, so instead of taking the risk to be here and eventually staying here for a few days or many days, they stayed home," he said in Barcelona last week.

"I think that what we will need is simply to have assurance before leaving. I don't think we can discover when [we are there] what can be or what will be the situation.

"So if there are any medical screenings, we need to know about them. You need to know exactly what's about. We need to understand what are the consequences in case of any problem?

"Obviously we need to protect our employees. We have got collective and individual responsibility towards them, and it's important, really, to make sure that before leaving, the picture, whatever is the scenario, is known and clear."

The possibility does exist that those teams may even have to skip races if there is restrictions placed upon their employees upon arrival.

And if that is a known and expected outcome, AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost believes F1 should follow MotoGP in cancelling more races.


“If teams can’t run for whatever reason – I have not thought about this, also I’m not a decision-maker – then I think it would be unfair to start the season because this is a big disadvantage, whoever it is," he said via RaceFans.

“Regarding Bahrain, if I’m informed right, people coming from Italy had a medical check and if they are not sick, if they don’t have the Coronavirus, then they can, of course, work in there and I expect something similar with Formula 1.”

Commenting on the situation, Red Bull boss Christian Horner described Coronavirus as a "moving target" which "changes almost by the hour".

The latest example of that came on Tuesday when Vietnam announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals from Italy.

It's a move which almost guarantees those teams would not be able to take part in the inaugural F1 race set for April 5, and means organisers and Liberty Media now face a critical decision in the coming days.