Shutdown lifted, but still not business as usual

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Emilia Romagna, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrariit

Formula One drivers and teams will encounter an unusual time when the delayed 2020 championship finally gets underway in Austria, says Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer.

Formula 1 will be back in action when the 2020 season kicks off at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on July 5. Although the coronavirus situation has shown signs of improvements in Europe in recent weeks, authorities are still fighting against the spread of the COVID-19.

Otmar Szafnauer thinks that Formula One drivers and teams have to prepare themselves for a new reality when they meet for the first time after the interrupted season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend.

„While the shutdown has indeed been lifted, we’re by no means taking anything for granted. So, to answer the question directly, it’s not business as usual – it’s business tailored to the new normal we now find ourselves in. We must continue to be vigilant in our effort to curtail further the spread of the virus – protecting the health and wellbeing of our teammates and those around us in the process. The situation continues to evolve and we’re ready to adapt as required."

After Formula One had announced the first eight grands prix of its heavily-upgraded 2020 calendar, the sport began to work on a strict protocol that will be put in place in order to guarantee the well-being of all participants in the opening rounds. Among the package of measures will be the reduction of team members and the separation of outfits inside the paddock area.

The 55-year old engineer who was born in Romania thinks that „it’s going to feel strange for all of us to be getting on an aeroplane, flying to a different country and heading to a racetrack after such a long time away. The setup when we get to the paddock will feel very different too initially, I’m sure – but just as we’ve all adapted to this new normality at home, I’m confident we’ll do so on the road.”

„The processes and procedures we’ve implemented to keep everybody safe at the factory will apply just as stringently, if not more so, at the racetrack, so we’re in the best shape we can be.”

Formula 1 is working with international and local authorities to establish a safe environment when the action gets underway at Spielberg. Szafnauer said that a number of measures will be put in place in a bid to guarantee a safe working place in these unprecedented times.

„We’re taking all necessary measures to reduce any likelihood of exposure to the virus. It’s a long list, implementing specific entry and exit routes, testing and temperature checks, provision of PPE, staggered start, finish and break times, and so on. We’re also continuing to follow government guidelines by only asking those employees who cannot do their jobs remotely to return to the factory.”

„By initially limiting the number of staff on site, we can make the environment safer for those who do need to come in,” he concluded.