Social distancing to impact positioning of F1 marshals
Formula 1 marshals will be placed in different locations in the opening races of the season compared to previous events as a result of coronavirus social distancing measures.
The new 2020 season opener will take place this weekend in Austria, where people must stay one metre apart, and F1 has established a “biosphere” to try and keep all those working at the Austrian Grand Prix – and the seven races – safe.
But the adapted marshalling locations will still provide the same visibility and access as usual at the Red Bull Ring, according to Luca De Angelis, a track support engineer at EM Motorsport, which is F1’s official supplier of LED flag panels for every race.
These flag panels can be triggered away from the barriers where an incident occurs, which will be part of the ways the changes to marshal posts are implemented as recommended in the FIA’s 'Return to Motor Sport' guidelines.
"It's already a challenge, but this year will be even more challenging - starting from wearing masks, gloves and all the sanitising, and avoiding direct contact with people,” said De Angelis.
"Usually the marshals are always located together inside the marshal post.
"In Austria, there will be 15-16 [marshal] sectors. So, that means that there will be 15-16 marshals controlling the panels.
“We need to make sure that this person is able to sit in a place away from other marshals and away from other people working around the track, but still in a confident, comfortable location to be able to see everything that is happening within their part of the track.
"[These marshals] can be located up to 400-500m away from the flag panels.
“So, with this, they can be placed somewhere - by zones - and still be able to manage, control and use the flag panels while maintaining a social distance.
“So, in this case, it's very useful and very helpful to have this sort of system because we can prevent any social interaction between the marshals.
"It's a bit sad to say because you don't want people to not be social, but it's for their benefit and for their own good and to still be able to provide the service as they always do."
The 'Return to Motor Sport' guidelines, which can be read in full here, outline how championships and event organisers can resume motorsport activities by implementing new safety protocols in the context of risks posed by COVID-19.
The main suggestions involve examining each event's safety plan, which is based on the relevant recommendations in the FIA's International Sporting Code, and seeing where the overall number of track safety workers can be reduced while still guaranteeing the same safety standards as under normal circumstances.
There is also specific guidance regarding personal protective equipment and how 'personal issue' kit for marshals - such as helmets, radios, headsets, mobile phones, flags, barrier repair equipment, and recovery and track inspection vehicles - will be allocated on an exclusive-use basis for the duration of events.
The 'Return to Motor Sport' guidelines state that if these items do need to be shared, they can only be safely used by another individual after being cleaned.
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