Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton says he is “very shocked” that Formula 1 is pressing ahead with the Australian Grand Prix amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has prompted the postponement or cancellation of some major sporting events.
Italy’s Serie A is off until at least early April, other events have been held behind closed doors, while on Thursday the NBA confirmed its suspension until further notice.
Formula 1 has postponed April’s planned Chinese Grand Prix, and next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be a participants-only event at the behest of race organisers, but the upcoming round in Australia is going ahead as it stands.
The majority of drivers on Thursday were reluctant to go into details on the situation, emphasising their support of the FIA and Formula 1, but Hamilton expressed his opinion on the predicament.
“I felt OK travelling out here,” he said. “Naturally being on a flight with a lot of people and stopping at an airport full of people, I didn’t really think too hard on it, I was just trying to make sure that I was taking all the precautions I could and not touching things and using hand sanitizer.
“I am really very, very surprised that we are here. I think in motorsport it’s great that we have racing, but I think it’s really shocking that we are all sitting in this room [in Melbourne].
“There are so many fans here today and it seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a little bit late, but we have already seen this morning that Trump has shut down the borders with Europe to the States and you are seeing the NBA being suspended, yet Formula 1 continues to go on.
“It’s a concern I think for the people here – it’s quite a big circus that’s come here and it’s definitely concerning for me.”
When asked why he felt the race was still going ahead, Hamilton quipped: “Cash is king.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t add much more to it. I don’t feel like I should shy away from my opinion.
“The fact is we are here and I just really want to be as careful as we can be in touching doors and surfaces, and I hope everyone has hand sanitizer.
“I just hope all the fans stay safe and I hope we get through this weekend and we don’t have any fatalities or things in the future.”
Sebastian Vettel, sat alongside Hamilton in the press conference, harboured similar views to the Mercedes driver.
“You realise that a lot of sport competitions get postponed and cancelled, and it’s fair, like Lewis said, to ask the question why,” he said.
“Obviously we have to trust the FIA and FOM to take precautions as much as they can, but I think the answer that nobody can give you at the moment is how much you can control what’s going on. As a matter of fact, we are here and you just try to take care as much as you can.”
Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen added that: “I don’t know if it’s the right thing that we are here, probably not, but it’s not up to us, it’s not our decision.
“I think it would have been purely the team’s decision we probably wouldn’t be here.”