While the world tries to slow itself down to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, Formula 1 accelerates towards its start. This weekend in Melbourne the engines will be turned on and the World Championship will get underway, despite the uncertainties linked to the epidemic, the pre-season disputes between the teams and the international federation, the doubts about what the track will reveal. We will see soon and (almost) everything.
One thing seems certain: the organizers of the Australian Grand Prix have ruled out the possibility that the first race will take place without a public, as announced for Bahrain, hosting the second Grand Prix of the season the following week on March 22. There are no certainties: the FIA, which suspended the Chinese Grand Prix some time ago, is observing the evolution of the epidemic like everyone else, saying it is ready to put its hand to the calendar once again. At the moment, Vietnam, which makes its debut this year, on April 5, 2020, is confirmed, despite the compulsory quarantine for those coming from Italy, as well as from China, South Korea and Iran, in the fourteen days prior to landing in Hanoi.
Meanwhile, seven teams protested against the confidential agreement reached by the FIA and Ferrari on the 2019 engine, suspected of irregularities. The federation responded by reiterating the legitimacy of the pact, as well as admitting the lack of sufficient evidence to believe that the power unit produced in Maranello last season worked beyond the limits imposed by the regulations. The diatribe seems to have just begun, and more reasons for other fights are to be expected in Melbourne: for example, against Dual Axis Steering, the mobile steering wheel of Mercedes that acts on the convergence of the front wheels that made its debut in the winter tests in Barcelona, as well as against the Racing Point, accused by many of having – under its pink paint – similarities to the 2019 Mercedes.
The Barcelona tests gave back an incomplete picture of the forces on the field, although some clues seem incontrovertible: Mercedes is as strong as ever, despite the serious reliability problems demonstrated in Catalonia, and Red Bull is more so than last year. There’s still lot to be discovered, not only about Racing Point, which could aspire to a prominent place on the grid, but also about Ferrari, which seemed to suffer where it had no rivals, in top speed, but the engine proved to be reliable. The Maranello team has tried to make up for the shortcomings of last season by increasing the aerodynamic load, but how far behind the car really is will be determined by the Albert Park street circuit: 5,303 meters, sixteen curves, fifty-eight laps to go. In this regard, admits Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto:
"After a long winter of intense work, the time has come to have a first reliable indication of what our performance level is and how effective the improvements we have introduced in recent months are. We know perfectly well that our rivals are very strong, but we are also aware of how long the season is ahead of us and how important developments, reliability and our efficiency in the various processes can be. We will face all the challenges ahead of us as a team, aware of the progress we have to make and aware that we have many extraordinary fans around the world behind us. Italy and the whole world are going through difficult times and we, as part of Formula 1, have the task of trying to put a smile on their faces or, at least, to entertain the public, who, as always, await the first race of the season with a similar trepidation to that which animates me and all the guys at Scuderia Ferrari".
The start of the championship is getting closer and closer and consequently the fans' and also the protagonists' anticipation is rising in view of the first round of the Formula 1 World Championship: a few hours before the start of the race in Melbourne, Charles Leclerc takes stock of the situation at Ferrari, where the aim is to redeem a 2019 with more shadows than lights for the Maranello team.
"It's hard at this time to say how the new single-seater will perform. Everyone would like to know and I would like to know too, but - and this is not a phrase for journalists - it's also a question mark for us. It's hard to know where we are. Last year there were a lot of expectations after practice, we were confident that we were ahead but at the first race we realized that wasn't the case. This year it seems more difficult, at least on paper, but we don't have the proof yet, we haven't done the first race yet. It's really hard to say where Ferrari is at. What I can say is that this year we have changed our approach: we are focused on us. And I can assure you that from the first day until now we have improved a lot, and we have found that we have more flexibility in achieving the balance that we drivers like. Surely this is a strength, last year the range was very narrow".
Once again Lewis Hamilton will be the driver to beat with his six world titles this season, but he will have to face not only his historical rival Sebastian Vettel but also the two young drivers of Formula 1, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc himself. And the Monegasque driver has no doubts: battling wheel to wheel with the Red Bull Dutchman is one of the things that gives him the most pleasure.
"Racing against him, wheel-to-wheel, always a little bit on the limit, I like it a lot. I like to be like that too and when I do it with him it's always on the limit, there's the risk of losing the race but it's certainly something nice to race like that".
Formula 1 is not standing still, despite the rapidly spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the weekend in Melbourne, at open doors, the Circus will fire up the engines of the 2020 World Championship to try and bring a smile, as Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, says, meanwhile Italy and the rest of the world are experiencing tough times. Or at least that's what people think on the eve of the race, as on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Melbourne, three members of teams involved in the Grand Prix at the start of the season are placed in isolation for fear of contagion.
The people involved are a member of McLaren and two of the Haas team, showing symptoms and fever after having arrived at the track. Pending the outcome of the test, the three are placed in isolation in their hotel rooms. Understandably, there has been an immediate concern, as these people had already been in the paddock and had come into contact with other people from their own and other teams.
At the same time, the first case of Covid-19 was recorded just a few steps away from the track, namely at The Albert Park Hotel, which is located very close to the Albert Park track: the facility was immediately sealed, and the staff was quarantined for the classic two weeks at home, while waiting for the results of the swabs taken by the staff in charge. It has to be said that there are about 1.000 cases of Covid-19 overall in Australia, but the presence of the virus in the heart of Formula 1 paddock is frightening: it is no mystery, on the other hand, that part of the concern stems from the massive presence of Italian teams, mechanics, designers, all coming from the most affected area of Italy, one of the most affected in the world. Suffice it to say that almost fifty percent of the people in the paddock speak Italian or come from Italy.
The Albert Park Grand Prix will be held anyway, even if with stricter security measures that will be decided in the coming hours. On Monday 9 March 2020 Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, had said that the race would take place as usual, and there would be no possibility that the Grand Prix that opens the 2020 World Championship could be cancelled or postponed.
Therefore, on Thursday 12 March 2020 the Formula 1 World Championship is at the starting tape, heedless of Covid-19, even if McLaren will not participate: here is to stage the longest championship ever in the entire history of Formula 1. The novelties for this season are many: Vietnam and Holland enter the Circus, Germany leaves, bringing the total number of Formula 1 Grand Prix from twenty-one to twenty-two, a real enormity. Compared to the last season, the German Grand Prix will not be held, confirming the difficult moment for the organizers who had to give up looking for a sponsor for the event, after the refusal of economic support from Mercedes.
The possible return of the German Grand Prix will be discussed next year, but the absence of Hockenheim and Nurburgring will be compensated with the entry of two other appointments. The Vietnam Grand Prix is scheduled for April 5, 2020, with the Asian country hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time in its history. All eyes are on Ferrari, as usual: Barcelona tests were of little use to understand the real values on the field of the Formula 1 World Championship, although the six days of Catalan tests have still provided very interesting indications to be able to draw a first balance of the situation for the various teams, in view of the Australian Grand Prix.
Obviously, Mercedes remains the big favorite in light of the enormous potential available in terms of performance of the W11, not to mention the effect of the magical steering wheel that moves back and forth to change the convergence in a straight line. We'll also see if the various reliability problems linked to the power-unit have worried the Anglo-German team, given that it surprised everyone a little to see Bottas and Hamilton running with a decidedly depowered engine, during the last day of testing, precisely because they were afraid of having another problem, losing a lot of ground compared to their rivals on the straight.
Behind the Mercedes, the other big favorite seems to be Red Bull, not only because at the end of last season it appeared to be on the rise, giving the Silver Arrows a hard time: Max Verstappen in Barcelona showed an impressive top speed, and all the technicians agree that Red Bull has always gone slow in the third sector of the Montmelò track so as not to reveal its full potential.
And then we come to Ferrari: Mattia Binotto's surrendered statements - "We're not fast enough to win in Australia" - have not gone unnoticed. And then, without considering the lap times, the SF1000's great difficulty in terms of top speed on the straights was really exaggerated. Let's see if this will mean - as the fans hope - that Ferrari will be more competitive in the race than in qualifying, especially on tracks with medium to high aerodynamic load.
For the rest, Alfa Romeo appeared a bit under the weather while Williams seems to have made a great improvement over twelve months ago. The main news regarding Formula 1 teams is to be found especially in the change of name of a team: Toro Rosso. The team from Faenza, which entered the circus in 2006, will officially change its name for the 2020 championship. Starting this season, in fact, the team will be called Scuderia AlphaTauri, in order to promote the fashion brand owned by Red Bull, which has always been the older sister of the now former Toro Rosso.
There is also great interest in the drivers’ market: Hamilton aims to equal Schumacher's record of seven World Championships, Verstappen has an endless desire for redemption. But it will certainly be the Vettel-Leclerc lineup that will ignite the season. Bets are accepted: both the younger and the older driver will do everything to show who is best. Leclerc will have to confirm himself after the good races of 2019 that saw him triumph at Spa and Monza, while Vettel will want to show that he is always a four-time World Champion.
The last 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix saw the official exit from the paddock of two historic drivers and beloved by the public: on the one hand Nico Hulkenberg, and on the other Robert Kubica. The first one, uninterruptedly present in Formula 1 since 2010 and engaged in the 2019 championship with Renault, leaves the company after collecting a pole and two fastest laps in his career, with many regrets for not having found the opportunity to express his talent in a top team. It is still unclear what will be the future of Hulkenberg away from Formula 1, but what is certain is that the place left free by the German at Renault will be occupied by Esteban Ocon.
Different matter, instead, regarding Kubica. His return to Formula 1 after the terrible accident occurred during the 2011 Andona Rally had moved the fans at the beginning of 2019, eager to see him back onboard of a single-seater. But after only one year, full of disappointments also due to the unreliability of a Williams in black crisis, for the Polish driver the moment of goodbyes has already arrived. Kubica says goodbye to Formula 1 with the satisfaction of having won the only point of the team during the last season. Awaiting him in 2020 will be a new challenge in DTM, where he has already signed a contract with BMW.
As a result, Russell will share the box with a rookie in the category: Nicholas Latifi. The Canadian, born in 1995 and vice-world champion in Formula 2, will debut at the wheel of the Williams for the first time as an official driver, after the last seasons divided between commitments in Formula 2 and test or reserve driver in Formula 1 for Renault, Force India and Williams. In this way, on the starting grid of the 2020 world championship, there will be two Canadian drivers, Latifi and Stroll, something that hasn't happened in Formula 1 since 1971.
For the Australian Grand Prix, the FIA establishes three zones in which the Drag Reduction System can be activated, confirming what happened from 2018: in addition to the finishing straight and the stretch of track between Jones and Whiteford turns (turns 2 and 3), with a single point for determining the gap between drivers set before turn 14, the stretch between turns 12 and 13 is also included. In this case the detection point is set before turn 11.
The former Formula 1 driver Emanuele Pirro is appointed as assistant steward for the race. The Italian has performed this function on several occasions in the past: most recently at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. As was the case in 2019, Ferrari is entered in the event with only the name Scuderia Ferrari, without the title sponsor Mission Winnow, as it would be an indirect form of tobacco advertising.
Shortly before the start of the weekend, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing send a letter to the International Automobile Federation regarding compliance with the technical regulations of the new Mercedes steering wheel, Dual Axis Steering, which allows to change the convergence of the front wheels, with a simple movement of the steering wheel by the driver. The Austrian team announces that, should the FIA consider the tool legal, it will propose a further complaint after the race, as this element would modify the parameters of the suspension in straight line with an aerodynamic influence.
So, everything seems ready for the start of the championship, but suddenly everything stops. Friday, March 13, 2020 it is learned that due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic the Australian Grand Prix will not be the first race of the 2020 World Championship. It is impossible to start in Melbourne after a McLaren mechanic, promptly placed in isolation immediately after showing the first symptoms, tested positive for Covid-19 infection.
Everything starts after midnight on Thursday: following the first case of positivity inside the paddock, on Thursday 12 March 2020 many citizens of Melbourne ask for the cancellation of the race, pushing the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the company that manages the event, to ask Chase Carey that the race be only postponed, and not cancelled. Since Thursday morning the climate around the race is not idyllic, following the self-isolation of five people, four from Haas and one from McLaren, for generic flu symptoms. Four more people will subsequently undergo an investigation, but only the McLaren mechanic will test positive. During the traditional Thursday press conference, Lewis Hamilton does not hide his concern:
"For me it's shocking that we're all sitting in this room. The NBA has stopped, Formula 1 keeps going. Money is king. There are a lot of fans on the track already today. It seems like the rest of the world is responding, probably a little late. I just hope that after the weekend there's no bad news coming".
After few talks, around 2:00 am on Friday morning an emergency meeting is called between Liberty Media, represented by Ross Brawn, the FIA delegates, the Team Principals, the race director Michael Masi and the Department of Health to decide whether to go ahead with the 2020 Australian Grand Prix. Particularly delicate choice, after the positivity of a McLaren team member, which led the British team to withdraw from the race, as pointed out by Lando Norris through his personal social channel:
"Although I am heartbroken not to be able to race, the most important thing now is everyone's health. We have done everything we can to limit the contagion, and of course this has also involved me, who has tried to surround myself with as few people as possible. My thoughts are with the team and all the people who are fighting the virus".
And Charles Leclerc doesn't hide his feelings either:
"Usually we arrive in Australia happy to start, but now there is a strange atmosphere, everyone's head is somewhere else".
Initially, it has been hypothesized that the Grand Prix will be held behind closed doors, or that it will be cancelled, as well as the possibility of having at least free practice before making a final decision on its fate. The team principal of Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, announced the will of his team to abandon Melbourne; the same line was held by Alfa Romeo and Renault.
Red Bull Racing, Scuderia AlphaTauri, Racing Point and Mercedes maintain a position in favor of holding the Grand Prix, even if behind closed doors. Williams and Haas abstained. This creates a balanced situation, with four teams in favor of the race, four against, including McLaren, which has already decided to abandon Australia, and two undecided. The technical director of Formula 1, Ross Brawn, opts to keep at least the Friday tests.
A few hours later Chase Carey is about to arrive in Melbourne, where he will hold a meeting scheduled at 8:30 a.m. with the organizers, Ross Brawn and other managers, to agree on how to proceed and announce the cancellation of the Grand Prix, but in the meantime at 9:15 a.m. the Australian Grand Prix Corporation announces that the race will take place, albeit behind closed doors. This, however, will appear to be impossible, after the departure of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for Dubai during the morning.
"We will pull the handbrake, if necessary, we drivers have a common vision on this issue and we all agree".
Said Sebastian Vettel on Thursday, after the announcement via Twitter of the nickname given to his new Ferrari, Lucilla:
"I’ve chosen it not with the mechanics, but simply because I liked it".
And Kimi Raikkonen had also expressed his perplexity about being on the verge of a regular race weekend in Melbourne:
"I don't know if being here is the right choice. It probably isn't. But it's not up to us, it's not our decision. If it was up to the teams, I don't think we would have been here".
At 9:30 a.m. Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews confirms the intention to race behind closed doors if it is decided to go ahead:
"Safeguarding public health, there will be no spectators at the Grand Prix this weekend if the race goes ahead. An announcement will come very soon".
But when there are just a few minutes to go before the start of FP1, the Ferrari and Mercedes hospitality areas are deserted, proving that the Maranello team and the Brackley team do not want to race, and have changed their opinion in the meantime. The fans are crowded at the gates, but they are not allowed to enter in order to try to make the event take place behind closed doors.
At 10:10 a.m., on indication of Ola Källenius, chairman of the Daimler's management board, worried about the negative image that could derive to Formula 1 from the holding of the race, Mercedes sends a letter to the FIA underlining that there are no safety conditions to hold the Grand Prix, requesting the cancellation for force majeure reasons related to the emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Five minutes later, at 10:15 am, comes the official statement issued by the FIA, Liberty Media and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, indicating that the Australian Grand Prix is cancelled.
"Following confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team tested positive for Covid-19 and the team's subsequent decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, the FIA and Formula 1 convened a meeting with the team principals of the other nine teams on Thursday evening. Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not continue. The FIA and Formula 1, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, have therefore decided to cancel all Formula 1 activities for the Australian Grand Prix. We know that this news is very disappointing for the thousands of fans, however the health of the Formula 1 community, those who work there and its audience, take priority".
In the Australian morning - as the public headed to the gates of Albert Park since the Australian organizer had announced that the weekend would have continued as programmed, likely to have Formula 1 side events take place -, Chase Carey, along with Australian Grand Prix promoters and race director Michael Masi, called a press conference outside the paddock to reveal the background of the decision taken:
"There was an accumulation of events that led to the final decision, certainly the positivity of the McLaren technician was crucial, but in reality the situation had already started to change very quickly. When we left we did so by assessing a different situation: the number of Covid-19 cases present in Australia, and also the general picture in Europe was different. Unfortunately, when the teams were on their way to Melbourne the situation changed dramatically, and we had to face it in real time and came to the decision to stop".
Chase Carey will also respond to the allegations laid out on Thursday by Lewis Hamilton, saying:
"If money was king, we wouldn't have made the decision to cancel the event. In hindsight things look different, there were events changed the situation. When we decided to be here, there were events in Melbourne with large crowds and a different situation in general in the world. Unfortunately, when the teams were on their way to Melbourne, the situation changed drastically, and it's a situation we had to deal with in real time coming to the decision we made".
The Scuderia Ferrari statement then follows:
"Scuderia Ferrari expresses its total support for the decision taken by the FIA and Formula 1 together with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to cancel the Australian Grand Prix, scheduled from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 March at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit. The safety of every member of the team is the top priority, especially in this phase of continuous and rapid evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Scuderia Ferrari expresses its deep sorrow for the Albert Park crowd that was preparing to welcome Formula 1 with its usual enthusiasm and for the fans who would follow the Grand Prix around the world".
When asked if the Australian Grand Prix had been completely scrapped for 2020, CEO Andrew Westacott says the cancellation announcement was deliberately worded to avoid confusing fans.
"It's important to say that we used the word cancellation because of the immediacy of the timing. It was important to assure fans on the circuit that this was not a postponement of a few hours or a few days. The word cancellation was used deliberately".
Westacott adds that talks with Liberty Media will follow about a potential new date for the race.
"I've learned that in the world of Formula 1 you can never say never. We will work on every point, but we haven't started thinking about a firm date or anything like that yet. That's something that will be touched on in due course".
But Westacott admits the structures built for the Grand Prix will have to be removed to allow normal use of the area.
"We can't leave the structures here. I recognize that one of the privileges we have is to occupy a beautiful space like Melbourne's Albert Park, so we want to minimize the impact of construction and decommissioning. We're going to remove all the structures and give them back to the sports clubs in Albert Park and Melbourne".
But, as mentioned, not everyone agreed on this priority: Red Bull, Alpha Tauri and Racing Point would have liked to run, and at first it seemed that even Toto Wolff was tempted to go to the track, despite Hamilton's statements. In the minutes following the decision, Horner admitted that he was in favor of going ahead with the event, but under special conditions, namely with access to the circuit reserved only for Formula 1 personnel.
"Obviously we discussed the different scenarios. There was discussion about closing the paddock and taking extra precautions. The health authority and the FIA agreed to continue if most of the teams agreed. But unfortunately that didn't happen".
The idea of continuing into Friday to have a further assessment of the situation did not gain majority support, which prompted the International Automobile Federation to cancel the race.
"Obviously it was disappointing not to race. But we have to consider the health of our staff, and in the end, the FIA and the promoter decided to cancel the event. It's frustrating".
Ross Brawn, head of Motorsport at Liberty Media, who was involved in the teams' discussions and is believed to have facilitated the attempt to move forward with the event, points out that Formula 1 has been surprised by how quickly the Covid-19 pandemic has grown.
"Probably what surprised everyone was the rapid expansion of this problem. The escalation of new cases, especially in countries like Italy, where it has been almost vertical, no one would have expected it. I've spoken with Mattia Binotto many times over the past few weeks. His mood changed a lot in the last few days based on what he was seeing in Italy. However, we were optimistic that we could get through it, start Formula 1 and bring some relief in this difficult time. Once we had the first positive, once a team couldn't race because of that, clearly there was a problem we had to address".
The situation lets other unthinkable problems emerge: the current generation of Formula 1 tires and rims forces Pirelli to warn when tires have been mounted, but not used, due to possible damage when they are removed from the rims. Thus, the complete sets brought to Australia, of C2, C3 and C4 compounds, will no longer be recovered, while another 1800 unmounted tires, which had already arrived by sea in both Bahrain and Vietnam, will thankfully be recovered. After the postponement of the two races, the tires will be kept at the respective circuits should the races be rescheduled, while if they are not held permanently then the tires will be shipped to the country where the same compounds will be used.
"We finished fitting the tires on Thursday afternoon, and then we had to take everything apart. The tires for Bahrain and Vietnam are already there, but it's not a problem. We use ocean freight for most of the tires, and they're in heat-controlled containers. It's like having them in a warehouse. If there is any change in the schedule we can use them. The only problem is for tires that are already mounted, because then they will have to be disassembled. The biggest difficulty comes when we take a tire off the rim because we stress the bead and we can't mount the same tire again because of the high forces they are subjected to during the race. We don't want to take any risks".
Admits Mario Isola, head of Pirelli Motorsport, who then goes on saying:
"For European events we can transport them, because if we don't use them we keep them mounted, and we load our trucks with tires and rims. In the future, considering that we will have a single supplier and a standard design for the rims, we will try to work together to find a way to mount and dismount the tires and reuse them. But we need to make sure we're not taking any chances".
The used and unused tires are returned by a sea freighter in the UK, where they are used as fuel.
"We crush the tires to fit in fewer containers and send them back to the UK, where we recycle them in a cement plant near Didcot. We burn them at a high temperature and create energy, but not pollution. We are studying many possible ways to recycle Formula 1 tires, but at the moment this is the way we recycle them after all our analysis".
Pirelli had taken special precautions in Australia to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"We have organized the junction area to minimize contact between people. Pirelli is in contact with all the teams, so we have to avoid spreading the virus everywhere if there is contact. So we tried to manage the junction area intelligently".
In the meantime, in Italy, Ferrari doesn't stop and keeps the factory in Maranello open, albeit with strict preventive measures to ensure the highest health standards to the minimum number of workers, while the remaining part of the employees work remotely, in line with the letter and spirit of the decree. In short, Ferrari is moving forward even if, like all plants, it depends on the supply chain of the various components.
"Ferrari will continue to evaluate the most correct balance between the welfare of workers, which always has priority, and the needs of partners and customers".
Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri himself wrote a letter to employees on Thursday, March 12, 2020:
"There are moments in everyone's life when something or someone, situations or people, impose a change on us and what we are experiencing today is a moment in something very small, a virus invisible to the eyes, is imposing a change on families, communities, a country and probably the whole world and of course Ferrari. But I want to reassure you that if more needs to be done, we will do it because Ferrari, as always, will take care of its own people. We will make it through this challenge as well. We have said that the health and well-being of our people comes first in our thoughts and I don't want any of you to think that these are just words".
The letter continues:
"This emergency is reminding us of something we may have forgotten in the fast-paced world we live in: that we must take care of each other. Of our parents, our children, our friends, anyone who is close to us. Ferrari, as always, will take care of its people. Human values have always been our foundation even more than innovation: passion, respect, attention to others, teamwork, courage. Today, more than ever, these Ferrari values must remain solid and help us overcome this unforeseen challenge. And we will succeed".
Only twenty-four hours pass before the decision is made to close for two weeks, effective immediately, until March 27, 2020. No problem with employees testing positive for the coronavirus, but the workers' families were growing concerned about seeing their loved ones leave for the factory every day. Louis Camilleri explains:
"At a time like this, my thanks go first of all to the people at Ferrari, who with their extraordinary commitment in recent days have demonstrated the attachment and passion that distinguishes our brand. Together with our suppliers, they have been the ones who have guaranteed the continuity of our company until now. It is precisely out of respect for them and to protect their peace of mind and that of their families that we have taken this decision. Of course, Ferrari also cares about its customers and fans, and we'll be ready for a great restart for them".
Sure, the local supply chain was starting to run out of steam, but the factory could still go. Not to mention that safety standards were absolute. However, on Friday, March 14, 2020, after a long meeting with the unions, it was decided to stop everything, both the factory and the sports management, for both the Maranello and Modena plants, also so as not to ruin the company climate that Camilleri had referred to only twenty-four hours earlier. The closure of Ferrari comes after that of Lamborghini and Pagani: the worldwide supecar pole, all concentrated in Emilia Romagna, is brought to its knees by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. At Ferrari, however, about eighty percent of employees will continue to work in smart working, while those engaged in the preservation of plants will rotate ad the factory.
"The period will be covered by contractual institutes paid entirely by the company. In these two weeks, in continuity with the maximum commitment always made by Ferrari, further changes will be made to plants and offices, to implement measures to protect prevention, hygiene, health and safety of workers. In order to guarantee the above, it will also be the trade unions' task to continue to carry out punctual, precise and constant monitoring. During the closure period of two weeks, the parties will continue to meet to verify the evolution of the situation".
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, twenty-four hours after the announcement of the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne is still crisscrossed with many rather disappointed fans.
"A lot of people flew here, they could have warned us earlier. Even if they will refund our grandstand ticket, the rest of the expenses are lost. But beyond that there is the bitterness of learning about the cancellation of the weekend when we arrived at the entrance gates, ready with everything we needed to make the most of a day at the track. A four-hour flight, hotel and everything else, and then you get there and find it closed".
Under indictment, at least for the public who arrived in Melbourne, is not so much the Formula 1 system, as the authorities of the state of Victoria, guilty of not having wanted to cancel the event in time by having teams and drivers arrive in the Australian city.
"I bought the tickets when I saw on television that the track preparation works were completed; at that point I took it for granted that there would be no problems. Then I saw that the drivers, the teams, everything had arrived and I was one hundred percent sure that everything would be as usual".
The future of the World Championship, like that of the entire sport in this part of 2020, is a black hole into which every event slowly slips and dissolves. The unprecedented and much-anticipated Vietnam Grand Prix is scheduled for April 5, 2020, but the Asian country has tightened its preventive measures against Covid-19, with entry visas blocked for European citizens. Liberty Media boss Chase Carey flew to Hanoi to seek a solution before arriving in Australia, but news of the postponement is expected.
The Bahrain Grand Prix is so close that it already seems an unlikely date to take place. It certainly is for the McLaren team, which will have to carry out a quarantine period of a couple of weeks. Moreover, the virus is in full expansion in the Middle East: in Bahrain there are almost two hundred confirmed cases, over two hundred and sixty in nearby Qatar, and seventy-four in the United Arab Emirates. So it is that in Melbourne, Australia, the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship does not begin, postponing everything to a date to be determined.