Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc upon the world, society and sporting events. Ahead of the season restart on July 3, Formula 1 has investigated many options on how to look after teams, personnel and drivers. Ferrari’s Sporting Director, Laurent Mekies, provides some insights.
Due to the necessity of garage personnel to work in close proximity during the races, especially when setting up the car in the garage and in a pitstop, masks will be mandatory. Mekies admits that it’s the best, if not the most ideal solution. His line of thought here applies to the heat factor during the northern hemisphere summer and autumn. Mekies agrees that in an office environment or in a low-stress part of a race, the comfort level will be different compared the heightened, get-it-done-now attitude, plus when working in temperatures nudging 40ºC.
Mandatory breaks for getting fresh air, not filtered via the masks, will alleviate the potential for discomfort as much as possible, and specific breathing exercises can be undertaken in order to ensure proper oxygenation for personnel. Mekies says: “We’re trying to put in place some measures, in terms of breathing exercises, and having some breaks to have time to do these exercises and keep in the best possible shape.”
Adding to the daily workload sounds counter-intuitive however. The FIA had requested a one-hour reduction in daily workloads over a race weekend but in order to allow the staff the break required, says Mekies, their daily schedule will revert to 2019’s timetable but with the one hour being allocated to the breaks for team members, the actual workload will still come down.
Team numbers have been reduced as well. F1 mandated a reduction to 60 members, rather than 80, in an effort to curtail any potential spread. Teams have an allocation of 80 as it stands, and Mekies says that the numbers have affected mainly non-technical staff so an impact on race operations will be negligible.
The main area, he says, that will be affected is in global logistics however with the schedule so far being Europe in focus, again that won’t really affect the performance levels. And like many offices globally, remote operations will play some part in a race weekend. By basing some critical operations staff in Ferrari’s home at Maranello, this also assists in reducing potential contact between staff.
On-track safety is by no means overlooked. Although separate to what will occur in garages and team bunkers, trackside staff will follow similar protocols. Masks for officials will be encouraged, as will sanitizing procedures. Should recovery vehicles be required during an event, it’s expected that the medical cars will first assess an incident and provide, as promptly as possible, the best procedures for officials to deal with vehicle recovery and assisting a driver.
The official restart for the 2020 F1 season happens on Friday, July 3 at the Red Bull Ring, Austria.