Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) McLaren F1 Team MCL35. Picture: MARCO CANONIERO/LIGHT ROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES
Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) McLaren F1 Team MCL35. Picture: MARCO CANONIERO/LIGHT ROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

Melbourne — McLaren withdrew from the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne on Thursday after a team member tested positive for coronavirus, fuelling concern about the race going ahead.

The British-based team, whose drivers are Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Briton Lando Norris, did not reveal details about the employee.

“The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local health-care authorities,” the former champions said in a statement.

“The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine. The team is co-operating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.”

McLaren said they had made the decision “based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners, but also to the team’s competitors, Formula One fans and wider F1 stakeholders”.

There was no immediate comment on McLaren’s participation in the March 22 Bahrain Grand Prix, something of a home race for a team majority-owned by that country’s Mumtalakat sovereign wealth fund.

Tests on four Haas team members who had been quarantined due to the outbreak came back negative, a spokesperson said.

US-owned Haas are also British-based but have close ties to Ferrari, the Italian team whose engines they use. Victoria state’s top health official had warned earlier that positive tests in the paddock could lead to the race being scrapped.

“If [the tests] turn up positive, we need to consider what it means for their close contacts and if they have a number of close contacts across a number of crews, then those individuals need to be quarantined,” Brett Sutton told Melbourne radio station 3AW. “If that effectively shuts down the race, then so be it, we’ll make that call.”

Reuters