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31 Jan, 2022 19:34

Formula 1 imposes mandatory vaccines

All F1 team personnel, including drivers, will be required to be fully vaccinated as part of newly-announced FIA guidelines
Formula 1 imposes mandatory vaccines

F1 chiefs have revealed that all personnel associated with the high-octane sport, from drivers to mechanics and even reporters, will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to gain entry to the paddock next season.

The vaccine mandate will apply to all guests who visit races, while the various other Covid-19 rules implemented by countries on the sport's racing schedule will also be observed.

An F1 spokesperson was widely quoted as saying: “Formula One management will require all travelling personnel to be fully vaccinated and will not request exemptions.”

However, in a move which could prove controversial, governing body the FIA is reportedly open to considering requests for vaccine exemptions for workers involved in the sport as long as a justifiable medical reason is communicated.

Anyone seeking a medical exemption would then be subject to increased scrutiny when it comes to testing for Covid-19.

Recovery from a prior Covid-19 infection will not be considered a legitimate reason to request a medical exemption.

Some reports have speculated that planners have made the move with one eye on avoiding a repeat of the fiasco involving Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, when the world number one tennis player had his visa canceled despite believing that he would be allowed into the country with a medical exemption because he said he had contracted Covid in December 2021.

The new requirements are not expected to impact drivers within the sport, all of whom are currently understood to be vaccinated.

Last year's Grand Prix in Austin, Texas required that anyone associated with an F1 team be double-jabbed in order to get into the United States. 

The move to mandate vaccines, according to the BBC, comes amid a decision by F1 chiefs to relax Covid-19 testing within the sport – and when a positive test is discovered, the laws of whichever region or country they are in will be observed.

The so-called 'bubble' system, meanwhile, which requires F1 personnel to observe strict rules about who they could have contact with will be removed but it will be heavily suggested that that teams continue to observe it on an optional basis.

Formula 1 was among the first sports to resume after much of global sport ground to a halt in the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and has since held a total of 39 races during the Covid era.

There has been minimal interruption to the race schedule, which F1 chiefs credit as a result of their stringent policies to reduce risk related to the virus.

So far, four drivers – including multiple-time world champion Lewis Hamilton – have been forced to miss a race as a result of a Covid-19 infection.

The ruling could affect Formula One medical car driver Alan van der Merwe, who missed the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix because of his decision not to get vaccinated.

"I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices," Van der Merwe said at the time.

"That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.

"In Switzerland – I’m half Swiss – and other developed countries, prior infection counts as much as a vaccine.

"I trust that those countries know what they’re doing, and also respect countries’ more restrictive rules and [will] not travel there.

"If you want to get vaccinated, do it. I’m pro-vaccine for those that want and can have them."

After catching Covid for a second time, Van der Merwe praised the "wonders of the human immune system" and claimed the number of his "vaccinated colleagues or friends getting ill is adding up."

"I had [Covid] in March 2020 and, 18 months later, my illness was not nearly as severe," he said.

"I’ll avoid the very small but non-zero risks of a vaccine for now, until the data suggests it’ll be advantageous to me and others – if it ever does.

"I’ll add that my decision would possibly have been different had I not already had [Covid] and I was not a relatively healthy male in my 40s. Health is never one-size-fits-all, in my experience."

Formula one race director Michael Masi said before the rules were tightened: "From what we understand, there are a couple of countries that you probably won't be allowed to enter... unless you're vaccinated.

"You need to comply with those requirements to enter the country and from that perspective the FIA obviously has to respect the country's requirements to get in, as will all the teams and everyone else."