The McLaren Formula 1 team has withdrawn from the Australian Grand Prix after a team member tested positive for coronavirus, and the FIA is assessing the situation for the remainder of the event.
The results were processed swiftly and while all four Haas personnel were cleared, unfortunately on Thursday evening it was announced that a team member had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“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,” said McLaren.
“The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine.
“The team is cooperating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.
“The decision has been taken based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners, but also to the team’s competitors, Formula 1 fans and wider F1 stakeholders.”
The news must call into question the viability of continuing with the rest of the event.
Formula 1 reacted to the news with a short initial statement, saying: “Following the outcome of the test on a member the McLaren team, Formula 1 and the FIA have been in close contact with them on their decision and have been coordinating with all the relevant authorities on the next steps.
“Our priority is the safety of the fans, the teams and all personnel at the race.”
The Victoria local authorities have the power to call the event to a halt in the interests of public health. It remains to be seen whether the FIA or Liberty will make that unnecessary.
A spokesperson for the FIA said: “We’re currently assessing the situation and will update when we can.”
A meeting between other F1 team principals is set for Thursday night in Melbourne.
The World Health Organisation has declared the global outbreak a pandemic and the emergence of several team members being tested has heightened the growing sense of unease within the paddock that personnel will inevitably contract the virus was heightened.
A paddock outbreak prior to the race would create a serious problem and put pressure for organisers to react, especially as Australia’s efforts to contain the disease have been quite successful so far.
Victoria chief health officer Brett Sutton told Melbourne radio station SEN 1116 on Thursday that if if the results are positive “and they’ve exposed a number of others then all of those people need to be in quarantine”.
However, it is unclear how the cut-off for ‘exposure’ would be defined.
In Melbourne, the state government has made it clear that the medical advice that allows the race go ahead could change at any moment.
Race organisers released a statement on Thursday night in response to the news, saying they were “currently in discussions with Formula 1, the FIA and the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to the broader implications of this test result”.
The statement added that nine people at the event have now been tested: “Additionally, a ninth individual has been assessed and tested for the COVID-19 virus, with the results of this test pending. This individual is not associated with any Formula 1 team, the FIA or associated suppliers.”