Hamilton says 'cash is king' in F1's decision to race in Australia

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Lewis Hamilton believes "cash is king" in Formula 1's decision to go ahead with this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

As the World Health Organisation officially declares the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, a total of five team personnel, four from Haas and one at McLaren, have gone into self-isolation after showing symptoms.

And with more and more restrictions being put in place around the world and more motorsport events being postponed, Hamilton admits he doesn't think F1 should be in Melbourne.

"I am very, very surprised we are here,” Hamilton said during the FIA press conference on Thursday.

“It is great we have races but for me, it is shocking that we are all sitting in this room [media centre].

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"It seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a bit late. The NBA has been suspended yet F1 continues to go on.”

As for why he thought F1 has been so eager to push on as normal, Hamilton simply stated: “Cash is king.”

Also questioning the decision to be Down Under is Kimi Raikkonen, who believes some are only present through necessity.

"I don’t know if it’s the right thing that we are here, probably not, but it’s not up to us, it’s not our decision,” he explained.

“I think it would have been purely the team’s decision we probably wouldn’t be here.”

As public events began in Australia on Wednesday, the bizarre sight of a two-metre exclusion zone between drivers and gathered press was a notable change from the usual scrums.

And on Thursday, all TV media gatherings were cancelled at Albert Park, print media gatherings were reformatted and restrictions placed on entry to the hospitality areas outside of team personnel and special guests.

"Even now walking around Melbourne it's obviously a different kind of atmosphere to what it's been like in the past," Red Bull's Alex Albon said.

"I mean I speak about the past, I've done one year, [but] it's going to be different.

"But hopefully we can find the right balance between the drivers and the teams [on] the safety because it is obviously a serious problem, [while] also giving something to the fans to be able to interact with us in some way."

In an official statement from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, of which all are members, they still have confidence in F1 bosses and the authorities to ensure a safe race.

“The GPDA has full trust in the Australian health authorities, the FIA, F1 and our teams to act with the best intentions to safeguard the health, welfare and safety of fans, officials, drivers and wider communities," it read.

"The GPDA has been in contact with F1 and FIA throughout last week and we know they are working hard and thoroughly on this challenging task.

“We are all in this together and no one takes this situation lightly, but feel the responsibility falls on everyone, the locals as well as us global travellers, to be especially vigilant and cautious in these difficult times the coronavirus pandemic brings upon us all.

“To this end, the GPDA would respectfully suggest that we all, our Australian friends, fans, race community and drivers to maintain a safe distance and avoid one to one contact like selfies, autographs and shaking hands. 

“These proposed steps to mitigate risk are in line with relevant guidance provided by public health authorities.”