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'Not a chance!' Australian Grand Prix organizers say there's no way fans will be stopped from attending Formula 1's season opener

'Not a chance!' Australian Grand Prix organizers say there's no way fans will be stopped from attending Formula 1's season opener
While the ongoing coronavirus crisis continues to wreak havoc with the world's sporting calendar, one event – the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – will go ahead, as planned, with all fans welcome to attend.

The Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix is set to take place this weekend, on Sunday, March 15, and despite calls from some quarters for all sporting events to be held behind closed doors to help stem the spread of the virus in large public gatherings, the organizers of the race – the traditional Formula 1 season opener – have said there's no way fans will be denied access.

"Not a chance," Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott told media Monday, as he cited Sunday night's Women's T20 World Cup Cricket Final in the city as an example of sport in Australia going ahead as planned.

"When you look at 86,000 at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) last night – we’ve got to go around things sensibly and keep moving on through life while taking the necessary precautions."

Other races in the Formula 1 calendar have already been hit by the coronavirus, with the fourth round in Shanghai in April already postponed, while March's Bahrain GP will go ahead as planned, but will be run behind closed doors, with no spectators allowed, on March 22.

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That won't be the case at Albert Park this weekend, however, with a huge crowd expected for the opening race of the 2020 Formula 1 season.

Most Formula 1 teams are based in the UK, which so far has not been heavily affected by the virus, but the Ferrari and AlphaTauri teams will be traveling from their respective home bases in Italy, which has been a real hot spot for the virus.

"The interesting thing is the Italian freight," said Westacott.

"The AlphaTauri cars and the Ferrari cars are on their way as we speak, so it's really good. The key personnel are on their planes ... we're expecting them in the next 12 to 24 hours."

Australia's chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said he didn't foresee Sunday's race as a serious risk to the public.

"There's no evidence of community transmission in Victoria at the moment," he said.

"I'm not feeling at all concerned going to mass gatherings or walking down the streets in Victoria. So I don't think that there's a risk at the Grand Prix."

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