The Australian Grand Prix could be rescheduled for later in the 2020 Formula 1 season, although no discussions have yet been held about the possibility according to Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott
A joint statement from F1 and the AGPC issued on Friday morning said the Australian GP had been cancelled due to the coronavirus situation -which escalated for the paddock when a McLaren team member was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday.
But Westacott stressed the language used does not mean the race is definitively off for 2020.
He said the need was to ensure the spectators attempting to attend Friday’s running were not misled into thinking it was merely a postponement of a few hours prompted the phrasing.
“It’s important to say that we used the word cancellation because of the imminency of the timing of it,” said Westacott when asked whether the race was off for this year or could be rescheduled.
“It was important to make sure that the fans who were here in Melbourne, some of the fans who were at the gate, knew that it wasn’t a postponement or didn’t get the impression it was a postponement for some period of hours or days or something.
“So the word cancellation was used deliberately here.
“In the world of Formula 1, you never say never.
“We clearly have been working on the here and now with Chase Carey and the FIA and Formula 1 to work through matters but we haven’t started to think about future staging or anything like that.
“But it’s clearly a normal topic of discussion which would happen in the fullness of time.”
There would be a number of logistical challenges to rescheduling the race, even if the coronavirus situation was no longer a problem.
Not only would a date suitable for F1 to travel to Australia need to be agreed, but it would also have to fit in with the local area.
The Albert Park circuit is a temporary one, and the disruption of a second attempt to run the event in the course of the year might prove impossible to be justify.
These factors collectively mean it’s highly unlikely an alternative date is possible.
“No, we can’t leave it here for months,” said Westacott when asked if the circuit could be left intact while awaiting a new date.
“One of the things we respect here is that there are men and women’s football teams, there’s sporting activities here.
“We recognise that one of the privileges we have is to occupy a beautiful park in Melbourne, so we want to minimise the impact of the build and the dismantle.
“Clearly, this changes the way we dismantle the circuit and return it back but we can’t be leaving it here for days or weeks.
“We would expect to be dismantling and removing the infrastructure and retuning [the location] it back to the sporting clubs of Albert Park and Melbourne.”
Throughout the press conference staged at the circuit on Friday, it was stressed that the decision to call off the race was made shortly before the public announcement was made.
However, several drivers – known to include Sebastian Vettel, who left on a 6am flight to Dubai – left before this as Ferrari was resolved not to compete once the McLaren team member tested positive for coronavirus.
AGPC chairman Paul Little confirmed he was unaware that drivers had left before the final decision was made.
“We certainly weren’t aware of anyone leaving,” said Little.
“If that was the case, we didn’t know about it.”