|2020 Australian Grand Prix|
Layout of the Albert Park Circuit
|Date||Planned for 15 March 2020|
|Official name||Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020|
|Location||Albert Park Circuit, Melbourne, Australia|
|Course||Temporary street circuit|
|Course length||5.303 km (3.295 mi)|
|Scheduled distance||58 laps, 307.574 km (191.118 mi)|
The 2020 Australian Grand Prix (formally known as the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020) was a Formula One motor race that was due to be held on 15 March 2020 in Melbourne, Victoria. The race was to be contested at the Albert Park Circuit and was intended to be the first round of the 2020 Formula One World Championship. Hours before the first practice session was due to begin, the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.
The race would have been the 85th race in the combined history of the Australian Grand Prix - which dates back to the 100 Miles Road Race of 1928 - as well as the 25th time the event had been held at the Albert Park circuit and the 36th time the Australian Grand Prix had been a part of the Formula One World Championship. This was the first Formula One race to be cancelled since the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix, which was cancelled due to civil unrest.
Lewis Hamilton initially entered the round as the defending World Drivers' Champion and his team, Mercedes, was the defending World Constructors' Champions. His team-mate Valtteri Bottas was due to be defending race winner.
The Australian Grand Prix was officially confirmed as the first of twenty-two races of the originally planned 2020 Formula One World Championship at an FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris in December 2019. The race was due to take place at the sixteen-turn, 5.303 km (3.295 mi) Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Victoria on 15 March 2020.
Initially, ten teams each with two drivers entered the race. Scuderia AlphaTauri were due to compete for the first time after the rebranding of Scuderia Toro Rosso. Esteban Ocon was due to return to the championship, replacing Nico Hülkenberg at Renault. Nicholas Latifi was scheduled to make his Grand Prix race debut with Williams, taking the seat previously filled by Robert Kubica. However, these events were all postponed by the cancellation of the race.
The weeks before the Grand Prix saw several major sporting events either cancelled or postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared a pandemic by World Health Organization three days before the race. The Chinese Grand Prix had already been postponed several weeks prior and would later be cancelled altogether.[b]
The Victorian Department of Health announced that the Australian Grand Prix would go ahead as planned, but Ferrari and AlphaTauri expressed concern as both teams were based in Italy, which had suffered one of the worst outbreaks of the virus outside China. As the Australian government did not initially implement a travel ban for Italy the way it had for China, Iran and South Korea,[c] Ferrari and AlphaTauri were concerned over the ability of their staff to leave the quarantine zone established in northern Italy. Ross Brawn, the managing director of the sport, announced that Grands Prix would not go ahead if a team were blocked from entering a host nation, but added that a race could take place if a team voluntarily chose not to enter a host nation.
Organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was originally scheduled to take place one week after the Australian race, announced that spectators would not be permitted to attend the event. Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix opted against similar measures, instead moving to minimise contact between spectators and competitors. The rule was also applied to competitors in support categories, including the Supercars Championship, S5000 Championship and the TCR Asia-Pacific Cup, which was to be held as a non-championship round of the TCR Australia Series.
Five crew members, four from Haas and one from McLaren, were entered into quarantine upon arriving in Melbourne when they displayed flu-like symptoms. All five of them were tested for COVID-19 and the results came out negative for the Haas members but positive for the McLaren member. McLaren made the announcement on Thursday evening and withdrew from the race. A photographer later entered isolation as well. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews was criticised for allowing the Grand Prix to go ahead, but responded by saying that cancelling the race would be a disproportionate reaction to the advice the state government had been given. Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen were also critical of the decision to hold the race, citing the National Basketball Association's decision to indefinitely suspend its 2019-20 season. Daniel Andrews announced that spectators would be banned from attending if the Grand Prix were to go ahead, before the race was cancelled on the Friday morning a few hours before the Formula One cars were due to commence their first practice session. It subsequently emerged that only three teams--Red Bull Racing, its sister team Scuderia AlphaTauri and Racing Point--were willing to compete if the race went ahead. After the cancellation, a further fourteen team members from McLaren were put into quarantine.
All support category events were also cancelled. These had conducted practice and qualifying sessions on the Thursday, along with a singular race for the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia series. A two-seater Minardi also performed some demonstration runs early on the Friday morning.
Shortly after the cancellation, organisers announced that they planned to reschedule the race for later in the year. Several more Grands Prix were cancelled or postponed and the start of the championship delayed until July. A new calendar with eight races was eventually published, but the Australian Grand Prix was not included; however, Liberty Media announced that they intended to hold as many as fifteen races. In June 2020, federal tourism minister Simon Birmingham announced that the Australian government expected that the country's borders would be closed to international travel until 2021. The race was ultimately never rescheduled for the 2020 season, with the 2021 event moved from the traditional March date to November, before being cancelled.