F1 precision to tackle virus threat

Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix in June last year, when he finished fifth. The team have reorganised their garage in line with the new rules. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix in June last year, when he finished fifth. The team have reorganised their garage in line with the new rules. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • 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 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... this challenge," F1 chief Ross Brawn said.

The circuit, nestled in the picturesque Styrian mountains, has been put into a fortress-like lockdown and will host the first race on Sunday and a second next week.

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 the Briton, who added that there was a 2m social-distancing rule and compulsory visors or masks.

Each team have been reduced to a maximum of 80 staff, and they will be asked to refrain from mixing with other groups and even split into sub-groups 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.

Everyone at the track, where no spectators will be allowed, will be tested and have their temperature checked regularly.

Organisers also said 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," Brawn added. "That's the nature of F1. It's very military-like in its approach."

 
 
 

Ferrari's sporting director Laurent Mekies said the strategies will make the sport more resilient to the coronavirus, especially the sub-division of teams to carry out activities, which he said would mean having a limited number of people in isolation were there an outbreak.

Mercedes said they have 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 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 said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'F1 precision to tackle virus threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe