Formula 1’s plan to test everyone on a circuit as a condition for returning to racing will involve huge costs as private tests are sought to avoid health service providers. Even with grand prizes held behind closed doors, more than 1,000 people per site should be tested.
F1 hopes to start the delayed season in Austria subject to the constraints imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The organizers hope to organize up to 18 races, starting with a double header on July 5 which should be followed by two more races at Silverstone. Even behind closed doors, a large number of staff members will still have to be present at meetings and will have to test negative for the virus.
Stuart Pringle, the managing director of Silverstone, confirmed that plans are already being implemented. “F1 talks about their need to have some sort of test regime if they want to take the championship on their world trips,” he said. “It seems to be a necessity and it will be neither simple nor cheap. F1 believes it should be clear that everyone in the paddock environment is negative. “
Pringle also warned that there was no guarantee that the British Grand Prix would take place even behind closed doors. It was, he said, “not a no-brainer.” The final decision was still subject to national restrictions caused by the coronavirus. F1 remains in discussion with the government regarding the race. “I am confident that we will be able to function well in the F1 decision cycle,” he said of the preparations for the circuit. “They are the ones who have to make the decision.”
It is understood that the sport will pay for the tests and obtain private equipment from specific companies that do not provide health services.
Governments will require racing personnel to do so before allowing entry for the foreseeable future. Austria already has such a provision and the tests should not exceed four days.
The scale of the tests will be vast. F1 teams are expected to employ around 80 people each – 800 on the grid. All others required to get to a race will be tested, including broadcasters, F1 staff and logistics staff, who may add at least 200 more.
Pringle rejected suggestions that Silverstone could host an oncoming race for double-headed meetings. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc recently expressed his enthusiasm for driving Silverstone counterclockwise.
However, with the runoff areas and exit access points all designed for clockwise running, it would be impossible to adjust the track over time. “It would certainly not meet current safety standards,” said Pringle. “They would have to lower the standards, which would be unlikely or we would have to do work that would not be practical in today’s climate.”
The Hungarian Grand Prix, scheduled for August 2, will also take place behind closed doors. Hungary recently banned events for more than 500 people until August 15.
Even without fans, F1 would exceed this figure, but the race is classified as an event only broadcast and allowed to go ahead. With the calendar rewriting, Hungary is also expected to move later in the season as F1 tries to squeeze in other races in Europe. The Hockenheimring in Germany and Imola in Italy have offered to host closed meetings if their costs are to be covered by F1.