Formula One's Biggest COVID-19 Scare Was Due To A Translator

Illustration for article titled Formula One's Biggest COVID-19 Scare Was Due To A Translator
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Around the Russian Grand Prix weekend, Formula One experienced its largest cluster of positive COVID-19 cases within its sporting bubble. Now, we might have an answer as to how that happened. It all came down to one translator.


The details come from Ross Brawn’s recent interview with the F1 Nation Podcast. The F1 boss didn’t specify the event—likely in order to prevent the person in question from getting bad press—but it seemed that this one translator was behind the spike in COVID-19 cases.

From the interview:

I think the worst outbreak cluster we had was when a translator caught us out in one of the countries, because he was working with a group of people, translating for them.

Then of course he came into contact with them, and we suddenly had a fierce little cluster, but we quickly got on to that.

So very few outbreaks, I have to say, amongst the teams. The numbers within the teams of mechanics, engineers, etc, was very low. Interesting exercise to study the data, and I know some of the most diligent people in F1 got caught out. I don’t know where it came from.

Back when we covered the spike in cases after the Russian Grand Prix as it happened, driver Romain Grosjean noted that he felt unsafe in the country because of lax COVID-19 restrictions. Masks weren’t mandatory, so drivers and team personnel were interacting with unmasked hotel staff and waiters.

If that translator was living and working in Russia prior to working in the F1 paddock, it is totally possible that he was easily exposed to COVID-19 and could more easily spread it.

That said, more of Brawn’s interview highlights just how well the paddock did this year. Out of over 78,000 tests conducted throughout the season, there were only 78 positive cases. For a group of people that are essentially living and working in small groups throughout the world, that’s not bad. If other racing series were as diligent in their testing, we’d likely see much worse numbers in other paddocks.

Brawn also gave a little teaser as to what we can expect in 2021:

We’re not going to go into next year with a switch turned. We’re going to have to carry on, and learn from what we’ve learned this year, and be as diligent, because the vaccines aren’t going to become effective until sometime during the year, in terms of numbers.

So we’re going to need to continue testing. The testing regime may change, the methodology may change, but we’re going to have another year undoubtedly of having to be super diligent, and apply the protocols again.


So, essentially, you can expect many of the same COVID-19 protocols to remain in place, including the rampant testing, until vaccines are widely available to the world at large.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.


Andrew Daisuke

I’m more concerned about that giant fire hydrant behind the stands.