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Formula 1 Miami GP

FIA assesses Miami GP race director options as Wittich tests positive for COVID

Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich has tested positive for COVID-19 and may be forced to miss the Miami Grand Prix if he doesn’t return a negative test by next week.

Eduardo Freitas, Race Director, FIA, Niels Wittich, Race Director, FIA

His deputy Eduardo Freitas has also tested positive, but the Portuguese was already committed to the World Endurance Championship event at Spa on the same weekend, so was not due to travel to Florida.

After Australia, the USA is the second 2022 F1 host country that requires a negative COVID-19 test, taken within the previous 24 hours before entry to the country.

It’s understood that Wittich and Freitas, who were drafted in this year after the FIA removed Michael Masi from the race director job in the wake of the Abu Dhabi GP controversy, were tested on return to their respective home countries. The F1 teams were told about the situation at Tuesday’s meeting of the F1 Commission in London.

While Wittich still has time to recover and log a negative test, it’s not yet clear what the FIA will do should he arrive late in Miami, or indeed if he is forced to miss the whole weekend.

One obvious but unlikely solution is to call on Masi, while Formula E race director Scot Elkins, who served as F1 deputy in the past, is also potentially available.

However, a more likely replacement is Herbie Blash who served as deputy race director to Charlie Whiting until 2014.

Herbie Blash, Permanent Senior Adviser to Race Directors, FIA

Herbie Blash, Permanent Senior Adviser to Race Directors, FIA

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Blash was called back this season to serve as a senior advisor in race control, helping Wittich and Freitas, while at the same time observing their progress on behalf of new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Blash was present at the first three races of the season, although he was not in Imola due to his World Superbike Championship commitments with Yamaha at Assen.

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FIA veteran Colin Haywood, who was called back from retirement at the start of this year to fill in when Freitas was busy at WEC events, was always scheduled to perform the deputy role for the Miami weekend.

Wittich and Freitas are due to share the race director job this season, although so far the latter has served only as deputy at the events he has attended. It’s understood that his first chance to sample the senior job may come at the Spanish GP on 20-22 May.

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