The phone call that sealed Australian GP's fate

A late-night phone call between Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius and Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff changed the fate of the Australian Grand Prix, Motorsport.com has learned.

The phone call that sealed Australian GP's fate
Listen to this article

In the wake of a McLaren team member being confirmed as having contracted coronavirus, the Woking-based outfit withdrew from the F1 season opener on Thursday night.

That move triggered a get-together of the other teams for talks with F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn at the Crown Hotel in Melbourne to discuss what should happen next.

With FIA president Jean Todt joining the meeting via telephone, it was agreed that the fate of the rest of the F1 season opener would rest on what a majority of teams wanted to do.

The only circumstances under which the race could be cancelled by the governing body and F1 was if a further four teams after McLaren withdrew from the race.

That is because Article 5.7 of F1's Sporting Regulations states: "An Event may be cancelled if fewer than 12 cars are available for it."

The options on the table were for cancellation or for teams to push on with Friday practice – with or without spectators. Were F1 to get through that day without any fresh coronavirus cases, then it would attempt to see out the remainder of the Australian GP weekend.

Read Also:

It is understood that at this stage, Ferrari already made clear that it would not be continuing over the Melbourne weekend whatever happened – which is why Sebastian Vettel was already booked on to an early morning flight out of Australia the following morning.

An initial vote on the idea of carrying on this way was closely in favour.

With Haas and Williams making clear they were happy to go with the majority (so effectively abstaining), four teams were in favour of running (Mercedes, Red Bull, AlphaTauri and Racing Point), with four clear they would not: Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault and McLaren (who were taken as a no because they had already withdrawn).

With an effective tie, it was decided that Brawn would have the casting vote in deciding which way things would go – and he was in favour of going through Friday at least before assessing the situation further.

That motion was officially carried and teams left the meeting believing the event was going ahead.

But then Wolff received a phone call from his boss Kallenius, who wanted to discuss the impact of the coronavirus situation and what Mercedes should do with its F1 team.

It is understood that while Kallenius left the final decision on matters down to Wolff, so did not order him to decide one way or the other, he did voice concerns about the deteriorating situation in Europe.

Taking stock of the conversation, Wolff phoned Brawn and said that he was now voting against carrying on with the Melbourne weekend. That meant there were five teams ready to withdraw from the race – which meant only 10 cars would be available.

That was past the trigger point that the FIA needed, so was enough for F1 chiefs to inform the Australian Grand Prix Corporation on Friday morning that movement was underway to cancel the race.

Letters of withdrawal from the teams that did not want to race were duly sent to the FIA.

Who pulled the final trigger was important here though, as if F1's commercial right holder acted unilaterally then that risked losing the massive race fee paid to it by promoters.

At this stage, Australia's promoters were still intent on going ahead with the weekend – even without the grand prix. But at 9am on Friday morning, it was informed that F1 intended to cancel things.

In parallel, the medical advice from the Victorian government came through that in light of the coronavirus outbreak, no spectators would be allowed in to the track. This meant that there was now effectively no choice but to call the event off.

Read Also:

shares
comments
Podcast: What really happened behind the scenes in Melbourne
Previous article

Podcast: What really happened behind the scenes in Melbourne

Next article

Pirelli scraps 1800 F1 tyres after Australian GP cancellation

Pirelli scraps 1800 F1 tyres after Australian GP cancellation
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Prime

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Prime

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second-best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot.

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Prime

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2022 Formula 1 season came to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit, where the battle for second in the standings was decided, the wins in a season record extended and a retiring four-time world champion bowed out on a high. Here's how we rated the drivers

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022
The factors that stopped Perez catching Leclerc in Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph Prime

The factors that stopped Perez catching Leclerc in Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph

Max Verstappen ended the 2022 Formula 1 season in fitting fashion with a dominant drive to victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But behind him, early season rival Charles Leclerc achieved his target of securing the runner-up spot with a well-executed a one-stop strategy to beat Sergio Perez, whose pursuit on a two-stop strategy was hampered by several critical factors

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022
Why the impact of FIA’s anti-bouncing metric is hard to judge Prime

Why the impact of FIA’s anti-bouncing metric is hard to judge

Faced with drivers complaining about the long-term health effects of car ‘bouncing’, the FIA stepped in to deal with it. JAKE BOXALL-LEGGE explains how the so-called ‘Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric’ works, and asks if it is fit for purpose?

Formula 1
Nov 20, 2022
Where Vettel stands in the list of the greatest F1 drivers Prime

Where Vettel stands in the list of the greatest F1 drivers

As Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 career draws to a close, figuring out where he fits into the greatest of all time order is a tough and subjective call. With the aid of statistics, attributes and history, here’s how the four-time world champion stacks up in the debate

Formula 1
Nov 19, 2022
The omen Ferrari hopes to continue by ending its Abu Dhabi jinx Prime

The omen Ferrari hopes to continue by ending its Abu Dhabi jinx

It’s been an unlucky 13 for Ferrari in Abu Dhabi since the first Formula 1 race was held there in 2009. But if the Scuderia can finally win at the Yas Marina Circuit in 2022, then BEN EDWARDS feels this could bode well for even greater success in 2023

Formula 1
Nov 17, 2022