Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer says regular testing throughout the paddock will be crucial for Formula 1 to be able to start its season.
The Austrian Grand Prix on July 5 is the targeted start date for 2020 after a number of postponements and cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At present teams aren’t allowed to travel, but F1 is hoping restrictions will have eased over the coming two months, while the opening rounds in Europe – also including Great Britain and potentially Hungary – will take place behind closed doors.
While movement for work purposes will be reliant on government guidelines, Szafnauer says F1 itself needs to ensure it is a virus-free working environment.
“So we’re now looking at what it would take to do that (start in Austria) and I think one of the key elements of getting that done is testing everybody,” Szafnauer told RACER. “Yes, there will be no fans so there won’t be any virus transmission out in the grandstands, however we’ve got to make sure the same is true in the paddock.
“We’re going to have to work closely with each other, we’re going to limit the amount of people that we take – probably a maximum of 80 per team, so that would be maybe up to 1200 people in the paddock. But [that’s] 1200 people in close proximity of each other, so we’ve got to have a good protocol as to how we go ahead and work and make sure that there is no transmission within the paddock.
“I think what we need to have is good information. The decisions we make are only as good as the information that we have to make that decision. For us to have good information, I think we need quick and accurate tests so that everybody can be tested before we go, people can be tested at the event and during the event. Then if we’re all happy that the 1000 people in the paddock don’t have the virus, then there can’t be any transmission.”
Although teams will receive reduced income given the absence of fans at the opening races, Szafnauer said starting up behind closed doors is the way to go.
“I think we’ve got to take baby steps before we can run, and it’s better to race than not,” he said. “If we’re one of the only sporting events going, then I think the whole world will watch. To watch a live Formula 1 race now on TV on a Sunday when there’s nothing else on… I think everybody would watch.”