Scott McLaughlin has recounted his emotions at hearing the New Zealand national anthem on the podium after the tragic events in his home town of Christchurch earlier in the day.
The death toll from shootings at two mosques in the South Island city has reached 49 and another 48 are in hospital, according to Stuff.co.nz a short time ago, in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has labelled a terrorist attack.
New Zealand’s terror threat level has been raised to high for the very first time, and some planes in Christchurch grounded, after two explosive devices were found attached to suspects’ vehicles.
The attacks on the mosques, the first and most deadly of which was live streamed by the gunman, occurred in the early afternoon, local time (late morning AEDT).
One person has been charged with murder and three others arrested in connection with the attacks.
Speaking in his post-race television interview, McLaughlin dedicated the victory his Christchurch, stating, “This goes out to New Zealand; tough times over there and Christchurch, my home town, they’re all suffering so love to you guys.”
He would take the podium with God Defend New Zealand playing through the circuit’s PA system as per the Formula 1-themed presentations at the Australian Grand Prix.
McLaughlin, who is no stranger to the Albert Park podium, said that the latest occasion was a touching moment in light of the tragedy hours earlier.
“Yeah, absolutely, I said on the telecast,” he responded when asked later if the events had put a down note on what should have been another enjoyable day for the 2018 champion.
“Both me and Fabs are Kiwis, I’m from Christchurch originally, and I found out about the whole thing after quali so it was a bit of shock to the system.
“Even hearing the New Zealand anthem tonight was pretty special and a bit goosebumps and the like, so sending big love to them over there.
“It’s certainly a small town and hard to believe that something so bad could happen there but they’ll build through it.”
The Formula 1 paddock, as well as locally-based motorsport figures who previously worked in the world championship, had already been shocked a day earlier by the sudden death of Charlie Whiting, with plans underway for a tribute to the late race director this weekend.
— Scott McLaughlin (@smclaughlin93) March 15, 2019