I think everyone has become accustomed to the term “bubble” in this post-COVID world—but for racing to continue safely, Formula One is looking to get even more serious. In order to safely contest the Australian Grand Prix at the start of 2021, the series is looking to implement a biosphere.
A bubble is essentially a small group of people with whom you have close personal contact, but as we’ve seen, what we imagine to be a ‘small’ bubble is actually pretty huge. F1 drivers may currently be avoiding unnecessary travel, fans, and more, but as has been noted before, those drivers are still taking flights and being served by hotel staff. That bubble then becomes way larger than intended.
Instead of that fallible system, Motorsport.com has reported that F1 is considering a biosphere. This is in part because of the fact that Australia has restricted international travel and doesn’t look set to loosen those restrictions any time soon. The biosphere is intended to reduce the need for teams and crews to spend 14 days in quarantine ahead of the race weekend.
Here’s what a biosphere entails:
- Paddock personnel will arrive via private charter and be strictly limited to staying in their hotel and going to the track
- Travel between hotel and track will be highly regulated
- Paddock personnel may still need to quarantine for four days ahead of the event in order to join the biosphere
- Anyone who joins the F1 biosphere—volunteers, track personnel, etc.—will have to quarantine for two weeks after the event. The same goes for F1 drivers who wish to travel in Australia after the race
The terms of this whole situation are still pretty up in the air, since it hasn’t been done before. The government has stressed that it’s very likely the biosphere will only include the people in “high-density” areas, like the paddock itself. It likely won’t include support series or media personnel, who will not be allowed to mingle within the biosphere.
From Motorsport Australia’s general manager of motorsport Michael Smith:
Things aren’t 100 per cent locked down yet, but we’re looking at all sorts of contingencies. [14-day quarantine] is certainly one of the scenarios that we’re looking at.
We’re just working with our officials team at the moment to see how we can do that to make sure we can deliver the event, and to see what officials will and won’t need to go into the bubble.
It’s a pretty small number, to be honest. At the very most it would be about 75 people, but it could be as few as 25 to 30, depending on how we structure things.
Formula 1 pitlane, the paddock area and race control – what the FIA term Profile 1 or high-density areas – the people that work in those areas will need to be Profile 1 officials. They’re the ones that we’ll need to look at creating some alternate arrangements for.
Mainly, the goal is to hold a race while still keeping Australia safe. The country has had a few spikes in COVID-19 cases and deaths, but for the most part, its closed-border policy and strict quarantine regulations have mitigated disaster. The government is hoping to keep it that way, even with a Grand Prix.