Only three F1 teams were willing to run in Melbourne

Just three Formula 1 teams were willing to continue to run in Melbourne had Australian Grand Prix not been cancelled by the authorities this morning – opening up the bizarre prospect of a repeat of the 2005 US GP, when just six cars took part. Story by Adam Cooper.

The AlphaTauri garage
The AlphaTauri garage
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The Red Bull Racing garage in the pit lane
The Red Bull Racing garage in the pit lane
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsports, FOM
Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsports, FOM
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, arrives in the paddock
Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, arrives in the paddock
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Franz Tost, Team Principal, AlphaTauri
Franz Tost, Team Principal, AlphaTauri
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Screens in front of the Haas garages
Screens in front of the Haas garages
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The McLaren gantry over the pitbox
The McLaren gantry over the pitbox
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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Red Bull Racing, AlphaTauri and Racing Point were prepared to race, with the remaining teams not wishing to take part. One senior team member who was part of the former group told Motorsport.com: “We’re racers, and we’re here to race.”

The teams’ positions became clear at meeting with F1's managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn at a hotel in downtown Melbourne late last night, following the announcement that McLaren would not compete after a team member was tested positive for coronavirus.

The majority of the teams wanted to cancel the race, but Christian Horner, Franz Tost and Otmar Szafnauer said their teams would take part unless the authorities say that the race can’t run in health grounds. They were ready to commit initially to running on Friday – with the proviso that if any more cases were confirmed in the paddock, they would not continue.

That triggered a complex overnight legal discussion between F1, the FIA and the Victorian government on what to do next and who would be responsible for the decision, with all the obvious financial implications. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault – three teams with manufacturer backing – were vehemently opposed to the event going ahead, with the world champions writing a letter explaining its decision.

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On Friday morning only skeleton crews from each team arrived at the track. The pitlane garages of Ferrari and Mercedes remained closed as of 10am, an hour before FP1, which is a breach of the regulations. Renault’s garage was open but its cars were still in parc ferme condition, with covers on them.

The remaining six teams had their garages open but only three were making serious preparation to run had the track opened on time.

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