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F1 cancels season-opening Australian GP amid virus concerns
Published Thursday, March 12, 2020 9:17AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, March 12, 2020 11:35PM EDT
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA -- As thousands of fans queued to get into the Australian Grand Prix for the first Formula One weekend of the season, the teams and drivers were packing up to leave.
Concern over the coronavirus left organizers with little choice Friday but to cancel the season-opening race, particularly after McLaren's withdrawal because a team member tested positive for the COVID-19 illless and following heavy criticism from six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The two practice sessions that usually showcase what the teams have been improving in the off-season were less than two hours from starting when the decision was publicly announced. Principals of nine F1 teams and organizers met overnight and "concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead," a joint statement by motorsport's governing body, local organizers and F1 said.