Did F1’s COVID-19 protocols work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has issued a report called “Implementation and Evolution of Mitigation Measures, Testing, and Contact Tracing in the National Football League, August 9–November 21, 2020”, which charts how the NFL coped with the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is interesting is that the research  carried out by the teams found that within the sport the transmission of the virus occurred with only 15 minutes of interaction between individuals. The league’s research showed that there were four key factors which determined the spread of the disease: whether they were wearing masks, how well the room was ventilated, how long the interaction was for and the physical distance between the subjects.

The league conducted around 623,000 tests on 11,400 players and staff in the period studied and around three percent of these returned positive results.

This is interesting when compared to Formula 1’s figures, which saw 76,000 tests and only 78 confirmed cases, which works out at about 0.10 percent. The numbers are skewed somewhat by various different factors, including the fact that some of the teams carried out their own testing regimes and so were not included in the figures. If the overall figures have been tabulated the numbers have not been made public. The other difference, of course, is that the NFL was operating just in the United States, while F1 visited 12 different countries. The F1 tests often included local contractors and F1’s Ross Brawn said some time ago that “quite a number” of the positive tests came from the locals. Brawn also said that the worst outbreak was caused by a local translator who had been working with one of the teams.

F1 changed its testing protocols after the Eifel Grand Prix  which meant that everyone had to test within 24 hours of their arrival, rather than having pre-event tests as had previously been the case. This followed  Lance Stroll testing positive in Germany.

Even in the autumn Brawn said that it was curious that three of the 20 F1 drivers had tested positive, which he said was “disproportionate” and F1 was curious to know why this had happened. That number has now risen to five, which means that 25 percent of last year’s F1 drivers have tested positive.

Outbreaks within the teams were very low and the media (which was not allowed into the paddock) had only one case all season and that was a photographer who caught the disease in his home country but was only identified as being positive on arrival in Bahrain.

It is interesting that some of the most diligent people were the drivers, notably Lewis Hamilton, who limited all social activity until after he had won the World Championship. He tested positive after that had happened.

It is also interesting to note that the International Olympic Committee is looking to try to have all of the Olympic Games athletes vaccinated as soon as the high risk sectors and key workers have received jabs. Whether this would be possible for F1 is a question that will be being asked at the moment. Given that the season is supposed to kick off in March and there is not much time, it is unlikely that this would be a requirement as it would require government agreement in a string of different countries of those involved in F1, unless F1 could secure sufficient vaccine for those working in the business. Even then, it is not clear that all the countries with F1 races would accept people without testing, even if they had been vaccinated.

35 thoughts on “Did F1’s COVID-19 protocols work?

  1. It could be seen a beneficial to catch the virus during off-season in order to gain immunity for when it matters the most.

    1. Herr Marko came out with that too. No one was prepared to take up his idea, least of all him.

      I’m not sure American football, a contact sport with huge teams of men, who spend a lot of time together, training, travelling and even in the dressing rooms, can be compared with F1.

      Any sport that attempts to obtain the vaccines before the vulnerable will attract huge amounts of bad publicity, especially as it appears the manufacturers are having problems keeping up the supply.

  2. Given the nerves around variants both in terms of greater spread (particularly the now UK prevalent variant ), and sooner or later, significant diminution of vaccine efficacy, I see this season being more disrupted than last as borders are going back up.

  3. There is currently no data on whether vaccinated people can/will still spread the virus, so all current isolation measures need to be maintained. There will be heightened media interest/condemnation in/of any organisation that obtains private supplies of vaccine, since the EU is considering blocking exports and all countries are short of supplies. With a huge row developing between the EU and the vaccine manufacturers likely not to ease matters, supplies may get even tighter. In the UK only part of the top tranche out of 8 priority levels, has been partially vaccinated, enough to feed political success headlines every day, but overall very little progress against a total population. Though apparently considerably more than that of European countries, hamstrung by Brussels obsessive control mania.

    Other effects; after the silly season seems to be the rise of a stupid season, with even previously respected pundits/commentators joining in. My own contribution in this vein would be, Hamilton and Russel to swap teams with Hamilton on loan for 1 year but retained by Merc. (He may want a new challenge.)

    1. Lewis may want a new challenge??? He wants an 8th title and a pile of swag, cash and personal sponsorship. This may be the last year driver salaries are exempt from caps and who can afford more than Mercedes?

      I guess loyalty is a one way street in the eyes of Sir Lewis.

        1. What do you believe the reasons are the contract has not been signed as yet? What are the “curve balls” that Toto referred to as reasons the contract has not been signed? Please share YOUR inside information. I have to believe that Mercedes has made a more than generous contract offer that is insufficient in the eyes of Hamilton. My opinion only, with or without internet regurgitation. 🙂

          1. I don’t have any, just as you don’t, however it would be reasonable to consider the new ownership structure, and presence of a new player at the table, “may” have something to do with it…

        2. Perhaps the revelation in the Paul di-Resta v Anthony Hamilton high court dispute where it was disclosed AH still had a mortgage on his house, despite all the sacrifice he made to get LH to F1.

    2. They could all trot off to Dubai, where numbers have already spent their spare time, and get jabbed in a drop in. Apparently it’s that simple !

      1. Completely off-topic, but I read a story yesterday about a wealthy couple from eastern Canada who tried that at Beaver Creek in the Yukon. The locals found out what they were up to and refused to drive them into town from the airport. A couple of miles walk down the Alaska Highway, in January… And then the Mounties arrested them. Schadenfreude much?

      2. Except that’s not true.

        UAE has indeed opened vaccines up to the general population, but only to residents, not visitors. Most people here are getting the Sinopharm vaccine, with the Pfizer vaccine still restricted to elderly and vulnerable groups, and only at public hospitals.

        The story of the Dubai vaccines came from a guy who runs a conscierge service in London, who worked out he could charge people £40k to spend a month in Dubai, setting up a company with an investor visa, getting a residency permit with that company, a local ID card and *then* the vaccine. The Daily Telegraph wrote a piece on him that read like an advertorial.

        It’s also something you couldn’t do more than half a dozen times, before the local authorities cotton on and shut it down.

        That all said, Israel and UAE are only three or four months away from having everyone vaccinated, they may open it up to tourists after that point. There’s also Moderna in the US who have said they’ll be selling vaccines on the private market, aiming at large corporates. Whether F1 goes for something like this depends to a large extent on the politics, there’s potential for a massive backlash if the countries they visit are still vaccinating their old and sick. F1, being F1, could of course mitigate this by bringing with them several thousand vaccines to each event, and distributing them free to the local population.

    3. Immunity from Covid develops 3-4 weeks after receiving both injections. We have been assured that both Drugs on the Market are effective against both known variants. So
      “Vaccinated People” can’t get Covid, hence they have nothing to spread to you or anyone else.

        1. Indeed. According to various experts in the US and elsewhere there are many variants of the Covid Virus circulating across the Globe. So far there seems to be three widely variants. These three main variants were discovered in the UK; SA and Brazil. The Brazilian variant is considered the most potent and is surging in that country. All three variants have spread to countries such as the US and Canada.

          The renowned infectious disease expert Dr Faucci says that these vaccines are still effective against the these variants. Furthermore he also notes that there are ways to adjust vaccines to combat emerging variants.

          Notwithstanding the expertise’s of Dr. Faucci and others, recent anecdotal information revealed that some fully vaccinated people may not have developed antibodies strong enough to shield them from being re-infected. (See breaking news re a US Congressman. and; similar information from Brazil. Thus these folks were re-infected

            1. In South Africa it’s not surprising that a strain developed. We had one of the harshest lockdown’s in the world, but it was not enforced and a one solution fits all was used, so the whole country moved from one level to another. Although with the happenings in England with people on the next street being in a different lockdown perhaps this worked.

              In our most recent move to Level 3 from Level 1, the curfew moved to 9pm and the sale or transport of alcohol banned. On Sunday I went to buy a Pizza on what was our Esplanade Street Circuit before the Prince George Circuit was significantly shortened for our 60’s Grand Prix’s. There was a significant social gathering (probably 600 people), no social distancing and plenty of alcohol being consumed. But there were no police enforcing the lockdown and as it was 45 minutes before the curfew!! Of course when I returned to the suburb I live in, there were the police pulling over people running on their own and telling them to put their masks on.

      1. Your last paragraph is absolutely untrue and very foolish !
        Look at the Israeli analyses where more than 50% of the population have been vaccinated, endorsed by our own experts. These show that, as is normal, effectiveness in practice is lower than lab results. All of the vaccines have an upper limit of effectiveness which means that maybe 10% to 15% of recipients will still contract the bug. It does appear that those vaccinated are unlikely to require hospitalisation and probably to avoid dying. The elderly, of which I am one, nevertheless do die at a rising rate according to age, from whatever cause. The Israelis have found that about 12 days after the first jab of the over 65s those so vaccinated are increasingly less likely to contract the bug.
        It has also been made clear that it is not yet known if those vaccinated will not continue to pass on the bug. The mutations now coming into UK and elsewhere may also be less affected by the existing vaccines.
        On a personal note would you please keep well away from me, I survived several crashes in my foolish youth and would prefer to last my allotted span ! It is crass stupidity such as your comment that is the reason why so much transmission continues.

        1. Every day we learn more. It has now been found that the OAZ vaccine provides a significant reduction of transmittance. This is very good news. Caveat ! It is not 100% so continue to be sensible.
          Sorry Joe to use your blog but I believe it is incredibly important that misinformation is not spread unchallenged.

          1. “Every day we learn” Well said. Just about every day “The experts from major American & a few premier UK Universities have been providing conflicting data regarding the duration of vaccines’ immunity. Recently a group of Canadian experts says the duration is unknown. This is one of the better although discouraging information I’ve seen.

  4. Even suggesting that F1 ‘acquires’ a supply of vaccine in front of key staff in a multitude of other situations is crass in the extreme. Having worked in F1 and other top line motorsport for 20 years, and now being involved with infection control in many settings, I know where I am hanging my hat. And it ain’t with motor racing!! I wouldn’t want to be the one posting that for public public debate right now!!

    1. I’m not suggesting it. I’m suggesting there might be a discussion. That’s it. I trust you have written an outraged letter to the IOC at the suggestion…

      1. I think any sport trying to get vaccinations ahead of the general populous will be a contentious issue for many people, and very bad PR for the sport in question. The fight the EU and the UK are having currently only makes things worse. Any sport trying to jump the queue will be played as the rich vs the poor in the media, especially F1. Also bear in mind most of the athletes will be in one of the lowest risk categories, and the press wont see past that. Therefore I don’t think the time will be right for a serious discussion in the open about this until at least the summer, by which time its to late for this years events. If it happens at all it will be backroom deals. This may work for F1, but it will still have to deal with a large amount of negative PR. How will sponsors fell about this? The Olympics are a different matter though, as they are far to big for this approach to happen. I suspect there it will be left to the individual nations to sort out if they can, and it will be interesting to see if there are any conscientious objectors in the competitors. Needless to say if the Olympics do go ahead this year the medal results a departure from the norm.

    2. In the UK it is likely that anyone who wants a vaccination will be able to have one by september. The problem is that the timescale of equitable distribution does not fit in with the F1 calendar. F1 could probably do a vaccination deal with their old pal Mr Putin but there would be some negative publicity

      1. Isn’t the a contradiction? You are also assuming unlimited supply, which is obviously a problem right now.

        1. Based on a discussion with a friend whose wife is involved in production and distribution in 🇬🇧 of one of the vaccines, in circa 4 to 5 months mass supply will have peaked and then they can meet demand on an on-going basis. So the September date sounds highly plausible.

  5. The IOC and any other sports organisation are totally out of touch to be even thinking of jumping the vaccine queue simply for sport. Stupid and crass in the extreme by them, and anybody who follows that line of thinking.
    There are millions of susceptible people in poverty stricken countries and environments that need it first…

  6. Given that Bahrain is top 3 globally in per capita vaccine efforts with lots of orders, would be interesting to see if the season opener requires arrivals to be vaccinated s & just happened to offer it to most the grid/broadcasters…at a cost of course. But it certainly would help Bahrain favour with F1 for many years to come. This seems the most likely method as bigger countries aren’t due to roll out mass vacancies till late summer l/Autumn at best so the PR would be awful to get a sport vaccinated before then. Bahrain is only reasonable early call, UAE has come plenty vaccines but is too late in the year

  7. Joe, aren’t the numbers interesting? 3% positive for a high-contact football game that must be played without masks compared to 0.1% for F1 where everyone can wear masks whilst performing their duties. I can see the logic in that, as masks (we’re told) do an excellent job of reducing transmission. What’s interesting to me is that the drivers are at an astonishing 25%. So I’ve two questions: firstly, do the drivers have vastly different lifestyles within the F1 bubble than the crew, and; more importantly, do the drivers not interact with the crew much any more? You’d think with drivers being so virulent, it would have had a bigger impact on the crews.

    One last point: I think as a society we’re parsing the data poorly. The stats you’ve highlighted are all about positive tests, which in theory should be a good thing as long as mortality rates remain low or zero (which they seem to be in both the NFL and F1). More positives with low mortality means we get to herd immunity sooner.

    My $0.02.

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