Grand Prix bosses stress season-opener in Melbourne has the green flag
Australian Grand Prix bosses have declared that the Albert Park race, due to be run in two weeks time, will go ahead despite fears over the coronavirus epidemic which is sweeping the world.
While Ferrari and other teams have expressed mounting concerns over the logistics of attending the ''fly-away'' races that open the season – in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam – Melbourne race officials remain confident that the event, due to celebrate its 25th anniversary at Albert Park, will take place as scheduled.
The Chinese Grand Prix, due to be run on April 19, has already been postponed.
''Formula 1 has confirmed that the Australian Grand Prix is going ahead and we’re looking forward to welcoming them and the teams to Melbourne in the next one to two weeks,'' Australian Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott said in a statement on Saturday after more negative reports surfaced overnight.
''The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has robust health, safety and emergency management arrangements in place at each event and we will continue to work collaboratively with health agencies and related government and emergency services organisations in addressing this matter,'' he stressed.
Nothing was being left to chance, however.
"We continue to closely monitor the situation in the lead-up to the grand prix and will take guidance from subject matter experts, including Victorian and national chief health officers and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee,'' Westacott said.
Despite mounting concerns over what Prime Minister Scott Morrsion has already labelled a ''pandemic'', ticket sales for the race have been strong, with organisers reporting year on year growth across all categories – general admission, grandstand and corporate.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation regards this as a significant gain as the figures from 2019 – when the estimated attendance was 324,100 – was the largest since 2005.
Concerns about travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak had put Ferrari's participation in next month's Australian grand prix in doubt.
The Italian giant has revealed it will seek assurances its staff will be allowed to travel, and not face quarantine restrictions, before heading to Melbourne for the March 15 season opener.
After facing difficulties getting staff members to this weekend's Bahrain F2 test, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said his team would need confirmation from F1 and FIA officials that there would be no surprises before allowing staff to travel to Australia.
"What we will need is simply to have assurance before leaving," Binotto told Motorsport.com.
"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."
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