THIRTEEN-TIME Grand Prix winner David Coulthard has called for 'transparency' to quell rising anger and confusion among racing fans following this morning’s decision to cancel the Australian Grand Prix.
The last-minute decision to cancel the event, which came just hours before cars were scheduled to hit the track for the season opener, left thousands of fans with nowhere to go as gates to the event weren’t opened to the public.
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“I think everyone has tried their hardest to make it happen and by delaying the decision as long as possible shows a desire to put this race on,” Coulthard told Wheels. “But pressure from the teams, media, politicians … pressure from everybody has meant the decision has been taken.
“What is slightly bizarre is we’re all still here living our lives. It’s not like we’re all isolating…”
Calls to cancel the event have been circulating for over a week, with health experts and key pundits all voicing concerns around the COVID-19 virus.
High profile drivers had also publicly voiced their fears, with six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton last night saying it was 'shocking' that the race was still going ahead.
Earlier this week eight members of the Haas F1 team had been quarantined over fears they had the virus, and last night McLaren became the first team to withdraw from the event.
With the race now cancelled, scrutiny has turned on why it took organisers so long to make the decision.
“I think it’s a valid question, but the answer is there was never going to be an early enough decision to satisfy everybody and therefore you can’t make a decision based on satisfying individuals,” said Coulthard.
“You’ve got to make a decision based on the advice of your chief medical officer and state government and if all of those things are telling you what you have to do, then that’s the right decision.
“A lot of the British media have been giving them a hard time, and I get that. But equally, it’s easy to stand on the sidelines and say “you should have done this, you should do that” when you don’t have any of the pressure to make the decision”.
While a desire to run the Melbourne GP as planned is understandable, Formula 1 was in the minority as other global sporting codes made the decision to cancel their events much sooner.
The three main tennis federations have cancelled events for up to six weeks, while in the US, the major basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey seasons have all been delayed.
“What I think would be valid, if there is anger and frustration, would be to expose the timeline of when the information became available and when the decision was made,” said Coulthard.
“Then you will satisfy people. If you’re transparent it’s very difficult for people to be angry any more. They might not like it, but if you hide things, people can still fuel their own anger.”
This year’s Australian Grand Prix was to be the 25th anniversary of holding the race in Melbourne, with a crowd of more than 300,000 expected to attend.
Aussie F1 star Daniel Ricciardo took to Twitter to express his sadness at this morning’s news.
“I’m devastated I can’t compete at my home GP here in Melbourne and get the season started,” he said. “Ultimately though the right decision has been made and I think everyone can understand this is something we’ve never seen before. Sorry to all the fans who came out for the support. Much love.”