New race director may be needed for Miami Grand Prix

Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich are both reported to have tested positive for coronavirus.

Both Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich have reportedly contracted COVID-19, meaning that a new race director may need to be drafted in for next weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.

COVID laws in the Unites States rule that proof of a negative test taken no more than 24 hours before entry must be shown in order to enter the country, meaning that Freitas and Wittich essentially have until Wednesday to test negative, allowing for around 20 hours of flight time to get to Miami from Europe.

The FIA have called the rumours “unsubstantiated,” and will not pass comment until there is official word about the health of the two race directors, but they will not have a shortage of options to replace them if needs be.

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Freitas and Wittich were drafted in to replace Michael Masi following a controversial season in 2021 that ended with a hugely controversial Safety Car restart by the Australian, leading Max Verstappen to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton on the very last lap of the Australian Grand Prix to seal the title.

Masi is currently residing in his homeland, and is not considered to be one of the viable options to return, but Eugene Arocca, CEO of motorsports Australia, sympathised with the 44-year-old’s perceivably unfair dismissal, and maintained that he would welcome him back to the Australian governing body with open arms.

“It’s really easy to be a critic on the sidelines thinking what he went through when he was making those decisions,” he said earlier this year. 

“There would be other people that would be completely paralysed in exactly the same circumstances. He made the call. That is the first character trait of a strong leader.

“We would love to tap into his knowledge at any level. He’s just an elite talent that would be wasted to the sport if he’s not used in some capacity, and so we’ll keep an open mind.”

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Other potential candidates include Scot Elkins – Formula E race director who took over from Wittich – and Herbie Blash, who has been assisting the two nominated race directors this year, and served as deputy to the late Charlie Whiting for 20 seasons.

Colin Haywood is set to stand in for Blash as deputy in Miami, making him another obvious choice if Wittich and Freitas are unable to attend.

Steve Nielsen holds the sporting director title that Masi was also responsible for while he was race director, and he is understood not to be under consideration for the position.