The 2020 season saw an additional logistical challenge, and that was dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. It seems that the 2021 season will start under similar circumstances. What lessons were learned last year that can be applied to the coming season?
GW: “In 2020 we learnt a tremendous amount about how to handle all the risks faced during the pandemic and how best to keep our staff safe while traveling around the world – we started the year not knowing what Covid was and now it’s something we live with every day. As a team, we have developed a specific Covid action plan – that we continue to revise with our ongoing learnings – and we’ll carry this over into the 2021 season. We’ve had several logistical obstacles to overcome, particularly around catering and the garage, as well as how we get to the track, but we now understand how to work round these challenges for the 2021 season. We tried to ensure that the necessary social distance was always maintained by our staff, even if they were in the same bubble. Likewise, we have avoided commercial flights, to ensure that we can maintain social distancing measures whilst travelling.”
“One other lesson we learned, in terms of running a Formula 1 team, is that it takes more than one person to manage the situation, due to the additional volume of work involved. We know all the processes now for 2021 and so one member of staff has been appointed the role of ‘Covid Planner’ to ensure that all protocols are correctly adhered to. Having the support network in place within our company has helped enormously and allowed us to continue racing within a safe environment.”
As team manager, the wellbeing of all team members while travelling and working in a team environment is your worry and your responsibility. What would you say were the main difficulties and what were the effects on the crew from working under these strange conditions?
GW: “The main priority for me as Team Manager is to preserve the health of all team members, this was my focus last year and it will continue to be so this season. In normal times, without Covid, we have lots of people working in small spaces and it can be a challenge to remain socially distanced. This is especially true in the garage, where we have people working on the car, under strict time pressures, so a large part of my job was finding ways to manage this without stopping the team remaining competitive. The reality is that going racing under these conditions becomes more tiring – the additional PPE and restrictions can make the job more difficult, but everyone understands the importance of why these protocols need to be followed.”
17 races last year, 23 this year, despite the pandemic: a great achievement and big satisfaction, right?
GW: “Formula 1 Management and the FIA did an incredible job of getting 17 races organised in such a short amount of time and with so many logistical issues – it really is a testament to the championship and everyone that works within it that we were able to put on such an incredible global show despite the pandemic. Yes, there were challenges – and a condensed calendar was always going to be tiring, especially with triple headers – but racing is what we get out of bed for each day and I’m just happy we managed to complete a full season whilst other sports couldn’t.”
Formula 1 did an excellent job of keeping the virus out of the paddock last year but some cases were and are likely inevitable. How can you prepare for that, for example with the pit stop crew, where each person has a specific role that they have practiced hundreds of times?
GW: “Luckily in 2020 we didn’t have many cases of Covid, however we have put more measures in place should we have some cases this season, including increasing our ability to replace any race critical members of staff. We need to have more support waiting in the wings, therefore, in our pre-season pit stop training we have been using a range of people to give everyone the correct experience, should they need to be called up for the race team. The human aspect of keeping the team running is vital and it is important to keep the team morale high. Covid has changed the landscape of the sport however I believe the championship has coped extremely well with managing the complexities of the pandemic and has continued to bring some great entertainment to the fans at home.”