This weekend there Formula One will return toAlbert Park Of Melbournewhere in the 2020 the Circus touched the lowest point in its history. During the more than seven decades of life of the category, many questionable decisions have been taken, some of which are exclusively the children of the logic dictated by the “God money”. Nonetheless, what happened in Australia just over two years ago probably represents the pinnacle of the squalor. It is worth taking a step back in time to relive those hectic hours. Because even if we all would like to forget those dark moments, it is good to remember what happened so that it is one exemplary lesson on how NOT to behave.
The race is scheduled for the weekend of March 13-15. In China the COVID-19 it has been a serious problem for months now, but for a long time the disease seems to be relegated to China’s borders. It is a pious illusion. At the end of February, the first cases were also recorded in Europe and the Americas. The situation worsened. Monday 9 March Italy is the first Western country to enter the regime of lockdown. At the same time, almost all industrialized nations gradually close their borders and take containment measures on their territories, which causes a stock market crash Thursday 12 March.
The world of sport, not just motorsport, comes to a halt. MotoGP And Indycar postpone the start of their seasons to a later date, while in Japan we are beginning to discuss the possibility of postpone the Tokyo Olympics to 2021. Incredibly, F1 seems deaf and blind. The Circus arrives en masse in Australia as if nothing had happened. Of course, there is a lot of concern in the paddock, but preparations for the GP are continuing. Australian public opinion is dismayed, will a strong concentration of people really be allowed, with the risk of a huge outbreak exploding? Pressure begins on the state of Victoria to cancel the tender.
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Ross Brawnsports director of the Circus, procrastinates and announces that the event may be suspended if it is discovered that a team is affected by the coronavirus. So commissioners, journalists, photographers and support staff don’t matter? The story takes on contours farcicalbecause all this turmoil doesn’t stop teams from fighting over technical and sporting reasons. There Ferrari is in the eye of the storm for the controversial “secret agreement” entered into with the FIA regarding the accusation of having used a power unit illegal in 2019, but especially the Red Bull shoot zero on DAS from the Mercedes, which for its part vigorously defends itself. Vacant controversy that nobody, apart from the protagonists, cares about.
While all major international sporting events are canceled or postponed, Formula 1 stands out for its stubbornness. Only a few pilots take positions. The most decisive is Kimi Räikkönen, which in no uncertain terms asks for the cancellation of the Grand Prix, remaining unheard. On Thursday afternoon, however, F1 is also put in front of the evidence. A member of the McLaren turns out positive to the pad. The team announces his retirement from the GP and the quarantine of all his men. It is now assumed that the appointment will skip, but it is not. The organizers, worried about the economic consequences of a cancellation, they are lobbying to move forward. Politics, in the person of the premier of the state of Victoria, is distinguished in the negative by its own ponziopilatism.
On Thursday evening in Australia, as stock markets around the world are sinking, team principals meet with race director Michael Masi and Ross Brawn to discuss what to do next. It turns on grotesque because they are formed two sides. Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Alfa Romeo are for theannulment. Mercedes, Red Bull, Alpha Tauri and Racing Point instead push why run behind closed doors. Williams and Haas, for their part, take no position. It is the stalemate. Four teams want to run, four don’t and two abstain. The negotiations last for hours, but nothing changes. It’s up to Ross Brawn decide and his choice is to to move on.
In Melbourne it is the morning of Friday the 13th and the teams are heading towards Albert Park to stage the first free practice session. From Europe, where it is late at night, Toto Wolff gets a call from Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of directors of Daimler-Benz. The Swedish manager reminds him of the world situation and underlines how competing in the GP would constitute a match irreparable damage to image. So she “suggests” that he reconsider his vote. The Viennese obeys and jumps the barricade, siding with those who push for cancellation.
Red Bull, supported by Alpha Tauri and Racing Point, stubbornly continues to want to compete, but this position is now in the minority. Moreover it turns out that Sebastian Vettel And Kimi Räikkönen I’m not on the circuit, because they have returned to Europe on their own initiative! Less than two hours from the start of free practice the official announcement finally arrives. The 2020 Australian Grand Prix is coming “Postponed” on a date to be determined. It will never be held, like so many other non-European events. There Formula 1 is saved for a cornerbut the huge fool remains alive in the memories even today.
Photo: La Presse