Reigning Formula 1 drivers champion Lewis Hamilton has described plans for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix to go ahead as ‘shocking’.
In a radical departure from the messaging from F1 and the FIA themselves, the Mercedes driver was confused as to why the Albert Park event was still slated to go ahead as sporting events around the world were either cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus fears.
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His comments come after several members of the McLaren and Haas F1 teams were placed into isolation upon arriving in Melbourne for the Grand Prix.
The NBA postponed their season indefinitely after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus on Thursday, Australian time.
“I am very, very surprised we are here,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
“I think it’s great that we can have races, but for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.
“There are so many fans here already today.
“It seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a bit late, but already this morning we have seen (US President Donald Trump) shutting down the borders from Europe to the United States.
“The NBA is being suspended and F1 continues to go on.”
The coronavirus has already wreaked havoc on the 2020 F1 season, with the Chinese Grand prix cancelled outright and the Bahrain Grand Prix to be raced without any fans in attendance.
Lewis Hamilton praised for F1 criticism
The six-time world champion was praised by fans and journalists on social media for taking an outspoken stance about the planned running of the Australian GP.
Autosport journalist Luke Smith reported Hamilton had replied ‘cash is king’ when asked why authorities had not yet decided to cancel the race.
— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) March 12, 2020
No other drivers have yet spoken out about whether or not the race should go ahead.
Many teams though, including Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault team, have limited or cancelled many media and fan appearances to limit any potential exposure.
Well played Lewis Hamilton for having the balls to speak about the coronavirus. Says he's "surprised" the race is going ahead. And "shocking that we are all in this (press) room.". This is what makes a proper champion. Not any of this "we trust the FIA" PR speak.
— Ben Hunt (@benjhunt) March 12, 2020
Lewis Hamilton not holding back and everything single thing he is saying is 100% spot on. #AusGP
— James McKern (@jLmcKern) March 12, 2020
Lewis Hamilton has just absolutely teed off about the Aus GP going ahead. Chaotic times. @sparknzsport
— Scotty Stevenson (@sumostevenson) March 12, 2020