MARK OUR PRESENCE : Ferrari said in a statement that despite being ''a very difficult time in Italy'' the Australian Grand Prix would start as planned and the Scuderia 'will be there'.

MELBOURNE : Ferrari Formula One Boss Mattia Binotto Tuesday urged his team to ''put a smile on people's faces'' at the Australian Grand Prix as Italy went into lockdown to combat coroavirus.

Most teams, including the Scuderia, are already in Melbourne or en route for the opening race of the year on Sunday, which organisers have said will go ahead as scheduled in front of packed grandstands despite the coronavirus outbreak.

In contrast, all sporting events in Italy have been suspended until April 3 as part of tough measures announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday to tackle the disease, and Bahrain, the season's second race, has barred fans.

Binotto said that he hoped the Maraello-based team, and the grand prix weekend as whole could help take people's mind off the crisis.

''At what is a difficult time for Italy and the world as a whole, as part of a global sport, it is our obligation to try and put a smile on people's faces as they prepare to watch the first race of the season with the same sense of anticipation as ourselves,'' he said.

Ferrari head into the season with a new SF1000 car, which is narrower than last season's SF90, and with a deeper red colouring. The team is pinning its hopes on the machine earning the drivers' and constructors' titles that have eluded them for 12 and 11 years respectively.

''After a long winter working on building and developing our car, the time has come to get a first indication of our performance level and how effective are the improvements we have introduced over the past few months,'' said Binotto. [AFP]


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