Marshals offended by refusal to test them for Covid-19 at British Grand Prix

British marshals have expressed anger and disappointment that they will not be tested for Covid-19 at the forthcoming British Grand Prix and the 70th anniversary grand prix which follows it at Silverstone. Critical to driver safety at races, marshals had originally been told they would be tested as part of Formula One’s coronavirus safety protocols. However, those working outside the paddock will not be tested, a decision they described as a slap in the face and potentially a health risk.

F1 has successfully completed three grands prix using its coronavirus procedures. This included establishing a closed biosphere for personnel working at the circuits. In the two races in Austria and the following round in Hungary more than 5,000 tests were completed with only two positive results.

However, personnel outside the paddock area were not included in the testing regime, which included marshals. As Silverstone prepares to host its first double header of races British marshals, who are volunteers and entirely unpaid, feel they have been let down.

Marshals, 400 of whom could be used trackside at Silverstone, were informed in June by Motorsport UK, the body that organises marshalling, that all personnel would be tested for Covid-19. The Guardian has seen documentation that confirms when marshals were invited to apply to work at the races testing was considered a vital part of their participation. “The key aspect for both events is that all personnel will be pre-tested for Covid-19, the details for which are being finalised,” it read.

However, early this month they were told that marshals outside what is known as the profile one “high-density” paddock area would not be tested.

“I feel lied to, that is the honest truth,” said one marshal, who has worked at the British Grand Prix for many years. “Thirty or 40% of marshals feel something is not right and are not very happy. We feel like second-class citizens. Because we are not in direct contact with the teams, we really don’t matter.”

The marshals in what is called the “profile two” category will be given temperature checks on arrival at the track but not the strict testing regime imposed in the paddock. Before the opening race in Austria, where the same two-tier procedure was in place, F1 publicly launched its We Race as One initiative to fight the Covid-19 crisis and racism and inequality.

“When We Race as One was presented we were very much supporting it, it felt great. This feels like a really big letdown,” one marshal said. “This is a slap in the face given the time, money and effort we put in to marshalling all year, every year. It makes us feel unwanted or just a necessary evil.”

Marshals have also pointed out potential safety risks. They and medical staff positioned trackside may be required to extract drivers from cars in the event of an accident. There is also concern of the virus spreading among trackside personnel if they have not been been previously cleared of carrying the virus.

Marshals were also angry at the way some of their concerns have been met, having been told that if they did not want to do it they should simply drop out. A number are subsequently understood to have declined to take part.

“The picture that has been put out there is that they are doing all these things to make it safe and it is obvious now that is not the case,” a marshal said. “Is it cost cutting? Well, if you are doing 4,500 tests on site why can’t you add a few hundred people to it? It makes us feel not needed and an afterthought.”

A spokesperson for the FIA insisted the protocols had been clear and successful. “The protocol regarding testing procedures at FIA Formula 1 events has not changed since the start of the season and has worked very effectively at the first three races. The code of conduct clearly sets out what is required for profile one and profile two – with the former being a higher-risk environment and therefore requiring pre-event testing, and the latter being a lower-risk environment and not requiring pre-event testing.

“Everyone at the event is required to respect social distancing and wear PPE where that is not possible. In regard to driver extraction, the drivers are instructed to keep their helmets and gloves on at all times until they return to their group in the paddock.”

Nadine Lewis, the national chair of the British Motorsports Marshals Club, said: “Guidelines are constantly changing from governments as well as FIA and those are what are determining the requirements for testing. Therefore what was valid a month ago has been reviewed and changed now.

“It is up to individuals to determine the level of risk and whether they believe it to be acceptable to attend. From information received in the guidelines I would also say that I would feel more comfortable attending a motor racing event than going shopping right now.”

Motorsport UK said: “At this time, UK government guidance does not require Covid-19 testing of any individuals attending sporting events.

Formula 1 is implementing its testing programme at Silverstone and while the final decisions regarding operating conditions are at the discretion of the Formula One Group and the FIA, Motorsport UK has consulted with Nadine Lewis, the chair of the British Motorsports Marshals Club, to ensure that the marshals are comfortable with the protocols for these events. Through the course of communicating our guidance, we have seen an extremely high level of confidence among our valued marshals community. We have not received any other expressions of concern, but of course we respect the decision of each individual.”

The author: Clémentine FORISSIER

Clémentine Forissier, a youthful journalist hailing from Brussels, has been making waves in the field of media. Despite her relatively young age, she has quickly risen to prominence as a prominent voice in Belgian journalism. Known for her fresh perspective and dynamic reporting, Clémentine has become a recognized figure in the Brussels media scene, offering insightful coverage of various topics.

Related posts

Leave a Comment