FIA F1 Race Director Michael Masi talks about the steps taken by them to prevent Australia-like situation, with safety paramount for the personnel.
Ever since the world collectively went on lockdown back in March, the FIA have been working on solutions on how they will be able to safely return to racing – whether that’s with F1, or its other championships – while doing so as quickly as possible.
And finally, after what one can assume would have been several sleepless nights, the governing body came to work out a way in which all their boxes will be ticked: with strict regulations and a 2020 F1 season start in Austria in July.
While the specifics of the regulations have become clear, with a cap of 80 people on the premises per team, one thing that there has been a lack of clarity on is what this will truly look like in the paddock on the race weekend for the Austrian GP.
To provide clarity, though, FIA Race Director Masi joined Sky Sports to discuss the precautions in full, as he put an emphasis on the fact that F1 teams will operate as families, and mingling will not be seen.
“It’s been a hugely detailed process, so we’ve had our FIA medical department involved, along with other members of our safety department,” said Masi. “I’ve been leading the operational side of what that looks like, our travel, and all that.
“So it’s been a whole organisational effort, and with F1 being a key part of what we do, working in partnership with Ross and with Chase in particular on what that looks like. But effectively, the key element of what we’re looking at will be, each team and each main entity will operate as a family unit.
“No different to each of us at home with our family members, we can socialize with them and work with them and so-forth quite closely, and effectively each team will just be a broader family unit. But the other part that we’re aware of with the way this pandemic has evolved, is that social distancing.
“Teams interacting will not be something that we see. We’ll be trying to keep separation, even things down to driver’s meetings having to happen over Zoom to try and minimize the risk for the entire paddock and to try and keep us as resilient as possible in going through, and minimizing the risk of having a repeat of what happened in Melbourne,” said Masi.
One further step taken by the FIA has been the exclusion of F1 fans from live viewing of the race from the stands. This precaution has been taken, like all other related precautions for the race, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 at the race.
It was also a step taken out of necessity, but there remains some concern that the environment at the race will be lacking passion and excitement with fans in absence. This was also touched upon by Masi, who acknowledged that things will feel different at the race, even though the race will be identical from the operational perspective.
“It’ll obviously be a different environment,” said Masi. “And, I know exactly the rugby league game you’re talking about because I was watching it! And, they did pipe in crowd noise to create that atmosphere. Having said that, but what we do – particularly from an operational and a regulatory sense – it won’t really have a great deal of an impact.
“We will still have all of the officials and marshals trackside. None of the safety elements have been compromised in any way. We’ve been working on plans for how marshalls can continue to do what they do around the track safely and in the best environment, ensuring they have a good testing regime similar to everyone in the paddock, so it will be different, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t know it will affect the way we as the FIA do things. It will be more related to other elements that come into it.”
Here’s latest from Ross Brawn on 2020 and more
Here’s Chase Carry on Concorde Agreement and more
Here’s some key answers from F1 regarding 2020 start
Here’s the details of 2020 F1 season
Here’s Michael Masi on gloves-off approach
The story was edited by Darshan Chokhani