Fans banned from Australian Grand Prix - state premier

Melbourne (AFP) –


Fans will be barred from the Australian Grand Prix to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews said Friday, with uncertainty around whether the race will be held at all.

"On public health grounds, there will be no spectators at the Grand Prix this weekend -- if a race actually happens at all," he said.

"That is a matter for them (Formula One authorities). And they will make announcements, I think, very soon."

The race was thrown into chaos on Thursday when McLaren pulled out after one of its team members tested positive for the virus.

The employee was among eight Formula One personnel who went into isolation after showing flu-like symptoms typical of the disease this week in Melbourne.

The other seven -- including four from the Haas team -- all returned negative results, organisers said.

It sparked a crisis meeting between the race organisers, the FIA, teams and Formula One promoters late Thursday to discuss whether Sunday's race should go ahead.

The first official practice session is due to start at 1200 local time (0100 GMT) Friday, with the support categories -- including the Supercars Championship -- apparently planning to go ahead as scheduled.

"The latest advice from the Victorian government is that the event will run but there will be no spectators," Supercars tweeted.

World champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday said he was stunned the race was still scheduled as fears mount about the spread of the disease

"I am really very, very surprised that we're here. I don't think it's great that we have races but it really is shocking that we're all sitting in this room," he said at an official pre-race pres conference.

The coronavirus has already hurt the sport with April's Chinese Grand Prix postponed, while the second race of the year in Bahrain will be held without spectators.

Australia has reported 150 cases of coronavirus so far, including among fans who attended the women's T20 Cricket World Cup final and a Super Rugby match, both in Melbourne last week.