Coronavirus fears escalate in F1 as Australian Grand Prix approaches

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo pulled out of a scheduled Renault team news conference Wednesday over fears he might be exposed to the coronavirus, while three other team members have been placed in self-isolation just days out from the Australian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo and teammate Esteban Ocon were due to take questions from the media after they unveiled Renault’s new livery for the 2020 season at the Albert Park circuit. But they were withdrawn by team officials at the last minute.

“It is a very particular circumstance in which we are joining Australia and Melbourne,” team principal Cyril Abiteboul said. “Usually, it’s a moment that we all love when we are racing in Formula 1.

“Our drivers were supposed to be with us for this event but due to the situation, we’ve excused them for the occasion. I hope you understand why we are taking such measures.”

Elsewhere, Australian media reported a member of McLaren’s Formula One team, as well as two personnel from the U.S.-based Haas F1, are in self-isolation after being tested for the virus in Melbourne.

A key point of concern for organizers has been the presence of Italian teams Ferrari and the newly rebranded AlphaTauri team, formerly Toro Rosso, as well as tire supplier Pirelli.

Members of all three organizations had their temperatures taken upon arrival in Melbourne and F1 officials have said a race for championship points will not go ahead without them.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Italy is in lockdown as the country attempts to limit the spread of the virus, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday announcing travel restrictions that would have precluded them from taking part in the Australian Grand Prix.

Next week’s race in Bahrain will take place with no spectators, while the Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for April 19 has been postponed.