While F1 chiefs have successfully pulled off two campaigns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been able to open up the grandstands and paddocks more recently, concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant have prompted worries about more challenges ahead.
It means not only question marks about future races, with next year’s Australian Grand Prix expected to be a particular logistical headache because of strict quarantine requirements, but also in ensuring that any potential outbreaks are kept in check.
With a number of governments around the world beginning to push for mandatory vaccines, some thought has been given to make it a requirement for anyone in the F1 paddock to be fully vaccinated.
Speaking at the Abu Dhabi GP, Bruno Famin, the FIA’s director of operations who is in charge of the governing body’s COVID-19 protocols, suggested that such an idea was being evaluated.
“In terms of what will happen next year, it’s a bit too early because three weeks ago, we all thought that the pandemic was almost over and 2022 would be just back to normal,” he told Autosport.
“But unfortunately, with this new variant we have in Europe, the pandemic is increasing a lot and the hospitals are getting full again.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are contaminated every day in Europe and we have to be very careful.
“We know that in some places, in some countries, at some events, mandatory vaccination is progressing, It’s something we may consider, but for the time being nothing has been decided yet.”
Team personnel arrive in the paddock
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
However, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali suggests the idea has moved forward and the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council has approved the idea of having staff fully vaccinated.
Speaking to Autosport about the COVID situation, Domenicali said: “There are many issues to discuss with the teams.
“We will have the problem of COVID to manage again next year and it will not be easy. But in two years of the pandemic, we have completed some super intense seasons.
“Having finished a season with 22 races, it makes us cautiously optimistic for what the start of the 2022 season should be like, where alas COVID may still be present.
“But it is no coincidence that one of the last things approved in the last FIA World Council, as a precaution, is to have all F1 staff vaccinated to be in the paddock.”
F1 became one of the first series to campaign for the public to get vaccinated, when it launched a video message featuring drivers at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Additional quotes from Franco Nugnes