FIA’s Saillant says positive COVID cases won’t shut down races

FIA medical commission chief Gérard Saillant says the safety protocol set to be applied by F1 this summer will ensure an event isn’t jeopardized by a member of the paddock testing positive for Covid-19.

Formula 1 is targeting an early July start for its 2020 season, hoping to hold its first race behind closed gates at the Red Bull Ring.

A strict safety protocol involving regular testing of the F1 community as well as other measures destined to reduce risks of propagation will be implemented at venues to allow F1 to create its very own biosphere.

The system should also prevent a single individual who test positive for the coronavirus from shutting down an event, as was the case in Melbourne earlier this year.

    F1 to test paddock members for COVID-19 ‘every two days’

“The situation has evolved since Australia,” Professor Saillant told L’Equipe.

“We have provided a rapid response device to confirm the diagnosis, isolate and test people who may have been in contact with a positive case.

“For me, the grand prix would not be cancelled. It is as if you were telling me that the metro is closed because a traveler has tested positive there.”

However, Saillant said that F1 will need to adapt its protocol to each country’s individual measures and to each venue’s specific environment.

“What will happen in Austria may be different from what will happen in Germany or Hungary,” explained the Frenchman.

“Each country has different regulations, and the situation of the circuit, of the hotels, will also influence this confinement rule. If the track is in the countryside, things are different than if it is in a city.

“Singapore or Vietnam would have a completely different medical organization if they were organizing a grand prix today. Singapore’s government could force the entire paddock to be isolated for a fortnight before we can access the track.

“For Austria, it’s different. The country is emerging from its crisis which has been relatively moderate.

“In this safe country, the rule of the game would be to do something in the even safer paddock.”

A downsized F1 paddock that would include only essential team personnel would still amount to a population of approximately 2000 people. But Professor Saillant is confident that F1’s prescribed safe-guard measures and protocol will fulfill their protective role.

“With a grand prix behind closed doors, there is no need for hospitality,” he said. “Those present will be in a ventilated, unconfined space, and will have been selected.

“If they leave the circuit, according to very strict rules, we will repeat the tests at a rate that remains to be defined by the local authorities and the WHO.

“Within this ‘bubble’, we are working with the legal department to set up, on a voluntary basis, an app that would make it possible to determine what contact was made, less than a metre away, with someone who is positive.”

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