During the turbulent weekend in Melbourne, Australia, the teams were faced with a debate if they should race or no as a response to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic that till now takes place in many countries around the globe. It was first McLaren who withdrew from the race after one of their members tested positive for COVID-19. Afterwards the teams sat down to vote on the matter of racing or no racing, and it became no secret it was Mercedes who turned the situation, with the teams initially voting 5-5. With Mercedes decision changed to no, it has been now revealed they refused to supply its customer teams, Racing Point and Williams with engines, if they would decide they want to race.
Recently Christian Horner provided his personal insight into the entire turbulent situation that took place in Melbourne. As he said in an interview: “At the time, it all felt rather knee-jerk, certainly without knowing all the facts as this was one positive case from thousands of people working in the paddock. We called a meeting at the Crown Hotel and got F1’s Managing Director, Ross Brawn, involved. He came and brought the FIA’s Race Director, Michael Masi.”
He added: “As the authorities were still happy for the event to go ahead I suggested, as many of us did, that we should run on Friday as planned and re-assess the situation on a regular basis. If people showed symptoms then they would be tested, because they were turning them around pretty quickly, and if there were any further cases then we would make the decision on whether we should continue, but at least we would have started the event.”
The situation was evolving fast and at first without any confirmation of cancellation, many fans undertook their way to the event. Many of them gathered in front of the gates waiting for their opening, only to be faced with a cancellation of the racing weekend only two hours before the supposed start of FP1 on Friday.
Horner continued: “It was McLaren’s decision to pull-out which they had every right to do given the circumstances but there is nothing in the rules that says if one team withdraws, the others have to do the same. Given the guidance at the time and the fact that other sporting events were taking place in Australia the same weekend, I pushed to run because there was only one positive test which resulted in a split vote among the teams.”
He added: “Ross called the FIA President, Jean Todt, who said he would go with the majority, so it was down to Ross as he had the final vote. He said he agreed with my suggestion, to do further tests and evaluate the situation in 24 hours, and he also wanted to get the event rolling. My feeling was that if the government and medical authorities felt it was safe for the race to go ahead, then as a race team we were prepared to race.”
He revealed the decision of Mercedes was one that turned the events.
As he said: “But, soon after the meeting had ended, I had a telephone call from Ross at around 3am, who said we had a bit of a problem because Mercedes had changed their position. It also meant they would not supply engines to their customers. It turned the situation on its head and the eventual outcome changed. As a result, there was little choice for F1 but to cancel the event.”
The bosses of F1, FIA and teams worked after the happening of Australia to try and prepare a feasible schedule for the rest of the 2020 season, if racing again was possible. Although we do not have an exactly set calendar yet, the 2020 season of F1 is set to properly begin with the first race at Red Bull Ring, Austria, in the beginning of July.