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Lack of COVID test a "slap in the face" for marshals

NEWS STORY
25/07/2020

Just days before the first of the two back-to-back races, many of the unpaid volunteers without whom no motorsport could go ahead - and certainly not Formula 1 - admit to feeling "let down" and "unwanted" after a change in policy in terms of testing for the coronavirus.

In June, Motorsport UK, which organises marshalling at the events, advised that all those attending would be tested for the virus. However, a number of those marshals have now been told that they will not be tested.

In terms of the Grands Prix, the marshals fall into two categories, 'Profile One' and 'Profile Two'.

Profile One marshals are those working within the paddock, while those outside the paddock are Profile Two.

While Profile One marshals will undergo tests similar to those the drivers and team personnel undergo - of which there were almost 9,000 in the first two weeks of the season - Profile Two marshals will simply have a temperature test.

The document sent to all marshals when they originally applied stated that "the key aspect for both events is that all personnel will be pre-tested for Covid-19, the details for which are being finalised".

"I feel lied to, that is the honest truth," The Guardian quotes one veteran marshal as saying, "Thirty or 40% of marshals feel something is not right and are not very happy. We feel like second-class citizens. Because we are not in direct contact with the teams, we really don't matter."

Indeed, a number have already dropped out expressing safety concerns, while one cited the irony of F1's much proclaims "We Race as One" initiative.

"When We Race as One was presented we were very much supporting it, it felt great. This feels like a really big letdown. This is a slap in the face given the time, money and effort we put in to marshalling all year, every year. It makes us feel unwanted or just a necessary evil."

Other than the fear of the virus spreading between marshals especially in light of the growing number of silent spreaders - those who carry the virus but show no symptoms and are therefore totally unaware - there is the fear that marshals working outside the paddock could still come into contact with drivers, such as in the case of an incident requiring a driver to be extracted from his car.

"The picture that has been put out there is that they are doing all these things to make it safe and it is obvious now that is not the case," another marshal told The Guardian. "Is it cost cutting? Well, if you are doing 4,500 tests on site why can't you add a few hundred people to it? It makes us feel not needed and an afterthought."

"The protocol regarding testing procedures at FIA Formula 1 events has not changed since the start of the season," said a spokesperson for the FIA, "and has worked very effectively at the first three races.

"The code of conduct clearly sets out what is required for profile one and profile two - with the former being a higher-risk environment and therefore requiring pre-event testing, and the latter being a lower-risk environment and not requiring pre-event testing.

"Everyone at the event is required to respect social distancing and wear PPE where that is not possible. In regard to driver extraction, the drivers are instructed to keep their helmets and gloves on at all times until they return to their group in the paddock."

"Guidelines are constantly changing from governments as well as FIA," said Nadine Lewis, the national chair of the British Motorsports Marshals Club, "and those are what are determining the requirements for testing. Therefore what was valid a month ago has been reviewed and changed now.

"It is up to individuals to determine the level of risk and whether they believe it to be acceptable to attend. From information received in the guidelines I would also say that I would feel more comfortable attending a motor racing event than going shopping right now."

"At this time, UK government guidance does not require Covid-19 testing of any individuals attending sporting events," said Motorsport UK - though under the circumstances one wonders if the UK government's guidance is the best example to follow.

"Formula 1 is implementing its testing programme at Silverstone and while the final decisions regarding operating conditions are at the discretion of the Formula One Group and the FIA, Motorsport UK has consulted with Nadine Lewis, the chair of the British Motorsports Marshals Club, to ensure that the marshals are comfortable with the protocols for these events.

"Through the course of communicating our guidance, we have seen an extremely high level of confidence among our valued marshals community. We have not received any other expressions of concern, but of course we respect the decision of each individual."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Kallie61 , 29/07/2020 12:02

"I don't think the FIA understand how Marshalls work. I was a Marshall for many years until the politics made it more of a chore than an enjoyable hobby, so am speaking from experience. Should they for some reason fall short of the number of marshalls needed in the pits, profile 2 marshalls were drafted in to help out. This sometimes happened on the day, are they covered without having a test..... seems to me they should all be tested for this reason. Another point being should a Marshall then get covid 19, who pays their wages whilst in quarantine, and whose responsibility is it to let others nearby know and then pay them whilst they quarantine. Seems to me not much thought has gone into protecting the marshalls, without whom motorsport cannot take place."

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2. Posted by C5, 26/07/2020 7:30

"Boooooooooo!

I hope every single one of the 'profile two' marshals decides to just stay home and enjoy watching Planet Paddock squirm."

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