'Left at 3am': Stunning new details in Australian Grand Prix farce

Chris Young
Sports Reporter
Sebastian Vettel knew the Australian Grand Prix would be cancelled long before the decision was made public, rival driver Romain Grosjean has revealed. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Weeks after the abrupt cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, a farcical detail has emerged to shed light on when exactly the decision to abandon the event was made.

The event was cast into doubt after two members of the McLaren team returned positive tests for the coronavirus (COVID-19) after landing in Australia.

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Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel flew out of the country in the early hours of Friday, March 13 - the day the first practice session of the weekend was due to go ahead.

The grand prix was cancelled the same week the NBA suspended competition in America, ultimately sparking a worldwide shut down of almost all sporting competition.

While most drivers were preparing to hit the track, Haas driver Romain Grosjean has now revealed he was aware Vettel had already left the country before the race was officially cancelled.

In a WhatsApp exchange in the middle of the night, the German driver told Grosjean he was already at Melbourne Airport awaiting departure.

“Thursday into Friday I didn’t sleep very well. At 3am I was WhatsApp-ing with Sebastian Vettel,” Grojean revealed on his YouTube channel.

“I was like ‘where are you, why are you awake?’ and he’s like ‘I’m going to the airport.’

"He was like ‘it’s cancelled, it’s not happening’. I said I haven’t heard anything official so I stay around.

“He said ‘my team has told me that I’m free to go so I’m gone’. So like 3, 4am on Friday morning in Melbourne time that’s when I knew things were going to not look right.”

Fans left confused after Australian GP F1 debacle

Confusion over whether or not the Grand Prix would proceed was rife at the time, after the two positive coronavirus tests in the McLaren team and further tests conducted by the Haas team, which came back negative.

A representative from tyre manufacturer Pirelli also returned a positive test.

Fans were left queued up outside Albert Park in close proximity for several hours - a far cry from the strict social distancing measures implemented in Australia in the weeks since the abandoned race.

Several more races on the F1 calendar are in doubt - the Vietnam, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and Azerbaijan GPs have all been postponed, while the Monaco GP has already been cancelled outright.