The Formula One season roars into action at the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg this weekend with “military-like”, coronavirus-busting sanitary regulations.
Every single person who sets foot inside the Red Bull Ring, where the first two races of the rescheduled season take place, must adhere to strict health and safety protocols developed jointly by the organisers and teams, who have employed their genius for logistics to the task at hand.
“The meticulous approach of the teams to both logistics and engineering and procedures and protocols is what we’ve transferred into our approach to dealing with this challenge,” F1 chief Ross Brawn said. The Red Bull Ring, nestling in the picturesque Styrian mountains, has been put into a fortress-like lockdown and will play host to a first race on July 5 and a second a week later.
Brawn predicted teams would be quick to adapt to all new measures. “It suits our culture, our philosophy of working through every scenario, plan A, plan B, plan C,” said Brawn, who added there was a two-metre social-distancing rule and compulsory visors or masks.
Each team has been reduced to a maximum of 80 staff, they will be asked to refrain from mixing with other groups and even split into subgroups so as to limit any possible cross contagion. The teams will travel in motor-homes and once on site will use the facilities there to cook. Anyone at the track must submit to coronavirus testing and regular temperature checks and no spectators will be allowed in the arena.
Organisers also say they will be ready to react and improve or adapt to developing situations in the same way they do with races. “We will live and learn at each race,” Brawn said. “That’s the nature of F1. It’s very military like in its approach.”
Ferrari’s sporting director Laurent Mekies says the strategies will make the sport more resilient to coronavirus, especially the sub-division of teams to carry out activities, which he argued would mean having a limited number of people in isolation were there an outbreak.
“If necessary we will have replacements on standby at the factory,” Mekies said. World champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team say they have entirely reorganised their garage, adding tents and canopies so as to avoid slowing down the work on their cars.
There will also be a tracing app which all team members must download, granting access to all their contacts. Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said last week he was more than happy with the ongoing safety measures. “We could not have done more really, what has been put in place is the best possible,” the Italian leader of the American team said.
Renault retain Sirotkin
as reserve driver
Russian Sergey Sirotkin will be on standby in Austria this weekend after Renault announced yesterday they had retained him as their Formula One reserve driver. The role has come into the spotlight more as the sport finally starts its season amid the pandemic, with the possibility of drivers being ruled out by the virus. Sirotkin, 24, raced for Williams in 2018 and filled the Renault reserve role in 2017 and 2019. Renault’s race drivers are Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Frenchman Esteban Ocon.
“I understand the importance for a team to have a driver ready to fill in quickly should the opportunity arise, especially given the current situation the world is in,” Sirotkin said in a statement. “I’ve been keeping sharp and focused, and I would be well-prepared to race a Formula One car again.”
Sirotkin doubled up as McLaren reserve last season but that team, who are switching to Mercedes power in 2021, will share back-up drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez with Mercedes and Racing Point.
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