GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz says Formula 1’s expertise in safety will allow it to minimise the risk of holding races behind closed doors.
Wurz said F1 is “a pioneer in safety” and described how it is working to ensure any risks are minimised.
“Each and every lap, any motor race, we are going to the absolute limit,” he told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “But yet we have an average against any other industry, such a low number of injury and fatalities, that we are safety experts for the industry. We know how to deal with threats.”
While the pandemic is unlike the typical safety threats motor sport faces, Wurz believes it is well-placed to tackle it.
“This is a new threat. This is not about injuring a spectator, an official or a driver. It’s a new threat, it’s a different thing. But the way you go about it in the safety protocols and you execute it… no one in this industry needs to be told about safety and respecting it.
“I think the industry is doing a great move in now investigating ‘how can I adjust my operating model to be in a position to go and operate as soon as governments allow and the global situation allows it?’ I really salute it and with the efforts of the GPDA we also as much as we can help it in order to go back to our life and to our sport.
“We are human citizens, we are global citizens, so we have to all put the safety and health of the world in this case first. But we wouldn’t go out, or it wouldn’t be Formula 1, if we are not prepared to the maximum.”
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However last month Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said it remains possible no races may be held this year, a view echoed by F1 chairman and CEO Chase Carey yesterday. Wurz admitted it may not be in F1’s power to ensure its season goes ahead.
RaceFans understands the GPDA, F1 and FIA will hold a teleconference meeting today to continue discussions around how races could be held behind closed doors.
“We are in the stage of discussing and debating,” Wurz explained. A key aspect involves how the sport can adhere to social distancing guidance as closely as possible while holding races.
One example the drivers raised was the need to strap them into their cars before sessions, which is usually done by a member of their team.
“We said OK, if anyone can close the seat belts by themselves, it would maybe be better to do yourself. But definitely you will be covered by helmet and gloves.
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“Some drivers in the past, they went into the car without the helmet and gloves [on] and the mechanic who comes very close to you has to talk to you when he puts the seatbelts on, you’re in very close interaction. So you will be exposed to maybe his droplets being thrown up onto you in your eye or mouth.
“So in this case everyone should be aware I have to put the helmet, balaclava and gloves on before I go into the car, maybe close the visor so it it becomes my protection gear. It’s one very small example of many throughout an entire race weekend.”
While some have called for the 2020 season to be called off, Wurz defended F1’s efforts to hold the championship.
“After all these weeks of lockdown now we all understand, OK, it is a SARS virus, it is transmitted in a certain way, it seems to be very easily transmitted. But we are all getting our heads around it and that means, by normal human being behaviour, you already start to think OK, but what’s next?
“How can I go back to the life I enjoyed before? How I can go back, especially, to my job? And, in the case of race drivers, to our passion.”
Many people depend on the sport for their livelihoods, Wurz added. “This is not just for the drivers’ sake that we can do our driving and hobby. It is in full awareness that motor sport is a global business.
“A lot of businesses, a lot of families are depending on this income. And therefore we also have our duties to consider the commercial aspects.”
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2020 F1 season
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- F1 revenues fell by $877 million in Covid-struck 2020 season
- Hamilton and Mercedes finally announce new deal for 2021 season
- F1 audience figures “strong” in 2020 despite dip in television viewers
- 2020 F1 driver rankings #1: Lewis Hamilton