F1 can race on through lockdown – if countries will have us: Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident Formula One can continue to race on through England’s imminent four-week lockdown, as long as the upcoming race venues are happy to continue to play host.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a second month-long lockdown which is to begin on Thursday, shutting down a wide range of activities but sparing those who have ‘essential work’ and cannot work from home.
The four races that remain after this weekend’s event at Imola are due to take place in Turkey, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Wolff has said that although “you never know” whether they will go ahead, it is down to the venues themselves to decide.
“Clearly the health question comes first,” said Wolff. “It’s in the hands of the health authorities in the countries that we are visiting to accept motor racing and host us. If these guys decide it’s too much of a risk, obviously we can’t race there.”
An indicator for F1 is that while France recently declared a one-month national lockdown, Renault staff based in the country were able to travel to Italy for this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Additionally, during the first lockdown earlier this year, business travel was allowed. From F1's perspective, it is understood there are no concerns at this stage.
Wolff added: “I think the lockdowns that we see in Europe now are very different to the lockdowns back in spring (which) was a complete shutdown of any activity – going to work, being on the street.
“I think this time, at least from what we can see from France and Germany, access to pubs, restaurants and leisure places has been stopped or has been curfewed, but going to work is still permitted for the ones that need to go.
“I believe Formula One has done really a great job, the FIA, FOM, the teams, in running a championship contrary to many other championships.
“We’ve been travelling from country to country, we’ve kept in our bubbles and we've had very few positive Covid cases. I don’t think we are providing a risk for any country we are visiting because we are the safest group of people out there.
“But who am I to judge? Someone who knows, who understands much more about the medical situation will have an input and will have a say and the FIA and FOM, we just have to take their guidance.”
With regard to the upcoming races, three days ago Turkey’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said Istanbul was now recording nearly half of his country’s new infections, describing the rise as “scary”. He told AFP: “If we cannot control the virus in Istanbul, it will be hard to tackle.”
The organisers of the Turkish race, which is held at a track just one hour from the centre of Istanbul, had planned to have 100,000 fans but recently announced it would now be run behind closed doors.
There have been fewer cases of Covid-19 in the Middle East than elsewhere in the world, but Abu Dhabi has also recently backtracked on plans to open the race to spectators, while Bahrain is yet to reveal its plans for fans.
If the season is brought to a close after this weekend’s race, the 13 already run will count as a full season and Lewis Hamilton will be champion, equalling Michael Schumacher’s seven-title haul.
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.