For three months, Formula 1 fans inundated all possible social networks with the cry “off season” (in fact, the verb was much less censored) and looked forward to the start of the new season. And just a couple of weeks before the Australian Grand Prix, after all the news that came after the tests (we wrote about this in the previous article ), the degree of expectation rose to a truly unattainable height. He got up to … collapse down, being put out by that tub of water that was poured on everyone this weekend.
“CROWN” IN THE “ROYAL RACE”
No, of course, motorsport fans understood that the coronavirus pandemic, announced around the globe, could not but affect Formula 1 – in February, the Chinese Grand Prix was postponed indefinitely. However, the organizers of the Australian race all this time almost beat themselves in the chest, saying that compared to the forest fires experienced, some kind of coronavirus is not a problem, but a problem, but the planned strikes of public transport workers are nothing more than a pathetic zilch.
However, already at the start of the racing week, it became clear that the excessive bravado of promoters does not reflect the real situation. Fans, of course, did not close the entrance, but the program of the event was substantially cut, canceling the autograph sessions and forbidding the rider to stop for selfies under pain of death. Media sessions did look ridiculous at all – a couple of riders in the center of an impromptu circle of journalists, with difficulty pulling up tripods from outside the invisible two-meter exclusion zone.
The first strike of the alarm was heard on Wednesday, when it became known that members of several teams were isolated in hotels with symptoms suspiciously reminiscent of a coronavirus. From that moment, correspondents and fans of the “big prizes” switched to shift work to track the situation in their favorite ways. The officials of the championship were limited to general phrases about “monitoring the situation”, continuing to insist that the race will take place, but …
On Thursday, it became known that one of the nine isolated employees was a positive test for coronavirus – it turned out to be a McLaren mechanic, whose leaders instantly issued a statement on withdrawal from the grand prix. And after that, under the “Formula” the gates of hell opened.
DAY OF BACCHANALIA
Interestingly, the first to respond to these circumstances were not the fans, the experts, or the heads of the championship, but the stock exchange – Formula 1 stocks, which have been falling steadily in price over the past month amid news on coronovirus and new sponsorship contracts fell off for a couple of hours by 15% to the mark of the summer of 2016.
One could easily imagine how, at that moment, the 15-year-old scotch tape, the former owner of the “royal races” Bernie Ecclestone, who repeatedly criticized the policy of Liberty Media, was grinning sarcastically, but this was only the beginning.
In Liberty, they were clearly not ready for such a development of affairs – F1 head Chase Carey was in Hanoi at that time, where he tried with all the latest hooks and crooks to persuade local authorities to hold the Vietnam Grand Prix, and other functionaries went into an impromptu “sleep” mode . It will become known later that the main role in further events was played in the Mercedes: Toto Wolff wrote an official letter demanding to cancel the race, and Lewis Hamilton, turning on the “blessed” mode, almost personally organized an earlier meeting of the emergency meeting with the participation of local authorities.
But at that time the whole motorsport world could be content only with rumors that were actively coming from journalists working in the paddock. Moreover, the bacchanalia consumed them – closer to midnight local time with a difference of half an hour, the two largest British sources went on the air with diametrically opposite messages: “the teams decided to hold a grand prix, but by decision of the authorities it will be held without spectators” and “grand prix canceled”.
By 6 a.m. in Australian time, these rumors, which had been visited twice or even thrice refuted, were replenished with information that two world champions – Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen from Alfa Romeo, spat on the silence of officials, left the location of their teams and the first available flight flew from Australia.
An hour later, the level of absurdity reached its peak – according to media reports, the local authorities of Victoria flatly refused to cancel the race, preferring to hold races without spectators, and the FIA could not influence them because of hands bound by money contracts. At the same time, most of the employees of other Formula 1 teams and marshals were called to the racetrack to work normally, and a special two-seat demo car drove to the Albert-Park highway … only to get into an accident in a couple of minutes.
The denouement came only a couple of hours before the start of the first Friday training session. Realizing that you can’t continue to pull forward, all interested parties still came to a consensus, and the Australian Grand Prix was officially canceled.
The consequences of this decision captured the whole world and actually launched a chain of large-scale cancellations of other motorsport and sports events.
A few hours later, the Indikar and NASCAR races of the American championships, European endurance races, and then the next stages of Formula 1 itself – in Bahrain (along with Formula 2 and Formula 3) went under the “knife” of the coronavirus ) and Vietnam.
Moreover, several leaders at once, such as the odious Helmut Marko, even said that they should not wait for the start of the season before the June Grand Prix of Azerbaijan. However, they are not sure in Azerbaijan themselves yet that they will be able to accept the Baku race on time.
In the “royal class” after the winter off-season, the “coronavirus season” came, we may not see a way out this year – rumors say that in the end everything, unfortunately, may end with the cancellation of the whole season.