As Formula One teams gear up for lights out in Austria in less than a month's time, here is what to be expected going into the new season.
Following a mandatory 63-day shutdown period, F1 authorities have officially announced that the 2020 season will restart in Austria on July 5, albeit in a very different manner as teams adjust to new formalities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and here’s how:
Measures put in place mean that all personnel returning to their respective factories have and will be tested thoroughly throughout the season. A positive test will result in an obligatory 14-day self-quarantine as per health regulations.
Temperature checks need to be taken every-day upon entry of the factory and paddock and advanced thermal scanners have also been implemented into each teams' premises, further strengthening control measures.
Rotation systems have been put in place to minimize staff inside the factory, ensuring social distancing can be operated, whilst others are being encouraged to work from home when possible.
Charter flights will be used as much as possible and private transfers will ferry F1 staff between hotels, venues and airports. Those in the paddock on race weekends will be tested every two days, including race personnel surrounding the venue such as race marshals, security and medical teams.
There will be a significant reduction in the personnel travelling to races from all parties, including the teams, the FIA, suppliers and F1 itself.
To help achieve this, some functions of a race weekend – such as parts of the television broadcast – will be carried out remotely.
Additionally, any personnel on-site will be required to isolate in their respective team units and not interact with others and privately sourced personal protective equipment and hygiene materials will be provided to each team to mitigate any risks.
Here's what F1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds had to say regarding the strict measures put in place: “There are aspects of operating at a Grand Prix that really preclude social distancing,”
“Our fans need to understand that everyone won’t be two meters apart, you can’t envisage a pitstop where that happens, so we have to take even more precautions.
“It’s an incredibly complex operation that’s changing day by day as regulations and our understanding changes -but we want to ensure safety above everything – that is our critical remit.
“There are bubbles within bubbles – we are trying to keep that level of isolation without the social distancing that we all know is so effective.”
So, you might be asking yourselves: Well if everyone is being tested so much, and not everyone is even travelling to Austria for the start of the season, why do they need to keep socially distanced?
Well, that’s because Chase Carey (executive chairman of the F1 group), has confirmed that if everyone, despite being tested can social distance whilst wearing PPE and a member does develop signs of COVID-19, then enough precautions would have been put in place meaning that the whole team will not have to pull out.
The initial run of races on the calendar will take place without any spectators, guests or partners and will not be permitted access to events. F1 hopes fans will be able to join events as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the meantime, grandstands will be empty and the paddock much quieter than usual, with only essential personnel allowed in the confines of the circuit.
Not only will fans not be able to jump onto the main straight once the checkered flag is raised, but the mechanics won't be able to create a bit grouping under the podium to cheer their drivers, so you can expect a very silent ceremony.
In Australia, the NRL (Rugby League) have allowed fans to send in a photo of themselves to be put as a cardboard cut-out in the stand, however, some fans have sent in pictures of people like Dominic Cummings and some other less liked people, so lesson learned I doubt F1 will go down that route.
By regulation, a world championship needs to be composed of a minimum of eight races and so far we know of eight confirmed races of which two will be held at Silverstone.
There was a lot of speculation that Azerbaijan would hold a race this season, however Ross Brawn (F1 managing director) has made it clear that hosting city races like Baku and Monaco is a lot more problematic with crowd control whilst putting F1 into a controlled tested environment, compared to other permanent race tracks out of town. With Baku looking unlikely, that could path a deal that sees F1 race Sochi, Russia, in a doubleheader.
In terms of America: Canada, Mexico, United States and Brazil all look unlikely as they are seemingly behind Europe and Asia with Covid-19, which leaves a possible return to Europe for the second leg if teams cannot travel to America.
So, it looks like we will be having a very predominant European season before closing off in the Middle East as Bahrain are happy to have two races back to back, with Abu Dhabi already signed off for the season closer. In total we are looking at a 14-15 race season, making a decent season out of such a testing time for Motorsport.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk