F1 monitoring second wave of Coronavirus in Catalonia
Formula One says it is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in Spain’s Catalonia region admit fears of a second wave. While F1 has an exemption from the UK government’s newly imposed fourteen-day quarantine on all travellers returning from Spain.
That means the race can still go ahead in the region on 14 August in current circumstances. However, the sport says that it will not risk the health of its staff, and the region has closed its nightlife for two weeks, but cities outside the north-eastern region are also seeing a surge.
F1 and governing body the FIA feels that the race can still go ahead if the situation does not markedly worsen, BBC News understands. However, if the spikes increase significantly, then they may need to reconsider whether holding the race would be safe.
The sport has taken stringent measures to ensure its events can take place with minimal risks regarding coronavirus after the start of the season was delayed by four months because of the global pandemic.
Everyone attending races must have a negative test four days before arriving at the event and are tested every five days through periods of races.
There is also a system of ‘bubbles’ and ‘sub-bubbles’ to minimise contact between teams, as well as a track-and-trace operation in the case of any positive tests
In last weeks Covid briefing, it comforted that 1,461 tests were carried out and also there were no new cases of the virus. It also noted that testing was lower because of a break in the race schedule following three back to back events.
F1 has so far scheduled thirteen races, and the first one where fans are set to be allowed is the Russian Grand Prix at the end of September. It has also cancelled all races in the Americas because of the high numbers of coronavirus cases in those countries.
Americas leg cancelled as Coronavirus surges
Formula One has announced that the Americas leg, Canada, America, Mexico and Brazil have all been cancelled, they will be replaced by races in Germany, Italy and Portugal.
The Nürburgring is set to return to the calendar for the first time since 2013 along with Imola which last held the race in 2006, while the Algarve Circuit will host the first Portuguese Grand Prix since 1996. These races are not expected to become permeant races.
In a update, F1 says it will not be possible to race in Canada, USA, Mexico and Brazil this season “due to the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe”.
The region is currently the global centre of the pandemic, with the WHO warning last week that the spread of the virus continuing to rise.
F1 also reaffirmed the desire to host 15 to 18 races in a developing 2020 schedule, finishing in the Gulf in mid-December. They say final details of the calendar will be unveiled in the coming weeks. It is expected that Bahrain will host a double-header with Abu Dhabi the final race planned for 11 – 13 December.
The race that the Nürburgring will be called the Eifel Grand Prix rather than the German Grand Prix, reflecting the region. The Imola circuit will not go by the San Marino Grand Prix as it was in 1980-2006, it will be a two-day event called Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Interlagos “cannot accept” cancellation
The promoter of the Brazilian Grand Prix has challenged F1’s reasons for the cancellation of the Interlagos race, saying he “cannot accept” the decision that has put both his organisation and the city of Sao Paulo in a difficult position.
On Friday, Liberty Media announced that there would be no Grand Prix’s in the Americas this season, formally cancelling the races due to be held in Brazil, Mexico and the United States, which currently are in the top four countries when it comes to cases and deaths from Coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Promoter Tamas Rohonyi, who has been involved with the event for 40 years, says he wanted the race to take place – and learned in a letter from F1 this week that it would not be on the 2020 schedule. The letter cited the current rate of COVID-19 infections in the country, adding that five teams had raised specific concerns about travelling to Brazil.
Since Liberty Media took over the sport, they discovered the contract agreed with Bernie Ecclestone meant that the Brazilian event would have to pay no fee in 2018-20, following the withdrawal of a subsidy previously paid by TV Globo. That contract ends this year, and a new one is not in place yet.
Chase Carey has in turn been keen to move away from Interlagos and has been pursuing an alternative future location at a yet-to-be-built venue in Rio.
Rohonyi says that you cannot compare Brazil to a continent and that the figures for Sao Paulo by proportion are lower than England. He says “They talk about the virus infection rate in Brazil, which is a bit like comparing California to Florida in a country like Brazil, which is of continental dimensions.”
Rohonyi says he is confident that Interlagos could have run a safe event. “Had they consulted not only my company but the city government – Could you please present what your plan would be if we came? – they would have received a 100 per cent bulletproof plan, which exists, so much so that the Interlagos circuit was open for racing last week.”
Organisers appear also not to be ruling out a court case for breach of contract, saying it is not covered by the break clause, given that the current contract ends this year, there may never be another Grand Prix at Interlagos.
he explained, “In my specific case, and I think it’s very, very similar in Mexico City, we run on a municipal circuit, and under the contract, I have with them the municipality is responsible for maintaining F1 standards.”
Rohonyi claims that the government could sue him as the race is funded by public money, and they say that this could be a miss use of public funds for an event.
In response, Liberty Media said, “due to the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe.”
Hamilton will miss fans at Silverstone
Lewis Hamilton admits he will miss the “honour and privilege” of starring in front of his home fans at this weekend’s British Grand Prix, as Formula One prepares for a first-ever behind-closed-doors race at Silverstone.
The opening races have been taking place with strict protocols in place because of coronavirus. He says that he will particularly feel the loss in atmosphere at his home race. Hamilton is looking to equal his record of eight wins at the same circuit if he wins both races but statistically won’t equal the record as he did in Hungary as they are titled as different Grands Prix.
The Englishman is a six times winner at Silverstone, holding both the record for the British Grand Prix and most wins at a home Grand Prix. He is used to being cheered on by a sea of Union Jack flags and has often been crowd-surfing after the races, too.
He told Sky Sports, “I’m so grateful that we are back at work and we are so fortunate, all of us here, to be back at work and have our jobs and be able to compete again.”
“But absolutely, the atmosphere for me, it’s night and day different. At Silverstone, there’s nothing like it. The whole year, it’s the highlight of my year, the support is insane.”
“It grows every year and I get to interact with the fans differently on that weekend and it’s such an honour and privilege to be able to perform well and win a Grand Prix in your home country.”
He says that once your in the zone your in the zone, but he does miss the energy of the fans. But says that its more important that they say safe in this period, repeating the message by F1, Silverstone, the police and government to “stay at home.”
Northamptonshire police, who say they have a “robust and detailed” plan for the back-to-back races, with an “exclusion zone” around the circuit.
He explained “I’ve also felt that fans give you extra time because they just give you so much energy and it really lifts you up and you’re bubbling, you’re walking on a cloud.”
Norris believes his self-criticism is good
Lando Norris says that his self-critical nature is behind the starring performances with which he has started the new Formula One season. The Bristolian heading into a home double-header says his progress was down to work on his weaknesses over the winter.
The McLaren driver is currently fourth in the driver’s championship behind the two Mercedes drivers and Max Verstappen, he owes his position to strong performances in the opening two races of the season at the Red Bull Ring.
Norris told BBC News, “I have the ability to be harsh on myself and in a lot of scenarios it’s good I am able to realise that. It makes me work hard that I am not happy with the job I have done. I had to work on my weaknesses, also my mentality and how I acted at the race track.
“I’m still having fun and enjoying myself and having laughs but at the same time dedicating more time to focus on the important thing, which is the racing and the driving, and just to be a bit more serious when I’ve got to be.”
Before the start of the pandemic, Norris says he spent a lot of time at McLaren trying to improve his weaknesses and the rewarding thing has been seeing the progress he has made. But he hopes that this season can be a step towards becoming the best F1 driver he can be.
During the lockdown in the UK, Norris became one of the stars of social media and recently a picture of him stripping down his McLaren following the Hungarian Grands Prix went viral. However, says that this wasn’t new for him and he has done it before.
Adding it something he has done before and since karting which he has always enjoyed. Saying, “I loved taking things apart as a kid. I enjoy it. It’s quite cool – to go and take apart an F1 car and work with the mechanics is good fun.”
“It’s good for the team that we’re working together and I’m helping them. It makes their job easier. It wasn’t just because we’ve done three weeks in a row; it’s more just helping them and enjoying it.”
In Hungary, Norris suffered bruising which was the result of being exposed to the violent forces of an F1 car after four months enforced absence because of lockdown.
But he says he was “much better” in Hungary and he “should be fine come Silverstone”. He says he is looking forward to his home race but that it will be “weird” experiencing the British and Anniversary Grands Prix without spectators.
Triple headers cannot be new normal
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has warned that triple-header races must not become the new normal for Formula One’s future calendars despite their enforced frequency through 2020.
This weekend is the beginning of the second triple-header at Silverstone, following Austria and Hungary earlier this month with three races in three weeks. In 2018 following a triple header in France, Austria and Britain, F1 said it planned to avoid triple headers, except in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and ‘it’s not something we’d undertake lightly.’
2020 has certainly created those circumstances with fifteen races either cancelled, postponed, rearranged or pending due to Coronavirus. But while Seidl said it was necessary in 2020 to boost the calendar and help increase the sport’s revenues, it could not be seen as a new standard for future seasons.
He told Motorsport.com, “We’re going now into the triple-header with these two races in the UK, which is obviously for the UK teams is not as bad as for some other teams.”
“At least we have the possibility to arrive at the track as late as possible with only a short travel, and having a break between these two Silverstone races. Then we go into another triple-header, and then at the moment I think on the schedule there is another triple-header later on, which I think then is tough.”
“Given the special circumstances we are in this year, it’s something we simply have to get through this year.” Teams are rotating staff and roles to keep them fresh over the nine races in eleven weeks.
The biggest challenge facing the teams was the sheer amount of time they had to spend on the road through this season, getting fewer opportunities to return home between races due to the strict biosphere protocols.
He decided the first triple-header wasn’t going to be the challenge but those planned going into November and December.
“What we do from a team side is try to make travelling, accommodation, and everything we can provide to the team here at the track and back at the hotels as comfortable as possible and as good as possible, simply to get through as a team in the best possible shape.” Added Seidl
2020 not “a walk in the park” – Wolff
Mercedes Formula One CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says it’s not the team’s fault if it is dominant at the moment and cautions that the 2020 season will not be “a walk in the park” for the six times champions.
The team has taken all three poles and wins at the opening three races of the season, and in qualifying in Budapest it was 1.3s and 1.4s respectively ahead of the best-placed Ferrari and Red Bull. While it says that it may run alternative strategies at some events this year in order to promote a race between its drivers.
Wolff says there’s little the team can do to improve the show if rivals are lagging behind. He told Motorsport.com, “If we would take the 2020 season for granted, as a walk in the park, and it’s basically just about picking up the trophy in Paris in December, we wouldn’t have won these championships.”
“There is not one fibre in us that thinks that this championship is done. It’s something that can really catch you out. On the other side, dominance from a single team, whether it is us, whether it is Red Bull in the 2010 years, or whether it was Ferrari in the early 2000s is something that is always a bit odd for the championship.”
Wolff says that Mercedes wants to be challenged by both Ferrari and Red Bull, as well as McLaren, Renault and Racing Point, but it was not their fault and these teams need to find there way to the front.
Wolff stressed that rivals can easily close the gap in the points if Mercedes slips up. Adding, “You can see that Red Bull was struggling all through the weekend, and then they had a pretty decent race car, a car that didn’t look like it could start and the mechanics did a really awesome job in the car there.”
Zanardi back in intensive care
Alex Zanardi was moved back to intensive care on Friday, three days after being moved to a specialist recovery centre to treat serious head injuries.
The former F1 driver and Paralympic champion underwent three operations at Siena’s Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital after being placed in an induced coma following an accident on June 19 while taking part in a road race on a handbike.
Last week he was moved to the Villa Beretta centre in northern Italy, but they issued a statement on Friday saying his condition was unstable and they were arranging a transfer to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital.
The health director of the Valduce Hospital, Claudio Zanon, said in a statement that “no further information on the case will be released.”