Analysis of the Covid 19 Protocols in Austria-Total-F1
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
After months of waiting, the Formula 1 season has finally completed a Grand Prix weekend. A weekend full of drama, Bottas taking a worthy win ahead of the chaos that unfolded behind him. The weekend marked a glorious return for the World’s premier Motorsport, but what efforts were made by the F1 Paddock to enable the show to return?
Masks, lots of masks. The entire F1 Paddock (in the Spielberg bubble where they will remain until this weekend's second race meeting) were festooned in face masks of varying design, some fancy, some practical. Jenson Button wisely stated that while annoying, they were a necessary nuisance, a small price to pay for the return of racing. Beyond that social distancing was of course high on the agenda as it is the world over. Broadcasters made sure to stand/sit at a distance from one another. The media interviewed drivers via distanced barricades, masks were on, microphone stands were up. Caution was adhered too and to some, it may seem over the top, but to the Government’s of the world, it shows how serious F1 is about continuing the sport safely.
Other measures taken into account were the limited amount of personnel on-site. Teams had to make do with a reduced number of engineers, the Pit Lane not quite as calamitous a location as it would be on a usual Grand Prix weekend. Of course, there were no fans in attendance, almost. High in the forest hills surrounding the Spielberg Circuit, the media Helicopter snapped a few intrepid adventurers watching the action from afar. Another ad hoc spectator was one Ted Kravitz. F1’s most popular Pit Lane reporter was barred from Pit Lane. Instead, he was relegated to reporting on Pit Lane action via a Telescope, perched high up in the main grandstand.
The paddock itself has had a bit of a do-over. No motorhomes, instead event organisers provided the dwellings for drivers and crew, the former being in converted shipping containers. Team trucks were distanced further from the garages than usual, to allow more space for teams to operate. Hand gel stations were of course placed throughout the paddock. One other implementation in the paddock is that each team is enforced to stay within their bubble, fraternising with another team will result in a fine. Ferrari took things a step further, with each driver having their own separate bubble of personnel, but given the events of last year, that is probably for the best.
After Qualifying and the Race, we saw yet another measure enforced. The top three finishers of both sessions rolled up onto the start-finish straight. Awaiting them a small platform for them to place their helmet and gloves, before putting on a fresh new mask. Once the masks had been applied the drivers took turns to be individually interviewed using a distanced mic set-up. For the post-race celebrations, this set-up was given the addition of a makeshift podium. Three little islands of varying height placed next to one another for Bottas, Leclerc (a very surprising podium finisher) and Norris (a very popular podium finisher). The end result looked like something straight from a club-race meeting, and with the absence of fans, the sense of community in the Paddock was clearer to see than ever before. The teams and drivers have been waiting for this just as eagerly as the fans, and it showed in post-race celebrations. With the celebrations came another rule; don’t spray each other with champagne. Caught up by the excitement, this rule was routinely ignored. Norris and McLaren were also guilty of breaching social distancing at the end of the race. However, they may be forgiven due to the excitement of the young Brit’s first-ever podium, at least the group were wearing masks.
Despite the last few breaches of Covid measures, the entire paddock put up a very stringent display. The seriousness and caution displayed by the entire sport were clear to see, an example set to the rest of the Motorsport world. On Saturday morning it was confirmed that all 4000 strong members of the Paddock had negative test results (tests are conducted every five days), so clearly the measures are working.
And as long as the measures work, the travelling circus of Formula 1 can continue. Written 7th July 2020 This article was written for the now defunct website Total-F1; "Dan consistently delivered high quality articles for Total F1, showing great writing ability and creativity. The articles were always delivered ahead of schedule and surpassed expectations". Connor Sutton, Chief Editor @ Total-F1