Ferrari will isolate the teams of people working on each of Charles Leclerc’s and Sebastian Vettel’s cars from each other in order to increase its resilience against a positive case of COVID-19.
Formula 1’s delayed season will get underway in Austria next weekend, with the opening races taking place behind closed doors and with significant restrictions on personnel. There is also a code of conduct that all those involved with the event must adhere to, and Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies says it extends far beyond just those at the circuit isolating from others away from the track.
“So the Formula 1 paddock will be a bubble in such a way that the same restrictions and the same health procedures will be applied to everybody that turns up there,” Mekies said. “But inside the bubble of the Formula 1 paddock you will have each individual bubble for each team, with pretty much no or minimum interactions between a bubble or one team and another.
“So, as we all like and are used to seeing, you will not see people from a team having a casual chat with people from another team. This won’t happen for the coming races because we work under the strict principles of a bubble with really minimal interaction with the other ones.
“Inside a team — so inside the team bubble, which is inside the F1 bubble — we will also do more bubbles. So you will probably have the ‘Car 16 bubble’ and the ‘Car 5 bubble’ and inside them probably engineers and mechanics and so on and so forth. Why? In order to be as resilient as possible if there is a positive case, in order to ensure that the number of people that came into contact with that individual is as minimal as possible.”
Despite that approach, Mekies says there is the potential to combine the two car crews for work purposes if required, for example if a major change or repair is required on one car in a short timeframe.
“It is not a regulation, so you are not forced into doing a bubble. You are forced into operating your team as a bubble and the fact that we go and design sub-bubbles inside it is our responsibility. We do it, as we say, to be as resilient as possible in case of a positive case.
“So depending on how we design the bubble, it limits the interactions and contact between the people. We are trying to design it in a way that does not affect our operations.
“If we need to do something and break the sub-bubble to go after an operational need … we can do it, but as a team we will be a bit less resilient in case one of these people would be unfortunately testing positive. It’s a decision that we can take in autonomy.”
All those attending a race must agree to be tested for COVID-19 every five days, with Mekies insisting the relaxation of that timeframe from every two days has nothing to do with trying to avoid a positive case disrupting an event.
“It’s very far from that. There will be tests during the weekend if anybody has symptoms. Having followed all these iterations, there have been 20 versions of our procedures and because it’s a fast-changing environment, you try to strike the right compromise. We think we are still operating well above any national law or employment law with the procedures which have been set out by FIA and F1.
“We have talked about tests every two days at some stage; it has been relaxed to five days. I think you will see other iterations of that protocols in the coming weeks, I hope in the same direction, in the direction of relaxing some of these things. But if you look at the big picture, I think we are operating such a long way into being as safe as possible.”