New ins and outs keep emerging after the cancellation of the first three races of the 2020 season. The incessant buzz of rumours in the night before the announcement mirrored a general unpreparedness from the organisations and the authorities to adequately face the Covid 19 emergency.
Before reaching the final decision to cancel the Australian GP, the possibility of holding the race under a paddock lockdown was taken into account among the suggested precautions. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revealed that he was willing to carry on with the race weekend by adopting the aforementioned precautional measure.
“Obviously we discussed the different scenarios" - he told motorsport.com -"There was a discussion of locking the paddock down and taking further precautions.
"The health authority and the FIA were OK to continue, if the majority of teams were OK with it. But unfortunately that didn't happen".
"Obviously it's very disappointing not to be racing, but we have to consider the health of our staff and personnel and, at the end of the day, the FIA and the promoter have decided to cancel the event. It's frustrating”.
F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn admitted that the rapid spread of Coronavirus caught all parties involved off-guard. Despite being in close contact with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto about the situation in Italy, the Briton explained that blind optimism pushed F1 to go ahead with the aim and the hope to bring relief in such a tough time.
"Probably what has surprised everyone is the rapid expansion of this problem” -said Brawn - “The escalation of new cases, certainly in countries like Italy, where it's gone almost vertical. No one could have expected that”.
"I have spoken to Mattia Binotto many times in the last few weeks” - he added - “His mood changed in the last five or seven days, from what he was seeing in Italy. So we were on this ship that sailed and we were optimistic we could get through it, that we could get Formula 1 started and just bring a bit of relief in difficult times”.
"Once we had the positive case, once one team couldn't race because of that, clearly we had a problem we needed to address."
It turned out that the initial consensus amongst the 9 remaining F1 teams (after McLaren issued its withdrawal) was in favour of carrying on with the race. While Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Renault voted against it from the start, Haas and Williams decided to abstain, which inevitably produced a tie.
At that point, it was down to Ross Brawn to cast the decisive vote and the meeting was suspended without any cancellation notice. However, the events took an unexpected turn when Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius entered the field through a phone call to Toto Wolff.
Kallenius expressed his concerns regarding the spread of the virus and discussed the situation with Wolff, letting the Austrian have the final say on Mercedes’ stand. Shortly after, Brawn received a phone call from Wolff, learning that Mercedes had backed down from its previous resolution.
After that, only 5 teams (10 cars) were available to race, which was below the minimum required according to the sporting regulations.
Therefore, it is safe to say that from F1’s side common sense prevailed at the very last minute, as a phone call about the Coronavirus emergency in Europe changed the game.