After more than three months of lockdown, Mercedes became the first F1 team to return to the circuit with its recent practice lap.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all F1 teams were forced into lockdown. The Mercedes F1 team hinted its return with a two-day test run at Silverstone. Behind the wheel is the team’s star driver Valtteri Bottas stretching his legs once again.
COVID-19 test protocols
Commentators have noted that the recent test is not only to prepare the drivers. The return to the circuit is also to test the team’s coronavirus safety protocols. Since the pandemic is still on a rage, proper safety protocols and social distancing rules are to be followed.
Among the new rules that need to be followed is the strict usage of face masks for all staff. Drivers are allowed to take off their masks once they are driving. However, they are required to wear a mask if they are out of the car and while they are not wearing their helmet.
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) June 9, 2020
All F1 teams are allowed to create their own safety rules, provided that it adheres to the general safety guidelines. One of which is the implementation of the two-meter social distancing rule.
Preparation for the season’s return
The F1 federation has already confirmed the new 2020 race calendar. The season is set to open at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on July 3. The season is set to progress into Hungary, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, and Italy, thereafter.
As part of the preparation process, almost every F1 team is now in the early practice phase. Bottas returns to the circuit driving a 2018-era W09 car. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is set to take the reins on Wednesday for his own practice laps.
Aside from Mercedes, Ferrari is set to return to the practice circuit next week. The team is heading down to its own Fiorano circuit in the Italian town of Maranello on June 22. Aside from the usual F1 practice laps, social distancing rules and protocols will also be put into the test.
All F1 teams were forced into lockdown in February. Because of the pandemic, F1 teams are forced to abandon pre-season testing. Moreover, the team has agreed to stop the development of certain car parts in order to manage operational costs.
Mercedes is set to continue its test laps as it prepares for the opening of the season. Other F1 teams are expected to follow suit within the next couple of weeks.
Image courtesy of Mikhail Kolesnikov/Shutterstock