Reigning Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is “very surprised” the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is going ahead despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

A number of worldwide sporting events have been postponed or cancelled altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with America’s NBA season suspended until further notice on Thursday amid the country’s worsening situation, though F1 is pressing ahead as planned with its first round in Australia.

Five members of the F1 paddock - four Haas team personnel and one from McLaren - are currently self-isolating in their respective hotels after being tested for coronavirus, with the results expected later on Thursday.

"I am very, very surprised we are here,” Hamilton said during the FIA press conference on Thursday.

“It is great we have races but for me it is shocking that we are all sitting in this room [media centre].

“It seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a bit late. The NBA has been suspended yet F1 continues to go on.”

Asked why he felt F1 was still racing in Melbourne, Hamilton replied: “Cash is king.”

Australian Grand Prix race organisers are taking a number of precautionary measures for the Melbourne race, including scrapping autograph sessions and limiting interaction between drivers and fans, while teams agreed on Thursday to scrap all open TV media sessions.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, is confident all the correct measures are being taken to keep everyone in the paddock, including the fans, safe.

“It’s really, really good to be here and, most likely, go racing,” Bottas said. “But I’m not an expert of world matters.

"What we are doing as a team is getting some updates, there are some people monitoring everything, the safety of the team personal, the safety of the fans, the safety of everyone involved in this event, because it’s very important.

“I’m sure that has been taken care of and I’m sure if there’s any further protocols for this race or others, I’m sure they will be put in place for good reasons.

“I don’t know what else to say, except that I’m really keen to race, if we’re allowed to and I will very happy for that.”

Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen admitted it is “probably not” the right decision for F1 to continue as normal in Australia.

"I don’t know if it’s the right thing that we are here, probably not, but it’s not up to us, it’s not our decision,” he explained.

“I think it would have been purely the team’s decision we probably wouldn’t be here.”

 

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