This year, Formula One and the FIA have mandated that anyone working at a Grand Prix take a COVID-19 test to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. And it comes as little surprise that the race in the United States brought one of the highest numbers of positive cases seen over the season. The only events where a greater or equal amount of positive cases turned up were in Belgium, Bahrain, and the Netherlands — but the high number of personnel that turned up to the US GP meant its ratio of positive tests to overall tests wasn’t as high as some other events.
F1 has dutifully released all the testing numbers after each race, and it can be hard to evaluate the severity of the US GP’s 12 positive cases without comparison. Here’s how those events have played out:
- Bahrain GP: 12 positive tests | 8,150 tested | 0.15 percent positive
- Emilia Romagna GP: 2 positive tests | 4,523 tested | 0.04 percent positive
- Portuguese GP: 1 positive test | 4,895 tested | 0.02 percent positive
- Spanish GP: 1 positive test | 5,234 tested | 0.02 percent positive
- Monaco GP: 4 positive tests | 5,923 tested | 0.07 percent positive
- Azerbaijan GP: 1 positive test | 4,630 tested | 0.02 percent positive
- French GP: 2 positive tests | 4,994 tested | 0.04 percent positive
- Styrian GP: 5 positive tests | 5,673 tested | 0.08 percent positive
- Austrian GP: 1 positive test | 6,097 tested | 0.001 percent positive
- British GP: 9 positive tests | 5,496 tested | 0.16 percent positive
- Hungarian GP: 8 positive tests | 5,645 tested | 0.14 percent positive
- Belgian GP: 15 positive tests | 6,449 tested | 0.23 percent positive
- Dutch GP: 16 positive tests | 6,691 tested | 0.24 percent positive
- Italian GP: 8 positive tests | 6,388 tested | 0.13 percent positive
- Russian GP: 4 positive tests | 4,858 tested | 0.08 percent positive
- Turkish GP: 2 positive tests | 3,048 tested | 0.07 percent positive
- US GP: 12 positive tests | 6,014 tested | 0.19 percent positive
So, a double-digit number looks imposing, but it’s not the highest ratio of positive COVID-19 tests among paddock personnel this season. That goes to the Dutch Grand Prix, where 16 people tested positive for a 0.24 percent positive rate among the paddock.
In terms of hard numbers, the US GP’s 12 positive tests tie it with Bahrain for third-most positive tests thus far this season. It’s also the third-highest ratio of positive cases to overall tests conducted.
As a member of the media for the US Grand Prix, I got to witness firsthand the COVID-19 regulations that were put in place for the race. In order to even pick up my credentials, I needed to provide proof that I had tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of doing so. Then, I had to take another test within 24 hours of reaching the track.
If I tested negative, I was not required to test again unless I was at the track for more than five days — which I wasn’t. I received my test results within 12 hours, which meant I knew my results from Friday’s test before I left for the track on Saturday.
At the track, F1 provided a handy guide to let everyone know where masks were mandated and where they were strongly required. I needed to be masked to enter the paddock area and the media center. Media was also mostly kept separate from other paddocks, so I didn’t have a chance to interview anyone from the W Series.
This is Texas, though, and outside of those areas, masks weren’t mandatory. Most fans weren’t wearing them, and while many businesses in Austin ask that you wear masks, very few will enforce it. Since Austin is generally considered one of the bigger party cities on the calendar, it makes sense that more people would have contracted COVID-19 here — or during the journey to the track, or even walking into the track during which time team personnel would have contact with the throes of fans that attended the event — than compared to other circuits.