Formula One has confirmed the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and subsequent events in Bahrain and Vietnam are off as the sports' bosses discuss suspending the start of the new season until June. 

The official verdict on the Australian event arrived just after 10am local time in Melbourne following almost 12 hours of confusion sparked by McLaren's withdrawal in the wake of a staff member testing positive for coronavirus.

The statement from F1's governing body, the FIA read: "Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team's decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, the FIA and Formula 1 convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening.

"Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead. The FIA and Formula One, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have therefore taken the decision that all Formula One activity for the Australian Grand Prix is cancelled."

F1 later announced that the Bahrain and Vietnam events due

A statement on the Formula 1 Twitter account read: "Due to the continued global spread of COVID-19 and after ongoing discussions with the FIA and race organisers, a decision has been taken by all parties to postpone the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Vietnam Grand Prix due to take place on March 20-22 and April 3-5 respectively".

Sources had indicated in the early hours of Friday that the race in Australia would be scrapped but the failure by F1's American owners' Liberty Media and the FIA to act quickly resulted in thousands of fans arriving at the Albert Park venue for practice.

The chairman of the Australian Grand Prix corporation even told local breakfast television that the race would go ahead as planned.

Just moments before F1 - who will now face strong criticism for their handling of the eventual cancellation - confirmed the race would no longer go ahead, Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team revealed they had written a letter to the sport's bosses requesting for the race to be scrapped.

A statement from the sport's reigning world champions read: "We share the disappointment of the sport's fans that this race cannot go ahead as planned. However, the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our team members and of the wider F1 community are our absolute priority.

Members of the Ferrari team arrive to pack up their equipment

"In light of the force majeure events we are experiencing with regards to the coronavirus pandemic, we no longer feel the safety of our employees can be guaranteed if we continue to take part in the event.

"We do not feel it would be right to participate in an event where fellow competitors such as McLaren are unable to do so through circumstances beyond their control. Our team will therefore begin pack-up preparations at the circuit this morning."

F1's eventual move to call off the race follows the tide of the sporting world after a series of events were cancelled or delayed in response to the virus which has claimed more than 4,600 lives.

Hamilton had earlier heaped pressure on the sport's bosses by claiming they were putting lives at danger with 300,000 fans expected to have arrived through the gates of Albert Park over the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton (l) and McLaren's Lando Norris

A British mechanic was told he had tested positive for the coronavirus at 9pm on Thursday. A little more than an hour later, his McLaren team informed F1 and the FIA that they were pulling the plug on their participation here this weekend.

The individual remains in quarantine at the team's hotel in Melbourne. It is understood that at least a dozen other McLaren staff are in self-isolation after coming into contact with the man who arrived from England earlier this week. They are showing no symptoms related to the disease.

In all, nine people connected with the sport - none of whom are from Hamilton's Mercedes team - have been tested for the virus, seven of which have returned negative, one positive, and one is still awaiting their results. McLaren will now take direction from the local authorities regarding their next steps.

Earlier on Thursday, six-time world champion Hamilton attacked F1's decision to stage the Melbourne race.

"I am really very, very surprised that we are here," he said during the official press conference to preview Sunday's event.

"For me, it is shocking that we are sitting in this room. It seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a little bit late, but we have seen [US president] Donald Trump shut down the borders from Europe to the US, the NBA has been suspended, yet Formula One continues to go on."

Asked why he thought the sport's chiefs and its governing body, the FIA, had pushed ahead with the event, Hamilton, 35, said: "Cash is king. I don't feel like I should shy away from my opinion."

Following the latest postponements, the season could now start in Holland on 3 May, but that is also subject to change given the fluid situation surrounding the global pandemic. 

It is understood that the view of the sport's travelling circus is to delay the campaign until the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, pencilled in for 7 June, at the earliest.

As it stands, the season is due to end in Abu Dhabi on 29 November, but it is understood that that race could be pushed back until December to allow room for next month's postponed Chinese Grand Prix and the inaugural race in Vietnam to be squeezed back into a rejigged calendar.

The Dutch Grand Prix, the first in Holland for 36 years, might now be moved to August, with the sport's customary summer break scrapped. Eighteen races may be staged in six months.

The historic Monaco Grand Prix, set for 24 May, could become the sport's biggest casualty, while there may also be no room for the races in Bahrain and Spain. There are no plans for the round here in Melbourne to be rescheduled for later in the year.

"The scale of this is massive," said F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn. "We want to try and build the Formula One season back up, but we have to be realistic when that can start again.

"The teams survive on their funding from races. Each race you lose, it has an impact.

"There is a strong resilience in Formula One and we have got plans to rebuild the season and try to accommodate as many of the lost races.

"People need to show tolerance in terms of how we build the rest of the year, and the teams are in the right place to understand this necessity."