Motor racing: McLaren happy with F1's COVID response since Melbourne

LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren withdrew from Formula One’s doomed Australian season-opener in March when an employee tested positive for COVID-19, but team boss Andreas Seidl is confident this weekend’s second attempt in Austria will be very different.

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The March 15 race in Melbourne was cancelled before a wheel had turned, and Formula One has had to wait more than 100 days for another opportunity to go racing after countries went into lockdown.

Sunday’s opener at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring will be the latest ever start to a Formula One season, and the first to get going in Austria.

It will take place in a changed landscape, one without spectators or sponsors present while teams operate in ‘bubbles’ with strict health and safety conditions and media kept at a distance.

“I have to say I’m very happy with the plan that has been developed,” said Seidl.

“What is different now to Australia is we have a clear concept of isolation of the teams between each other,” added the German.

“The approach is clear: If someone is positive he needs to be isolated from the team and obviously can’t continue. but for everyone else who is not affected or is negative, they can simply keep going.”

All the teams have backup staff on standby, tested and ready to step in if needed.

In Melbourne, amid general concern about racing in the face of a growing pandemic, McLaren withdrew on the Thursday after one positive result.

The race was then called off before the start of Friday practice.

Team members will now be tested every five days and will also have to maintain self distancing and wear face masks in the paddock. Seidl said all of his team’s tests had reported negative so far.

The teams, who will fly in on charter planes and remain isolated in their hotels, will not mix with locals or rival outfits, with key groups kept isolated within teams to limit any spread.

“I think it is a good mix of protecting our people and at the same time allowing to put up a good show,” Seidl said.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Hugh Lawson