Alexander Wurz, 2018

“We know how to deal with threats”: Wurz confident F1 can race safely behind closed doors

2020 F1 season

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GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz says Formula 1’s expertise in safety will allow it to minimise the risk of holding races behind closed doors.

Formula 1 intends to begin its postponed 2020 season in Austria on July 5th. The opening rounds of the championship will be held without fans, allowing the championship to minimise the reduce the risk of spreading the Covid-19 Coronavirus.

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.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Red Bull Ring, 2019
F1 plans to resume racing in July
“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.

“The final influencing factors are from the outside,” he said. “If there is a second wave coming, are governments OK to let us travel in and out, that’s still factors which are assessed at the moment by F1 and the FIA. But they have the full support of the GPDA.”

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.

Bernie Ecclestone, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
Ecclestone said F1 should cancel the 2020 season
“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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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 9 comments on ““We know how to deal with threats”: Wurz confident F1 can race safely behind closed doors”

    1. Good points raised by him. I entirely agree with him.

    2. Good to see they’ve thought about all of that.

    3. I’d be more confident about the drivers association when we hear from one of the actual drivers and not Alex.

      It won’t be helpful to have another “I can’t believe we’re actually here” moment like we had in Melbourne when Lewis Hamilton finally broke ranks and said how he really felt.

    4. I can also imagine there’ll be no ‘dummy grid’ before the start of the race. I can see all the cars coming out of thier garages in qualifying order and going straight on to the formation lap and straight to the lights.

      1. That sounds like a great idea! I hope F1 takes note of it.

    5. Good point ,that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    6. Re “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.”
      Is it possible to arrange it so no one needs to breath over the driver when they get into the car? For example, why not put a large piece of clear plastic over the driver after they’ve gotten into the car, and then have the person who does the belts up do them up, then remove the plastic and discard it.

      1. Maybe having them wear a helmet is more practical though?

        1. Helmets aren’t air tight.

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