Australian Grand Prix officials have declared all F1 drivers and staff members must be fully vaccinated to avoid a repeat of the Novak Djokovic controversy that saw the world number one deported.
Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton and his fellow Formula One drivers have been warned they will not be allowed to compete in the Australian Grand Prix if they are not vaccinated.
Officials will be keen to avoid a repeat of the controversial and incredibly public saga surrounding Novak Djokovic’s cancelled visa. The world number one was sensationally deported from Melbourne after his entry into the country was revoked ahead of the Australian Open.
He could be banned from re-entering for three years after his visa was cancelled. Australia have imposed strict laws on citizens during the pandemic – and Australian Grand Prix authorities have already told drivers that they will not be allowed to compete if they are not vaccinated.
The Australian Grand Prix is usually the season-opener, but will be third on the 2022 calendar due to planning amid Covid restrictions. Race chief executive Andrew Westacott insisted that rules are clear and all racers and staff must be fully jabbed to attend.
“The rules are simple to get into the country and the rules are simple to operate in Formula One,” Westacott said. “To come into the event you’ll be 100 per cent vaccinated and there won’t be an exemption sought for anyone from anyone.
“Our arrangements have been in place well before the recent goings-on at the Australian Open. These rules are understood by Formula One, they’re understood by the FIA, they’re going to be written into the sporting regulations and I’m very confident that (it) is just going to be a rite of passage to come into the country.
“There’s zero tolerance. Whether you’re Lewis Hamilton or Valentino Rossi in MotoGP, if you test positive, you don’t race that weekend.”
No driver is above the regulations, although seven-time world champion Hamilton is believed to be fully vaccinated.
F1 has already said that everyone will need to be vaccinated to take part in events. When asked about vaccinations ahead of the new season earlier this month, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “There are many issues to discuss with the teams.
“We will have the problem of Covid to manage again next year and it will not be easy. But two years into the pandemic, we have completed some super-intense seasons and it makes us cautiously optimistic for what the start of the 2022 season should be like, where alas Covid may still be present.
“But it is no coincidence that one of the last things approved in the last FIA World Council, as a precaution, is to have all F1 staff vaccinated to be in the paddock.”
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Hamilton is yet to speak publicly since Red Bull star Max Verstappen secured a maiden world title in controversial scenes at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with retirement speculation mounting. Mercedes’ fury was largely aimed at FIA race director Michael Masi after he decided to not allow cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.
Mercedes withdrew their appeal against the result after the FIA pledged an investigation into the events surrounding the Safety Car procedures.
Hamilton and Mercedes team members did not conduct any other media interviews after the season finale and the 37-year-old is yet to post on his social media accounts since the events of 12 December 2021.
The 23-race 2022 campaign begins on 18-20 March, with winter testing for the all-new generation of cars underway from 23 February.