McLaren team members cleared of Coronavirus
Seven McLaren team members who were tested for the coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix have test negative. The team members took the test after close contact with a team member who tested positive for the virus.
McLaren had previously said the employee was free of symptoms.
On Wednesday, the team added that 16 staff will remain in quarantine for a further week to follow recommendations. Of those isolated, 14 had been in close contact with the team member who tested positive and an additional team member displayed symptoms over the weekend.
Three members of senior management, including racing director Andrea Stella, also stayed behind to support them.
Organisers of the Monaco Grand Prix say the race is cancelled and not postponed, contradicting a statement from Liberty Media that the race has been postponed along with the Dutch and Spanish Grand Prix’s.
Monaco said that the event was “no longer tenable”. Its means F1’s showcase race will not take place for the first time since 1954 and will give more opportunities to reorganise the already postponed races.
The organisers made it clear that the decision was a result of a combination of circumstances, including the potential availability of the workforce required to build up the circuit, along with the volunteers who operate it on the race weekend.
The Historic GP, which was to have taken place a fortnight earlier, has also been cancelled. The ACM said: “The current situation concerning the worldwide pandemic and its unknown path of evolution, the lack of understanding as to the impact on the FIA F1 World Championship 2020.”
“The uncertainty with regards to the participation of the teams, the consequences with regards to the differing measures of confinement as taken by various governments worldwide, the multi-border restrictions for accessing the Principality of Monaco, the pressure on all implicated businesses”
They say the decision to withdraw from hosting it’s Grand Prix this year, with deep regret. It means the sport has lost its showcase race and now many drivers will not have a home race.
Confirmation that Monaco won’t be seeking a new slot means that realistically five of the seven races that have already been postponed might potentially be rescheduled.
All Grand Prix’s in May postponed
The FIA has announced that the Dutch and Spanish Grand Prix’s will be postponed as the coronavirus outbreak continues. With many countries now placing strict restrictions on movements, the announcement was expected.
In a statement issued by motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, it was said the decisions were prompted by the desire to ensure the safety of competitors and fans.
“Due to the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, the FIA, Formula 1 and the three promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern”
“The FIA and Formula 1 continue to work closely with affected promoters and local authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year should the situation improve.”
The statement added they expect the season to begin as soon as it is safe to do so, adding the situation remains under review. The next scheduled race is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, 05 – 07 June.
Monaco construction work continues
The Monacan government is allowing construction work on part of the circuit to continue amid a ban that comes into force this week as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
All other projects have been put on hold admit the worsting pandemic, work will continue to prepare the area around Quai des Etats-Unis – the straight from the chicane down to Tabac.
Counsellor of the Ministry of Equipment, Environment, and Urban Planning Marie-Pierre Gramaglia said in a statement on Wednesday: “This work must continue as long as the decision to postpone or cancel the Formula One grand prix has not been taken because of the possibility that it will be held in good conditions.”
The city state has placed strict restrictions on public places, such as cafes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas would be closed until further notice, and schools were subsequently closed as well.
On Monday, it was revealed that the principality’s ninth positive COVID-19 case was Minister of State Serge Telle, the head of the government, who is now working from home.
The difficulty with delaying the race is the long lead time required to build up the circuit, which has been extended by two weeks since the introduction of the extra race weekend that alternates between the Historic GP and Formula One.
The calendar will be discussed at the Strategy Group phone call on Thursday.
Regulation changes delayed until 2022
Formula One teams and the FIA have agreed to postpone the planned changes to the technical regulations until 2022. The team held a joint phone conference on Thursday to discuss amending the regulations due to the coronavirus with F1 Chase Carey and Ross Brawn, and FIA president Jean Todt.
The team bosses had discussed a delay earlier this week with the knowledge that they are all set to take a hit to their income without a full calendar of races this season, and with the global economy inevitably suffering.
Nine had already agreed to the changes, but Ferrari said it wanted more time to discuss the ramifications internally. In today’s call, the Italian team is understood to have been supportive.
How the changes will be formally made need o be fully worked through, and ultimately passed by the World Motor Sport Council.
The three-week factory shutdown that all teams have to adhere to in March/April means that process can be undertaken while teams have in effect paused any R&D work, they may have started on their 2021 cars.
Although the technical regulations have been held off by a year, to control cost the budget cap and changes to the sporting rules which modify aspects of the race weekend will.
The impact of the changes to the financial regulations should help teams when they are likely to suffer a drop in income, which primarily comes from race-hosting fees and broadcast rights. It was agreed that teams will use their 2020 chassis, the survival cell in which the driver sits, again in 2021.
The five key points
- F1 has the right to set the calendar this year to speed up planning, rather than the usual consultation process, although it will still coordinate with the teams to ensure plans are feasible
- Race weekends could be reduced from three days to two, in which case a working group would be set up to decide the exact format
- The 2021 regulations will be deferred until 2022
- Under the current rules, which now will run into 2021, aspects of the cars’ designs will be frozen while some will remain free for development; details will be resolved following talks
- The idea of lowering the budget cap in 2021 from its existing figure of $175m will be discussed
These changes will require a major change in all the work the teams have already started
Renault tells staff to work from home
Renault has instructed all its staff to work from home ahead of the official shutdown, if it’s possible for them to do so. While all teams agreed to keep race team staff who had travelled back from Australia at home for 14 days, Renault’s policy is more wide-ranging.
The French manufacturer has to comply with both UK and French government advice respectively, while also having to comply with any restrictions imposed on all facilities and employees by parent company Groupe Renault.
Renault joined Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, Renault was one of the first teams to push for the cancellation of the Australian GP once a McLaren team member had been tested positive for COVID-19.
A statement from the team said: “Our decisions must also be consistent with French and English government advice, the policy of Groupe Renault, but also that of Formula 1 authorities.
“The first of these decisions was to support McLaren’s decision not to participate in the Australian Grand Prix following a positive test in the paddock, then to quickly repatriate our track teams present in Melbourne. We subsequently asked them not to not return to Enstone or Viry-Chatillon for a minimum period of 14 days.”
Members of its French operations have already been working from home after the government put in strict measures to stop the spread of the virus.
The period of working from home is independent of the official shutdown when servers are switched off and there is supposed to be no email contact between team members. Renault has opted to close the Enstone site from Monday 30 March until Sunday 19 April inclusive.
The statement added, “These initial measures taken at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon will be reviewed and adapted in view of the situation’s evolution.”
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