Coronavirus: Melbourne 'hopeful' F1 Australian GP will go ahead but can't say it will 'with absolute certainty'

Preparations are already underway to transform Albert Park from inner city oasis to racetrack for the March 15 race

Formula One F1 - Pre Season Testing - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain - February 27, 2020   Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton returns to the pits after his car breaks down during testing   REUTERS/Albert Gea

Melbourne's major events chief is "hopeful" but can't say "with absolute certainty" that next week's season-opening Australian Grand Prix will go ahead due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Preparations are already underway to transform Albert Park from inner city oasis to racetrack for the March 15 race, the first of what had originally been slated as a record 22 grands prix events this year before the FIA and Formula One announced the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix in April.

"All of the indications from Formula One management are that they are planning for the grand prix to go ahead," Martin Pakula, minister for tourism, sport and major events in the Victoria state government, said on Wednesday.

"The set-up is already occurring, we would be expecting machinery and teams to be arriving from today through to the end of the weekend. So we are almost at the point where everybody is going to be here within the next few days.

"But having said that, I recognise the situation is extremely dynamic and to some extent there are matters that are out of control. There are decisions made by the [government] or might be made overseas.

"I'm very hopeful and confident but I can't say anything about it with absolute certainty."

Andrew Westacott, chief executive of the Australian GP, said on Tuesday "we are all systems go" to receive F1 teams set to travel to Melbourne.

Circuit officials for the Bahrain Grand Prix, which is set to take place a week after the race in Australia, said they were also confident their race will also go ahead.

The Chinese GP, scheduled for Shanghai on April 19, was postponed last month as a result of the virus, which emerged in the central Chinese province of Hubei late last year.

MotoGP cancelled its opening round in Qatar after the Gulf state imposed quarantine on visitors arriving from Italy. The second round in Thailand, which had been scheduled for March 22, has also been postponed.

The inaugural Vietnam F1 Grand Prix, scheduled for April 5, is under threat after it imposed quarantine periods on anyone who has come from, or been in, Italy during a two-week period prior to entry.

Italy, home to Formula One powerhouse Ferrari, is one of the countries most affected by the epidemic with more than 50 deaths and more than 2,000 confirmed cases.

Formula One's motorsport managing director, Ross Brawn, told Reuters on Tuesday that a world championship race would not go ahead in a country that denies access to any team due to coronavirus restrictions.

Australia has reported 42 cases of the coronavirus – the bulk of those evacuees from a cruise ship docked in Japan – and just three cases of local transmission, where people who had not left the country were infected.

Australia has imposed border controls on visitors from China and anyone who has been to Iran in the previous two weeks, but there are no restrictions on those travelling from Italy.

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