MAY 20, 2020
First race with no fans a success
By Dan Knutson
On Sunday July 16 the NASCAR series staged the first auto race with no fans. Formula 1 plans to do the same thing starting on July 5 with the Austrian Grand Prix.
The fact that the NASCAR race was successfully operated bodes well for the F1 events with no fans. However, the F1 team people have to travel to and from different countries, so that will create challenges and problems that the NASCAR teams did not have to deal with. So, too, is the fact that the entire F1 operation is more complex to produce than NASCAR's.
The NASCAR teams are based in Charlotte, North Carolina. From there it is only a two-hour drive to Darlington, South Carolina, where the race was held on an oval track. So the drivers could drive from their homes to the track, race, and drive home on the same day.
The drivers commented on how strange and unnatural it was to race in front of completely empty grandstands.
It was a one-day event. There was no practice or qualifying – the grid was created at random. So the first time the drivers drove on the track were the warm-up laps and then the race itself.
Here are some of other observations and regulations:
*Each person who was allowed to enter the track had to read a 30-page instruction manual.
*Everybody had their temperature tested at the gate before getting into the circuit.
*There were limits on how many crew members were allowed in – 14 per car.
*The team transporters were parked spaced apart.
*The drivers were allowed no contact with the crews from arriving at the track until getting in the car.
*Everybody had to wear a mask, even the drivers when out of the car.
*The people were all social distancing.
*Only one crew member was allowed to be there to help the driver do up the seatbelts.
The TV commentary was done from the studio, with the three announcers in separate rooms.
*There was just one pit lane TV commentator at the track, with a cameraman, and they always stayed 2 meters away from the drivers.
*Only four people from the media were allowed to attend the event, and they were in a separate building away from the paddock.
*The teams will all be back at the same track on Wednesday night for another race.