Sports

Australian GP called off just hours before first practice session

Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix has been called off on Friday (March 13), hours before the first practice session was scheduled to get underway at Albert Park.

“At 9am today (6am, S'pore time), the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix,” the AGPC said in a statement.

“In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately.”

This came after McLaren announced yesterday that they were pulling out after one of their employees tested positive, while four crew members of fellow F1 team Haas were being quarantined due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities," McLaren said in a statement, adding that they are cooperating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.

Earlier, Victoria state's chief health officer Brett Sutton had told Melbourne radio station 3AW: "If (the tests) turn up positive, we need to consider what it means for their close contacts and, if they have a number of close contacts across a number of crews, then those individuals need to be quarantined.

"If that effectively shuts down the race, then so be it. We'll make that call."

On Thursday, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said it was "shocking" that the Australian GP could go ahead amid the threat of the coronavirus and suggested organisers had put financial concerns ahead of people's health.

Several other sporting organisations have already suspended their competitions.

The ATP announced yesterday that it was suspending the men's tennis tour for six weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. All events on the ATP Tour and second-tier ATP Challenger Tour are cancelled until April 27. - REUTERS, AFP

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