E s was a long way from standstill to Resumption of racing. In the meantime, the FIA and the ten Formula 1 teams have gone almost to the end. There are only a few days left until the start of the season in Spielberg, Austria.
No fans, no guests, no sponsors, corona tests, slimmed-down teams, strict hygiene regulations, mask requirement, blistering: Formula 1 does everything to keep the risk of corona infections as low as possible. Everyone does their part. 'As soon as I leave the house, everything is different. I've been away for so long and I will do the devil to risk something now,' says Esteban Ocon, who is making his comeback after a year and a half on the bench.
Renault team-mate Daniel Ricciardo specifies: 'I only travel with a mask. I clean everything. Every pack is disinfected after shopping before I put it in the refrigerator or on the shelf.' But despite all the precautions, a residual risk remains. 'Unfortunately there is no such thing as zero risk,' says Ocon. 'But we can take as much risk as possible with our behavior.'
Corona tests every five days
In Australia in March, a McLaren mechanic found positive results the dominoes fall. Formula 1 canceled or postponed ten Grands Prix. Practically no wheel turned for four months.
Those responsible assure that a new corona case should not force them to give up this time. With the extensive protection and hygiene concept, you are on the safe side. Only those who can show a negative corona test may enter the paddock. 'The PCR test must not be older than four days,' says Ferrari sports director Laurent Mekies. In German, PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, with which the genetic material of the virus can be detected.
On-site testing should then be carried out every five days. Originally, a rhythm of every two days was targeted, which was rejected again with new findings. 'The environment is changing rapidly. In Formula 1 we do significantly more than would be required by national governments. Whether every two or five days: that doesn't make the difference,' says Mekies. 'And as soon as someone has symptoms, they will be tested anyway.'
Find the right balance
The teams are happy to be able to return to the racetrack. First, because they are driven by competition. Second, because this is the only way to get the big money from TV stations and series sponsors flowing again. Therefore one can and must live with the restrictions. Even if they represent a great challenge.
Each team lives in its own bubble at the Grand Prix venue. Contacts with others are only allowed if absolutely necessary. In order to reduce the risk, the racing teams form further sub-bubbles within their own bubble in order to limit encounters. 'The introduction of sub-groups is challenging,' says Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
The Frenchman admits that he has certain concerns before the start of the season. What happens if a team member actually tests positive for Corona and there are contacts within the group? Renault management is afraid of that. 'There is a risk that the whole team will be left out in the event of an infection. The basic test can take 24 hours to get the result. That is how long we have to wait. If that happens on Saturday morning, you may not be able to participate in qualifying.'
Abiteboul pleads not to go into the small print, but to use a reasonable level. 'The code of conduct is in some ways still a document that is adapted with new knowledge. We have to strike the right balance between risk reduction, practicality and common sense.'