Spielberg (dpa) – Nothing will be normal if Formula 1 starts the season with a delay of almost four months. The teams around the race track in Spielberg, Austria, are facing even more challenges than usual before the start on Sunday.
Racing is only possible if the hygiene rules are strictly observed. “You do everything there. The security measures are very large. You are very conscientious in order not to have any problems,” said former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher of the German Press Agency. 203,000 fans were there last year, now there won’t be a single one.
An overview of how the racing series gets under corona conditions:
CORONA TESTS: All Formula 1 personnel are tested before they arrive in Austria. Only those who have a negative coronavirus test that is not older than four days can enter the paddock at all. There, tests are carried out at intervals of no more than five days. In the two racing weeks in Austria, up to 12,000 tests are expected, which will be analyzed in a laboratory near Munich. Around 3,000 people are said to have access to the Red Bull Ring. If there is a positive case, isolation units are available. A separate external Covid-19 outpatient clinic is set up.
MASKS: Masks are mandatory in the paddock and at all meetings, and sufficient distances should also be maintained. This poses major challenges for mechanics in particular. The teams have already got used to the masks during internal tests. “When our mechanics do physical work and it gets very hot, it becomes particularly challenging,” said Ferrari sports director Laurent Mekies. Some tasks also require the use of face shields or other personal protective equipment.
SMALLER TEAMS: A maximum of 80 employees – including the drivers – are allowed to bring the racing teams along to the track. With the top teams such as Mercedes or Ferrari, this means a drastic shortage of staff. Mechanics or engineers are hardly affected by this and will be there almost at full strength. Ferrari and Co. receive remote support from the factories. Employees help with data analysis, for example, by computer.
HYGIENE: The basic regulations include hand washing and cleaning procedures, but also regular cleaning of workplaces and equipment with disinfectants. Contacts are restricted, the racing teams should remain among themselves in so-called team bubbles. At Ferrari there are even internal separations, so that in the event of a positive Corona case, not all employees have to be quarantined.
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DRIVER’S WAREHOUSE: Actually there is a lot of hustle and bustle, many celebrities can be seen around the motorhomes and stroll through the starting grid. None of this will happen, VIP areas will remain closed, as will the stands for ordinary fans. For the first time there are ghost races in the motorsport premier class. Because there will be no guests on site, there are no team accommodations, only tents. The existing infrastructure along the route is used to supply food.
AWARD CEREMONIES: The champagne party on the podium is replaced by a sober ceremony on the home stretch. The trophies cannot be handed over as before because the gap cannot be kept. But there are new ideas that have recently been tested for their TV suitability, said Formula 1 sports director Ross Brawn. A driver parade, in which all pilots are driven around the route on the open upper deck of a bus and interviewed, is currently not possible. The show stays off.
RACE WEEKEND: Nothing changes in the sporting program. Training on Friday is followed by qualification on Saturday and race on Sunday. However, the accompanying program will be shut down, autograph sessions and media rounds of the individual teams will not take place. The number of media representatives is also greatly reduced and reduced to a minimum. In general, the following applies when restarting: If you do not necessarily have to be on site, you should stay outside.
ACCOMMODATION: To avoid contact with the outside world, the teams travel by charter flight to the military airport in Zeltweg, very close to the course in Styria. If possible, the entire Formula 1 team should only move between the airport, the route and the hotels. The teams move into different accommodations and stay among themselves. Contact with other people should be avoided, Mekies emphasized: “We organize that we get our food in the hotel or along the route so that we don’t need to go out.”