The coronavirus outbreak could have a serious impact on the Formula 1 calendar with Australia the latest country ready to implement an emergency plan.
Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said the emergency plan is becoming a more realistic option with the coronavirus outbreak escalating toward becoming a pandemic.
“There is every indication the world will soon enter the pandemic phase of the virus,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“We believe the risk of a pandemic is very much upon us and we as a government need to take steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.”
As a result of the potential action likely to be taken by the Australian government, authorities have been told to be prepared for potential cancellations of major sporting events – such as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
“The decisions around travel restrictions and how that might affect the conduct of the Australian Grand Prix will be made by government and health officials with the safety of the nation at its core,” Felicia Mariani, the chief executive of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, told The Guardian.
“We hope it will not come to cancellation, but the industry will need to be prepared for this, should it occur.
“Victoria and Victorian tourism, already reeling under the weight of bushfires and now the coronavirus, can hardly afford either the reputational or economic damage that would come from a cancelled or downscaled Grand Prix.
“Victoria is reliant on hallmark international events like the Grand Prix to boost visitation, inject much needed funds back into its economy and help rebuild the hard-hit tourism sector.
“Safety is paramount, however, and if it comes to the point of cancellation, the industry needs to brace itself and be ready to respond accordingly.”
Formula 1 chief executive, Chase Carey, however, said in a recent teleconference call that he is not expecting the start of the season to be further affected following the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix.
“We’re heading to Melbourne, heading to Bahrain and heading to Hanoi,” he stated.
But, with now fresh doubts emerging about Melbourne, Bahrain has reported its first cases of the virus and officials in Vietnam are no longer 100 per cent certain their inaugural race will go ahead either.
“If the situation in March gets complicated, we may have to cancel it,” Hanoi official Nguyen Duc Chung is quoted by DPA news agency.
“I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that it will take place.”
The coronavirus outbreak is also starting to affect some Formula 1 teams, who have been forced into placing travel restrictions on some of their staff.
“A number of engineers did not come here as a precaution,” Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said in Barcelona.
“So it is definitely a concern for us. We are being cautious and ensuring we are acting properly.”
Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Marko, has warned that Formula 1 could be left with logistical challenges too big to handle as the virus continues to spread.
“Coronavirus can really have a major impact,” Marko told Austria’s ORF broadcaster. “Also for Australia and Bahrain.
“Australia is already not allowing people to come in through Singapore or Hong Kong, and to Bahrain from Dubai. They are all important transfer points for many people.
“The effects of the virus can be really extensive for our sport.
“The logistical challenges in particular could become too big.”