Virus fears cloud Formula One’s season-opener in Australia - GulfToday

Virus fears cloud Formula One’s season-opener in Australia

Formula One

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (right) walks down pit lane with team members at the Albert Park Circuit ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix will get underway with an air of anxiety this week, with members of two racing teams quarantined and local health authorities battling to contain community spread of the coronavirus.

Team Haas said two of its staff were tested for coronavirus and were confined to their hotel rooms after showing symptoms of a cold, while McLaren said one of its team members had self-isolated.

Formula One organisers have already postponed the Chinese race scheduled in April, while the Bahrain Grand Prix, the second stop on the calendar, will go ahead without spectators on March 22.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation announced measures on Wednesday to limit interaction with fans, including scrapping the traditional autograph sessions along Melbourne Walk, a path near the paddock where fans take selfies with the drivers as they pass by.

However, Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott said on Monday there was “no chance” of a spectator ban at Albert Park, which is set to host thousands of fans from Thursday, when practice sessions and qualifying commence for lower-profile racing series at the street circuit.

Since Westacott’s declaration, health authorities have confirmed multiple cases of community transmission in Melbourne and recorded a surge of infections in other Australian regions.

Two Melbourne schools were closed for containment efforts, including one two miles from the race circuit.

Some 86,000 spectators packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday to watch Australia’s cricketers beat India in the final of the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup, but a slew of other local events have been cancelled or postponed.

American pop star Miley Cyrus pulled out of a bushfire charity relief concert scheduled at Albert Park on Friday, citing advice from US health authorities.

Media pundits have questioned the wisdom of running the race, which involves thousands of staff and support personnel from across the globe, and lured more than 300,000 fans to Albert Park last year, according to organisers’ estimates.


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