Szafnauer: F1 could have safely raced in Australia

Date published: April 24 2020

Australian GP empty stands Melbourne PA

Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer believes Formula 1 could have “safely” raced at the Australian Grand Prix, saying the risk was “very, very low”.

What would have been the season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off at the 11th hour.

The events unfolded with McLaren announcing on the Thursday evening that a team member had tested positive leading to the Woking team withdrawing from the grand prix weekend.

The nine team bosses met with the FIA, Formula 1 and members of the Australian GP organising committee to discuss whether or not to go ahead with the race.

The majority initially said yes with the Australian organisers putting out a press release saying the race would go ahead.

Hours later the vote swung in favour of not racing and the grand prix was called off two hours before the start of Friday’s first practice.

Szafnauer says he feels Formula 1 could have gone ahead with the race weekend.

Speaking to CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies, he said: “It was difficult to predict the future, but looking back, had we raced… I think we would have raced safely.

“The risk was very, very low. We could have put the race on. The Australian government gave us the go-ahead to do so.

“However, there was a big unknown at the time and because of the unknown I think we made cautious decisions not to race.”

Szafnauer revealed that initially the majority of the teams wanted to race only for some to change their votes as the night went into the early hours of the morning.

“The thing you have to remember is there are 10 independent teams, the FIA, there’s F1, and then there’s the Australian government so there’s 13 or so independent decision makers that unless you’re all together you really don’t know what the other is doing.”

Six weeks after Australia was scheduled to run, F1 is still waiting for the 2020 season to get underway.

As things stand it looks as if Austria could kick off the calendar in early July with the country possibly hosting two grands prix, one on a Wednesday evening.

Szafnauer said: “Austria as a country is starting to come out of their lockdowns slowly but surely, and that’s in April.

“So, if you can look forward and say that’s happening in April, the barber shops and the beauty salons and the libraries are opening now and perhaps children go back to school in May, I can see a race without fans happening in July.

“And if that happens… we can get 12-15 races in.”

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