F1 staff face new reality as factories reopen

Jonathan Noble

With all systems go for the F1 season to resume at the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5, the mandatory shutdown of factories is coming to an end so teams can gear themselves up to get back on the road.

But as staff across the UK, Italy and Switzerland begin to get back into the swing of things, they can expect very different life at work in a bid to ensure that there is no flare up of coronavirus infections at the factories.

A clear example of this is AlphaTauri, whose factory formally reopened again on Monday morning, following the resumption of operations at its production facilities last week.

Where once the priority was on car performance, now the first thought is about the safety of staff – and new procedures have been put in place from the moment workers arrive.

The first sign of change is outside the factory, with new signs telling staff: 'I respect the distance.'

Those social distancing restrictions mean that only a limited number of staff can work at the same time, with departments having roughly half of their personnel numbers for now.

The team is also splitting shifts to try to minimise crossover of staff, with departments keeping isolated as much as possible – with designated doors and stairways being assigned to them to minimise the risk of cross-contamination from different groups of staff.

Those who are working at the factory must wear face masks, and even before they leave from home have been asked to do a personal temperature check. If there is any sign of fever, they must stay away.

On arrival at the factory, all staff must go to a stand-alone building to undergo a serology test under medical supervision to discover if they have any coronavirus antibodies.

If the test comes back negative, then the staff member is allowed to return to work.

If, however, there is a positive test then a further swab test will be given to find out if the person is carrying the virus. The results of that will decide if they are cleared to work or must be put in self-isolation for 14 days.

Once cleared to work, staff undergo a fresh temperature check on arrival, with the latest thermal camera scanning technology being used to bring any problems to light as early as possible.

The factory has been kitted out extensively with hand sanitiser and perspex screens to minimise the risk of the virus being transferred, with desks and other working environments also spread out more to keep people apart.

The procedures and safety measures will remain in place until the coronavirus situation improves dramatically, but that is unlikely to be well after the F1 season has got going.

Such extra precautions will add to the headaches facing all times as they adjust to a different way of life, but face the same challenges of trying to produce the best car possible.

As AlphaTauri technical director Jody Eggington said last week: "At the moment there are a lot of what if scenarios in my head, and when we're back at work we'll put those to fruition.

"In terms of what we intended to do, the areas of the car we wanted to work on, like every other team we'll still be pushing forward with them – it's just minimising any delays due to the unfortunate situation with the extended shutdown."

Serology test at Scuderia Alpha Tauri HQ

Serology test at Scuderia Alpha Tauri HQ Scuderia Alpha Tauri

Scuderia Alpha Tauri