Nothing to fear in F1’s fantasy world

In the real world, coronavirus is at least a worry. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, it’s no worries.

In the real world, there is an acceptance that the outlook is changing day by day, and that what looked an overreaction yesterday is today a sensible precaution and tomorrow might well be a grim but responsible necessity.

Ferrari’s involvement in the Australian Grand Prix has been in doubt.Credit:Getty Images

In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, it’s "all systems go". A spokesman said so.

In the real world, the Indian Wells tennis tournament in the US has been cancelled, the Socceroos World Cup qualifiers have been postponed, major club matches in Italy are being played behind closed doors, and the World Cup skiing finals in Cortina d’Ampezzo have been scratched altogether.

In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, it’s see you in the champagne tent.

In the real world, conferences in Vancouver and Perth have been called off and schools in Melbourne and Sydney are shutting their doors. So are universities in America. So are football club front and back offices all over the world. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, it’s nothing to see here (unless you look through a microscope).

In the half-real world of motor sport, the Bahrain grand prix the week after Melbourne is to be run without spectators, the Vietnam grand prix two weeks later is in doubt and the first two MotoGP events of the year have been scrapped, too. But the Melbourne Grand Prix is another world altogether.

In the real world, even AFL teams say they would accept to play in locked-out stadiums if necessary. Inside the isolation zone of the Melbourne Grand Prix fences at Albert Park, “not a chance”, says the chief executive.

In the real word, every sporting organiser is talking in cautious terms about the immediate future. All are making contingency plans. As noted by the New York Times, the most common formulation is “fluid situation”. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, fluid is what sometimes oozes out of pit lane or across the carpet in the VIP enclosure. Qualifying is what happens on Saturday, come what may.

In the real world, tourism is tanking big-time. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, ticket sales and hotel bookings are booming as rarely before. Exactly how much they’re booming by they’re not at liberty to say, of course. It used to be because it was commercial in confidence, then that counting crowds would cost too much. The latest line is that divulging gate figures would compromise national security.

In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, millions of international visitors are about to descend on this city. Somehow, this is supposed to reassure us.

In the real world, large public gatherings may soon be banned. In France, they are already. Anticipating this here, the AFL for instance is making alternative plans, which seems not only sensible, but courteous to fans to foreshadow. In the Melbourne Grand Prix alternative universe, there is no alternative.

In the real world, large crowds congregated at Moomba and the World Cup cricket final last weekend. In the coronavirus context, a week is longer even than in politics, and last weekend a long time ago. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, all that matters is that it’s Grand Prix week.

In the real world, travel bans are widening and tightening. Day by day, fewer people are being let in from certain places. Day by day, fewer people are being let out of certain places. One is northern Italy, home to Ferrari and heartland of F1.

In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, Ferrari people have an exemption which falls under the heading “undeferrable work needs or emergency situations”. Because they’re from Ferrari, they don’t even need to be quarantined, not like the Chinese women’s soccer team.

In fact, arriving Ferrari staff cheerfully report back home that the checks on arrival in Melbourne have been less onerous than they expected: a temperature check, but no buffer zone. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, there is no race without Ferrari. They’ve said so. Red is not a zone, but a livery.

In the real world, coronavirus is a developing global medical emergency. In the Melbourne Grand Prix world, if it’s not the sort of virus that gets into your head and blinds and deafens you to reality, it is at least the sort that gets into your computer and makes the words come out all wrong.

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