The end of the 2020 grand prix season will come under lock-down in Abu Dhabi.
All access roads to the Yas Marina circuit – three bridges and one tunnel – will be sealed off and guarded to stop F1 people leaving and to stop the locals from entering.
It’s part of the extraordinary procedures around the F1 finale at Abu Dhabi following the upcoming double-header in Bahrain.
On paper, it is very difficult for Formula 1 to even have an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this year, as the local government’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority has a large number of restrictions in place to try to stop the pandemic.
So far, in the United Arab Emirates there have been coronavirus 158,000 infections with 552 deaths.
However, Abu Dhabi is particularly cautious and commercial flights were suspended during much of the Covid-19 outbreak, although some have now started operating again in-and-out of Abu Dhabi International Airport.
But the country remains cautious and all those arriving must conduct a PCR test on arrival, then register under the country’s quarantine system before being provided with an electronic wristband which they need to wear throughout the compulsory two-week quarantine period. Authorities decide where this quarantine should taken place.
Anyone who wants to enter the country by road from Dubai must have had a valid Covid-19 test within the previous 48 hours and must also isolate for 14 days.
This made life rather complicated for Formula 1 arrangements, with around 2000 people needing to enter the country from Bahrain, stay for up to a week, and then depart.
The government was, nonetheless, keen to host the grand prix and so worked with F1 to find a solution that would allow the sport to come and go.
This has been achieved using F1-only charter flights, run by the national airline Etihad, which will leave Bahrain in the days following the Sakhir Grand Prix on December 6.
They will land at Abu Dhabi International Airport where F1 personnel will be tested and then transported by official vehicles to hotels on Yas Island, all of which are within walking distance of the circuit. Personnel will be required to remain in their hotels until their initial tests come back negative, but after that are allowed to roam free – but only on the island itself.
This means that F1 people can only stay at the hotels on the island at the prices dictated by the government. Anyone wanting a hire car will have to have it delivered before the island is locked down.
The special restrictions will run for the full week until after the race on Sunday night, after which the F1 people will be transported back to the airport and can depart, although some will go cross-country on the short leg to Dubai and fly home from there.
There is very little scope for those who wish to attend just the final race, with complex testing schedules imposed on them by the authorities to avoid any possibility of the virus coming in from abroad.