Ferrari staff arriving from Italy will be subjected to stringent health screening for signs of coronavirus before being cleared for the Australian Grand Prix, as local star Daniel Ricciardo declared the race could not go ahead without the famous Italian team.
Confusion continued to surround Ferrari's participation in the season-opening race at Albert Park on Thursday as the federal government stopped short of imposing an outright ban on travellers from Italy, where there have been more than 3000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 107 deaths.
However, all travellers from Italy will be temperature-screened, and if they have elevated temperatures they will be tested for coronavirus. Australians who are returning from Italy will be urged to self-isolate for 14 days, while tourists coming from Italy will be allowed to enter if they pass the screening tests.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia did not rule out further restrictions on travellers from Italy, stating the government "would be watching developments very closely".
Ferrari, the team synonymous with Formula One, and AlphaTauri, another grand prix team, are based in Italy, as is the Pirelli company, supplier of tyres to Formula One teams.
There were mounting fears that, had the travel ban been extended to Italy, mechanics, pit crews and staff from all teams and companies based in the European heartland of F1 would not be allowed in, putting the entire event in jeopardy.
"The race can't go ahead without a full grid. I don't think it would be right to race without all 10 teams and all 20 drivers," Ricciardo told The Age and the Herald.
"If, say, Ferrari and AlphaTauri couldn't compete and we went ahead, it wouldn't be fair on them. It's not like they'd been disqualified from racing for, say, a technical infringement. It just wouldn't be right," the Renault driver added.
"Winning a race like that … it's not the way any of us would want to win. Say there was a reason why Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull weren't coming and then I won in Melbourne … it would be a shallow victory and it wouldn't mean anything."
Ricciardo also said a non-championship event "would be even worse. It's either all-in or nothing. At this level, it has to be all of us, or none of us."
Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott insisted it was "all systems go", and that Ferrari would take its place on the grid.
"They go through a screening process, health checks and bio-security tests on embarkation. They have further checks on the plane," Westacott said.
"They [health authorities] will check them when they land and if they are clear they will be able to enter the country like any other healthy person. If they are not, then they will be subjected to further tests and then will have to go into isolation.
"If you don't meet the criteria the Border Force personnel will do their job."
Westacott said some Formula One personnel were already in Melbourne, and others were in transit, due to arrive on Friday through to early next week.
"But we are talking hundreds of people, not thousands."
He was adamant teams would not travel with staff who were thought to be at risk of infection or incubating the disease.
"You have to imagine that everyone who is in an F1 team has gone through their own mitigation, health check and risk assessment measures before being allowed to leave by their team managers."
Asked whether the decision to allow travellers from Italy in was the correct one when travellers from South Korea had been added to the banned list – along with those from China and Iran – Westacott said he was happy to rely on expert advice.
He said risk would be minimised as much as possible at an event that draws hordes of fans to Albert Park.
"We will have enhanced safety operating measures which will be visible at the event. There will be a role for the public too to ensure that we all have responsibilities for our own hygiene."
The Victorian government said it expected the grand prix to go ahead as planned. "The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has been in regular, daily contact with state and Commonwealth agencies and with F1 management, and based on all current advice there is no impediment to the race proceeding as planned," a spokesman said.
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