Ross Brawn, Chase Carey, and everyone involved in the Australian Grand Prix will spend the next few weeks licking their wounds as they are chastised in the media following their debacle down under.
While the rest of the sporting world suspended activities for the next 3-6 weeks, Formula 1 steamrolled along. The Australian Grand Prix was set to happen. After all the organizers paid Liberty Media $55M to host the opening round. Canceling the Grand Prix would result in them having to repay every spectator who bought a ticket.
F1 v. AGCP
The standoff started there. The organizers at the AGCP refused to make the call, they stated it was up to F1 to decide the fate of the race. Meanwhile, F1 said it was up to the AGCP to make the call. While those two looked at one another the FIA said don’t look at us, it’s up to them.
So that’s where everyone stood. As Thursday turned into Friday rumors started swirling that the race would be called off. Then as dawn approached there was word that nothing official had been decided yet and wouldn’t be decided until Chase Carey landed in Australia following his trip to Thailand.
While F1 and the AGCP continued to look at one another as if they were on the DMZ the teams had a meeting.
Standoff Between The Teams
Following McLaren’s withdraw after a crew member tested positive for Covid-19 a sense of uneasiness spread throughout the paddock. A number of questions were asked, “would there be a race without McLaren?”
For most of Thursday, it appeared there would be.
Teams voted whether to continue. Williams and Haas abstained leaving the vote at 4-4. Ferrari, Alfa-Romeo, Renault, and McLaren voted not to run. Meanwhile Mercedes AMG, Racing Point, Red Bull, and AlphaTauri voted to continue the weekend.
According to reports Toto Wolff took a call during that meeting from Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart who put the decision in his hands. Ultimately Wolff came back to the meeting and switched his vote to show solidarity with McLaren.
While all of this is happening Ross Brawn wanted to continue with Friday activities as if everything was normal and then reassess.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel took things into his own hands.
I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane
Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday that drivers would pull the emergency brake if they felt things were unsafe. So he did.
While teams argued over whether to run or not Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen got on a plane and headed back to Europe. No official decision had been made, there was still strong possibility cars would be on-track Friday.
Vettel made the right call. Covid-19 is spread easiest through large gatherings of people. For his own health leaving was the right call. On the other hand, while F1 dragged their feet he helped force their decision. Vettel catches a lot of heat from fans, in this situation though he made the right call.
And Kimi always wants to leave so it took no convincing for him.
F1 Turned This Into A Fiasco
Ultimately F1 ruined their image among racegoers who were queued up outside the Albert Park circuit Friday morning. Fans lined up at the gates, in large crowds, only to be met by a guy with a bull horn telling them the schedule had been pushed back.
Combine that with Chase Carey coming to the track and telling the media that all the right decisions had been made and you have the key ingredients for a fiasco.
Lewis Hamilton said “cash is king” on Thursday and he wasn’t wrong. F1’s biggest fiascos have come over money. The 2005 USGP and the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix come to mind.
Like much of the sporting world F1 will be off for a while and this story will only continue to simmer.