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FIA President defends Australian GP criticism

Mat Coch

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Monday 25th May, 2020 - 3:48pm

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The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled hours before practice was due to start.

FIA President Jean Todt has said it would be unfair to criticise the how decision makers made the call to cancel the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

The 2020 event, scheduled to run across March 12-15, was called off just hours before cars were due to hit the track after McLaren elected to withdraw.

McLaren’s decision was taken on the back of a positive COVID-19 case for one of its team members, with a number of others going into self-isolation as a result.

Late night meetings between stakeholders were held into the small hours of Friday morning before an announcement was made at approximately 10:00.

The day before the cancellation Lewis Hamilton had admitted he was surprised the event was set to proceed against a backdrop of the escalating COVID-19 crisis.

Following the event’s cancellation organisers of the event, and Formula 1, came under heavy fire for their treatment of the event.

In Todt’s eyes, that criticism is unfair.

“I think it’s very unfair to blame what happened in Australia, because things were moving so quickly,” he told Sky Sports.

“I mean, 24 (hours) before the start of the free practice, there was no reason not to do the event.

“The government was in favour of hosting the event, the organisers was there also in favour. The promoter, the local motor sport federation, everybody was there.

“Then slowly and slowly one event behind another one meant that it became just divided.

“So, from no problem to some problems which became bigger and bigger, and a few minutes before the due time of the start of the free practice it was simply not possible anymore.

“So all those who 24 hours before were completely in favour changed their minds because I mean of the acceleration of the whole what happened.”

Quickly following the Australian GP cancellation, the World Rally Championship round in Mexico was shortened mid-event due to concerns surrounding border closures.

It was later revealed that a positive case of COVID-19 had been detected.

On March 16, Todt wrote a letter advising that world championship competition had been postponed.

“We have had to cancel or postpone many of our championship events: Formula 1, WRC, WEC, RX, Formula E, etc,” Todt wrote.

“Our thoughts are with the ASNs that had dedicated time and energy to organising these events and that looked forward to hosting them.

“I share their disappointment, and would like to express my support and solidarity.

“To the extent possible, with the promoters of these championships, we will review all the calendars and try to reschedule some of those races later this year.”

Locally, from the weekend of the Australian Grand Prix a range of restrictions limiting non-essential travel were introduced by state and territory government nationwide.

More than two months on, those restrictions are now beginning to be eased while the sport is looking to recommence globally.

In Melbourne, it’s been revealed organisers have not had to pay Formula 1 its hosting fee, a figure understood to be around $60 million.

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