FIA president Jean Todt believes the criticism aimed at Formula 1 for its handling of the abandoned Australian Grand Prix was “very unfair”, given how quickly the situation escalated.

F1 was forced to cancel its planned season-opener in Melbourne following McLaren’s withdrawal from the event after a member of its staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Nine further races have since been called off due to the ongoing pandemic, with championship officials now working on a plan to kickstart the season in early July in Austria.

Protocols to prevent infection within the F1 paddock have been outlined, including staging the race behind closed doors within a controlled “biosphere” environment.

"I think it is very unfair to attach blame to what happened in Australia," Todt told Sky Sports.

"Things were moving so quickly. You know that 24 hours before the start of free practice there was no reason not to do the event. The government was in favour of hosting the event and the organisers were also in favour; the promoter, the local motorsport federation, everybody was [in favour].

"Then, slowly, one event behind another one meant that it [opinion] became divided. So from no problem, to some problems which became bigger and bigger and a few minutes before the start of free practice it was simply not possibly any more.

"All those who, 24 hours before, were completely in favour, changed their minds because of the acceleration of what was happening.”

Todt stressed he wants to ensure a repeat of the events of Australia are avoided when F1 goes racing again.

“We want to make sure that arriving to the first event on the 2020 calendar, we don't face another unpredictable situation,” he added.

“We have our experts working on that.”

The president of the FIA’s medical commission, Gerard Saillant, is confident any outbreak of positive coronavirus cases in the paddock could now be managed.

"I think the situation is quite different between Melbourne and Austria now," Saillant explained.

"The knowledge of the virus is quite different. It is possible to prevent and to anticipate a lot of things. If we have one positive case, or maybe even 10, it is possible to manage perfectly with a special pathway for the positive case.

“Medically speaking, it is not a problem and whether it is a marshal or [Lewis] Hamilton, it is the same, medically speaking. But in terms of the sporting or media consequence it is quite different.

“We have to try to anticipate that, to know where the red line is, beyond which, it is impossible to continue. But I think it is not a problem for us now."

 

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