Ferrari F1 boss Mattia Binotto wants to make Italy 'smile' amid coronavirus crisis

FERRARI boss Mattia Binotto wants his "united" team to help put a smile on faces in Italy amid the country's coronavirus crisis.

The Italian F1 team arrived in Melbourne for this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Team members arrived from their Maranello base in northern Italy this week where they have been travel restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus.

On Monday the entire country was put into lockdown with people told to stay at home and seek permission for essential travel.

The country's death toll rose from 366 to 463 on Monday, making it the worst-hit country after China.

All 20 Italian regions have reported cases of the deadly virus and prime minister Giuseppe Conte described it as "our darkest hour".

In a preview issued by Ferrari, team principal Binotto said it was their "obligation" to help lift the mood back home.

Binotto said: "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.

"We know that the opposition is strong, but we also know that it is the start of a long season where development rate, reliability, and our operational effectiveness will be key.

"We are gearing up to tackle all these challenges as a united team, conscious of the progress that needs to be made and proud of the support of our fans worldwide.

"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."

Ferrari are looking to bridge the gap to Mercedes this season having finished 235 points behind the German side in last year's championship.

Lewis Hamilton is once again favourite to win the drivers' title and tie level with Michael Schumacher on seven.

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