COVID-19 has brought about a great deal of uncertainty in the world and also a range of approaches to how countries have handled the pandemic. Formula One has done a remarkable job to actually get back up and running and to do so with zero COVID-19 positive tests found in the paddock to date -is very impressive. However, on a global scale, the situation is considerably different, and it is due to this that Hungarian authorities announced last week that there would be severe restrictions imposed on all UK and non-EU race personnel when the F1 Circus came to town. Christian Horner, Team Principal of Red Bull Racing Team, has said this situation will be ‘tough’ for F1 personnel cope with but it is worth it.
Budapest has brought us remarkable Grand Prix events in the past with Jenson Button’s very first Formula One victory being a personal highlight for me. However, to ensure the chance of another exciting on track encounter, a certain group of Formula One personnel has had to make sacrifices.
In a week when there has been footage of Charles Leclerc (an EU citizen) relaxing out and about and many other racers catching up on some family time, the story is very different for all UK and non-EU race personnel as they are in a self-imposed lockdown having been told that they can only be at the Hungaroring race track or in their hotel rooms. If this cannot be adhered to the consequence is serious seeing how a 15,000 Euro fine or even imprisonment could then be headed their way.
Obviously, there were restrictions in Austria to enable the double-header of the past fortnight to go ahead but as Instagram showed us, drivers spent their time diving into lakes, riding bikes and relaxing – much tighter restrictions this time round.
“It’s tough for them,” Christian Horner announced when sharing his opinion with the media as to the potential mental challenges ahead. “But we’ve just spent three months shut up at home – and it was one of the conditions that we knew would potentially be applicable to returning to racing.
“Given the choice of those being the conditions or not racing, I think we’d all sign up for those conditions...It’s not ideal but it’s unprecedented times and it’s only a week in our lifetime. The situation globally seems to be hopefully improving with more races being announced. And Hungary is a racetrack we enjoy and hopefully can perform well at.”
Red Bull Racing certainly appear to be the nearest rival to the might of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula Team so it is great to see the team personnel accept these regulations. It seems that Max Verstappen is the only racer to have a chance of victory in Hungary other than the Silver (albeit temporarily black) Arrows - although McLaren may disagree.
McLaren boss Andreas Seidl is very aware though that there are far more pressing matters in the world than finding lockdown challenging:
“I think the lockdown in the hotel is not the biggest issue,” Seidl said. “We all understand that we need to follow the restriction, and we also understand that it's very, very important that we do these races. After the crisis we were in, especially the crisis we were in at McLaren, I think together with this positive momentum we have at the moment in the team, I'm quite confident we can get through this as a team in quite good shape.”
Ahead of the weekend, the saying ‘the end justifies the means’ comes to mind and in this case the outcome we all hope for is continued safe and exciting on track running. These regulations will not last forever, although it was amazing to see robotic boxes transporting the trophies to the podium.
Everyone has had a part to play during the pandemic and if they continue to do so then maybe it will not be long until normal service returns.
In the world of F1 that would mean fans returning to the track and that would really be an amazing sight to see.