For the first time since 2013, F1 was back to race at the Nurburgring track. The german circuit is one of the venues that stepped up on the 2020 calendar, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, in order to qualify this year’s competition as a F1 world championship.
After seven years of absence, teams and drivers were going to make a very anticipated return to the Eifel hills.
Regarding the global sanitary issue related to the coronavirus crisis, the sport did an amazing job to schedule as many as seventeen races in 2020. However, despite F1 management’s best efforts, they had no choice but to schedule the Eifel GP in October, which meant a race weekend subject to tricky weather conditions.
The weather predictictions had announced a wet friday with 80% chances of rain, a cloudy Saturday, and a chilly and cloudy Sunday.
The rain did indeed hit the circuit coming Friday, all day long. Both practice sessions got cancelled, after half-hourly updates provided by the race control. The track was wet, but according to the Stewards, the issue was mainly the fact that the medical helicopter was unable to fly to the nearest hospital, which was located 54 kilometers away from the german venue. The required time for the FIA in the case of an emergency is a maximum of 20 minutes by road. Being unable to meet that requirement, the race direction sensibly cancelled all the practices sessions.
Michael Masi, the F1 race director, gave some enlightenments regarding the way they operated in a difficult day, putting the safety matter paramount:
"We're hoping that the fog will lift.”
"We've seen it coming in and out all day, so we've been operating on the 30-minute interval with updates, working with local air traffic control, with the helicopter pilot, for the medical helicopter.”
"The weather and dampness is fine. It's just the medical helicopter is not able to fly to the receiving hospitals due to fog, so even though we have the broadcast helicopter that's flying only around the circuit, to go from here to any of the hospitals, should something happen, it's not possible.
"And therefore from a safety perspective, we would not start the session."
Looking at the weather predictions ahead to the remainder of the weekend, there are 60% chances of rain for both Saturday and Sunday.
"The forecast looks better, but we're also working on some back-up plans should we have a similar situation, to be able to try and work around.
"We're working on those as we speak. We'll work on the back-up plans and then advise everyone accordingly at the same time."
Back in 2017 during the Chinese GP, in similar weather conditions, the nearest hospital was also out of the 20 minutes window required by the FIA. To solve the issue, the organisers brought on site, the neurological equipment that FIA protocols demand in the Appendix H of the International Sporting Code.