F1 restricts grid access, keeps options open on podiums

New rules about who will be allowed onto the grid before a Grand Prix have been approved by F1 bosses during on online meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on Friday.

They are part of a raft of measures comprising the ‘Return to Racing’ package designed to protect the F1 paddock from a renewed outbreak of coronavirus.

The Australian Grand Prix was abandoned just hours before it was due to get underway after a member of the McLaren team working at Albert Park Circuit tested positive for COVID-19.

F1 wants to ensure there’s no repeat of that when the season does finally get started next month in Austria, by introducing changes to what teams, race officials and event attendees can do during the weekend.

  • F1 could scrap grid build-up to protect physical distancing

In contrast to recent reports, cars will still line up on the grid for the race, but prodedures will be adjusted to boost social distancing.

Teams will only be allowed a total of 40 personnel on the grid for both cars – half their previous head count. Pit lane exit will now open 30 minutes before the race rather than 40, and close 20 minutes before the start.

Cars will need to have the tyres fitted five minutes (rather than three) before the race, at which point “team personnel and equipment trolleys must commence leaving the grid.”

The new rules go on to state that “when the three minute signal is shown, no more than 16 team personnel for each competitor are permitted on the grid.”

Those left on the grid will be given the usual 15 second warning to leave the track before the cars depart on the formation lap, or else the driver will be required to start from the pit lane or face a penalty.

However the rules have been left somewhat more flexible when it comes to post-race podium celebrations. “The procedure for the podium ceremony will be detailed in event notes issued by the race director,” the new regulations state.

The first races of the season in July and August will be held behind closed doors in accordance with the local, regional and national requirements to combat coronavirus. But for open events that do allow spectators into the venue, the podium ceremony will run to the established procedures.

Elsewhere, overnight curfew conditions have been adjusted, and cut from nine hours to eight.

“No team personnel who are associated in any way with the operation of the cars are permitted within the confines of the circuit during two eight hour restricted periods which commence eleven hours before the scheduled start times of FP1 and FP3.

“If the unrestricted time between the end of FP2 and the start of the second restricted period exceeds nine hours, the excess will be added to the second restricted period.

“Each team will be permitted two individual exceptions to the above during a Championship season,” the new rules added. “However both of these exceptions may not be used during a single event.”

The FIA has also addressed the issue of race stewards not being able to get to the venue due to travel or quarantine issues, with remote working possible if complying with certain requirements.

“In exceptional circumstances, should any stewards not be present at the start of the Event, they must be available and contactable at all times to fulfil their duties.”

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