Melbourne's F1 GP will be in doubt if Italian giant Ferrari is barred from entering Australia. Image by AP PHOTO

motor racing

Coronavirus could affect Australian F1 GP

2020-03-05 16:38:24

Next week’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix will be postponed or cancelled if racing giant Ferrari are denied entry into the country due to the coronavirus.

But those fears subsided on Thursday after the federal government confirmed it will introduce “enhanced screening” for travellers from Italy, rather than a ban.

Travellers from Italy will be asked mandatory questions at check-in and anyone who fails the checks will be denied approval to board an aircraft.

The majority of Ferrari’s squad of mechanics and support staff will be arriving in Melbourne from Italy, with the company’s famous headquarters based in Maranello.

“Those enhanced screening measures will be in place for those visitors who have been coming through Italy and indeed Australians who are coming back from Italy,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

It’s understood teams are already preparing to fly out for the F1 season-opener at Albert Park, so even if the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation worsens, team crews might already be on the ground in Melbourne.

F1 managing director Ross Brawn said if any team was ruled out of competing, then a Grand Prix could not be held for series points.

“If a team is prevented from entering a country we can’t have a race,” Brawn told Reuters.

“Not a Formula One world championship race, anyway, because that would be unfair.

“Obviously if a team makes its own choice not to go to a race, that’s their decision.

“But where a team is prevented from going to a race because of a decision of the country then it’s difficult to have a fair competition.”

Four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel lives in Switzerland, while Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc is based in Monaco, so the pair will be free to travel.

The coronavirus has caused havoc in Italian sport, with a government ruling meaning all sporting events are to be held behind closed doors until at least April 3.

The country’s death toll from the coronavirus has exceeded 100.

As well as the upgraded measures for Italy, the Australian government on Thursday announced on it will ban travellers from South Korea, following similar action relating to China and Iran.

Australian Grand Prix chief executive Andrew Westacott said earlier this week that “we are all systems go”.

“”The finishing touches are being put on the circuit, Formula 1 freight and personnel are arriving in the coming days and we’re looking forward to opening the gates to the public” Westacott said on Monday.