Coming into the opening round of the (much delayed) 2020 F1 World Championship season in Austria, there was always the anticipation this would be an event like no other F1 event before it.

Indeed, it certainly looked alien initially as drivers and team personnel rocked up at the incubated paddock area, ‘alien’ the operative word as drivers filed into the media centre for Thursday press conference shrouded in masks of varying degrees of value.

It took a moment to get used to, partly because you cannot gauge emotions in the facial expressions (unless you’re Daniel Ricciardo of course), while the muffled vocals added another challenge for us when it came to transcribing, on top of some already thick accents (and in Kimi Raikkonen’s case, sheer unbroken monotone).

While there were moments in the build up to this event where F1 didn’t entirely have a grip on what it needed to do to become the first truly international sporting championship to get up and running, by Austria it was clear the protocols needed to make Austria happen had been meticulously thought out with some impressive attention to deail.

The rigorous process of testing multiple times both before and during the event was documented somewhat uncomfortably by Sergio Perez, who gets a cotton bud a bit deeper than any of us would like.

While social distancing isn’t entirely possible everywhere just such is the nature of the sport, the teams stepped up to take responsibility for revising their working practices.

Though there was a moment when Christian Horner and Sebastian Vettel were snapped chatting away in close company without their masks, they rules looked to have been largely adhered to all weekend. Incidentally, a stern reminder was sent to Red Bull and Ferrari after said incident but for the most part you could see teams and drivers taking matters very seriously.

While F1 can now afford to have a positive test without calling off the entire event, it will still be mightily pleased to get away with not a single positive case from a sample of more than 4000 people. If for nothing more than face value, given what occurred in Australia, this was a convincing ‘victory’ for F1 and the FIA.

“It was great to be back at a race track and hear the sound of a V6 hybrid turbo power unit fire up to signal that Grand Prix racing was under way once more,” Ross Brawn wrote in his blog for the official F1 website.

“This weekend in Austria was the result of three months of tremendously hard work that couldn’t have been completed without the outstanding collaboration between Formula 1, governing body the FIA, all 10 teams and the race promoters.

“It was a massive team effort to get this season under way – and we are pleased with the way the race weekend came together. I feel a big relief to get to where we have got to now.

“The event ran smoothly, with zero positive tests for Covid-19 in more than 4,000 tests of F1 personnel as of Saturday. The strict and rigid procedures we put in place were to ensure everyone’s safety and we’re reasonably pleased with how it went.

“There are still a lot of refinements we can make after our experiences this weekend, and there’s been some small changes before next week’s race, but I think we have put down the foundations to move forward in this Covid era.”

Moreover, concerns over whether the lack of spectators would lay F1 a little bare didn’t come to fruition as clever camera work, some mammoth advertisements and all that lovely engine noise to whip up a replacement soundtrack meant, to us, their lack of presence was barely noticeable.

F1 will now look to do a carbon-copy of the weekend before as we prepare for the first ever identical back-to-back, just to throw another challenge into the mix.



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