Inside Formula One’s return from coronavirus shutdown as roadshow returns to Austria

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Just under a year ago, Formula One returned from its four-month Coronavirus shutdown to finally get the 2020 season underway. This weekend, the championship returns to where the shortened campaign started for round eight of the 2021 season – the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

The sport had attempted to start the 2020 season on schedule but when a McLaren team member tested positive for Covid-19, March’s Australian Grand Prix was abandoned.

It took a monumental effort from Formula One themselves, the teams, drivers and circuit promoters to construct a season.

Rigorous rules around testing, social distancing, bubbles and personnel numbers were all implemented.

The FIA, the sport’s governing body, were a key part of the discussions, with the organisations medical commission president Dr Gérard Saillant working with the World Health Organisation.

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Bubbles were constructed between teams, media personnel and Formula 1 staff, with up to 12 people included in one.

For example, Mercedes had 24 bubbles for their staff, assigned to the vehicles they travelled in.

Fans were banned from the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, with teams allowed 80 employees per race compared to around 130 for pre-covid races.

Anyone entering the paddock had to be tested every five days, with the first round of 4,000 tests not returning a single positive.

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Luxembourg company Eurofins Scientific handled the tests, which were also carried out over the race weekend.

Masks and social distancing were mandatory at all times in the paddock, with staff members told to remain in one part of the track.

The drivers were included in all discussions as F1 built the season and their protocols, with leading figures holding a briefing with the Grand Prix Drivers Association in May.

Those protocols were incredibly successful, with F1 going on to complete a 17-race season after a season-opening Austria Grand Prix for the ages.

Ross Brawn, managing director of motorsports at F1, will be hoping this weekend’s race will be just as exciting and he previously hailed the way the sport got its show back on the road.

“Formula 1 is the sort of industry that thrives on logistics, thrives on organizational challenges and thrives on complex problems,” he told the New York Times.

“And so once we started to put our heads together, we began to see a way we would be able to operate.

“My ambition, and the ambition of everyone in Formula 1, was to make the paddock one of the safest places in the world to be.”
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