Mark Webber has defended the handling of the events that led to the Australian Grand Prix being cancelled just hours before track action was due to get underway.

Despite concerns over the fast unfolding of the coronavirus pandemic, F1 travelled to Australia for the opening round of the season with the intention of racing on.

However, when members of the McLaren F1 team were diagnosed with the virus on their arrival in the paddock, the team subsequently withdrew from the event as a safeguard.

Hours of negotiations with teams followed, with some in favour of going ahead and others wanting it cancelled before the decision was taken scrap it altogether ahead of Friday free practice.

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At the time F1 bosses and race organisers came in for criticism over the mixed messages emerging in the media, leading to spectators still turning up to the circuit.

However, former F1 driver Webber believes the fast-changing unprecedented situation – coupled with leaks in the European media – gave a more chaotic impression than what was actually occurring behind the scenes.

“It was so close to be happening,” he told the Australian 9now show. “We were dealing with hours at that point, weren’t we, on a global stage?

“I think that having everyone here, they were trying to do what they could. There was a few unfortunate positive tests in the paddock at that point. And the sort of capitulation point was quite nasty, the fans had arrived of course.”

“It was hard to keep it quiet. There was leaking media overnight through in Italy and BBC with the UK, the time zones over there so when we woke up over here. The media, as it is, we love them. But they were onto it.

“They did what they could, the event, at that time. We needed Chase Carey, the CEO, the boss of Formula 1 to come down here and get boots on the ground and help call the event off with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.”