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Races will go ahead even if a driver tests positive

NEWS STORY
03/06/2020

As the world slowly gets back to some form of normality - at least in terms of the coronavirus pandemic - many still hold their breath in fear of the so-called second wave.

Nonetheless, normality must return, certainly for big business, and it was with this in mind that F1 yesterday announced its revised schedule for the 2020 season, confirming the opening eight races.

Lessons have been learned, says F1 boss, Chase Carey, and mindful of the fact that the season opener was cancelled after just one (McLaren) team member tested positive for the virus, the American is confident that races can now go ahead even if a driver tests positive.

"An individual having been found with a positive infection will not lead to a cancellation of a race," he tells the official F1 website. "We encourage teams to have procedures in place so if an individual has to be put in quarantine, we have the ability to quarantine them at a hotel and to replace that individual.

"Some things we'd have to talk through and work through," he continues. "The array of ‘what ifs' are too wide to play out every one of them, but a team not being able to race wouldn't cancel the race.

"I don't think I could sit here and lay out the consequences," he admits. "But we will have a procedure in place that finding infection will not lead to a cancellation. If a driver has an infection, (teams have) reserve drivers available.

"We wouldn't be going forward if we were not highly confident we have necessary procedures and expertise and capabilities to provide a safe environment and manage whatever issues arrive."

Crediting the FIA, who he says have led the process in terms of health and safety issues, he talks about the measures in place to ensure everyone's safety.

"We have engaged with a range of outside experts. And there is a rigorous set of guidelines, probably at this point it's 80-90 pages, which will include everything from how do you travel there, what are the processes for being in hotels there to what are the processes that exist at the track, for meals, going to the restroom, downtime between tracks and testing processes.

"We will test before you go there, then there will be testing every two days," he continues. "There are processes if we find an infection. We recognise there is the possibility so we're prepared to appropriately deal with it, if we find a positive infection. We're working on putting in place tracking capabilities, we have two different tracking options.

"In many ways, it will be like living in a bubble from when you start travelling on charter planes. There will be controlled transportation to hotels, transportation back and forth to the track from hotels. And probably within it, sub bubbles of people who operate different functions and it is set up to manage the processes, make sure we have the right protective equipment and social distancing.

"Clearly we recognise our sport is one which at times, we can't have two metres between every individual on a team. When a car pulls into a pit and has to change four tyres, there won't be two metres between every individual. We need to make sure we have procedures to manage all those risks as soon as possible."

To those fearing that it is still soon for the F1 circus to be back on the road, travelling back and forth between countries still suffering the virus, Carey believes it is the right time.

"It seems to me you have a large desire from a large proportion of the world that wants to get back to life as we knew it and want to do it safely and the right way," he says. "We're certainly not alone, other sports are beginning to compete, other societies are beginning to open.

"Much of the world is moving forward and I think it is important to realise that the shutdown does have both health, societal and economic consequences which are real long term.

"We need to intelligently manage the risks of this disease and do everything possible to eliminate it and provide safety for people but not do it in a way that we don't recognise that there are real consequences to the shutdown and I think there is a real desire, if you can do it in the right way to start to move forward.

Despite claims from leading virologists who say that individuals should be tested twice in five days and should remain in solitary isolation during that period, not to mention fears that some team members and even drivers are not fully convinced by the precautions the sport has taken, Carey insists: "Everybody wants to get back racing" but "in a safe way" and "with a confidence we have the right procedures in place to be able to do it in the right way".

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