F1 will no longer require COVID vaccination to enter the paddock, but the position on drivers racing with a positive COVID test has not changed.

Following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the FIA introduced a set of protocols to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Some of these restrictions were relaxed in 2021, including the return of media and outside personnel to the paddock. In 2022, further relaxation was introduced which saw the end of mandatory testing and wearing masks.

In a statement issued after the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Bologna on Wednesday, it was confirmed that further steps will be taken to relax the protocols for next year. This includes an end to the requirement for those working in so-called ‘high-density areas’ – such as the paddock, pit lane, and race control – to be vaccinated against COVID or have a medical exemption.

This season, those working in the paddock were required to show proof of vaccination that included two doses of a vaccine recognized by the WHO or a medical exemption when collecting their passes at the start of the season.

For the next F1 season, following moves from various countries relaxing their COVID protocols, the World Motor Sport Council also confirmed that the FIA will no longer organize on-site testing facilities, something that has been present since the first race with COVID protocols in place in July 2020.

Having said that, those who have COVID symptoms or have positive test results will still not be allowed to enter high-density areas. This also means that F1 drivers that have tested positive for COVID will still not be allowed to race.

Nico Rosberg’s return to the F1 paddock next season?

This also means that former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg will be making a return to the F1 paddock. Rosberg had opted out of taking the COVID vaccine and hence was unable to gain access to the paddock.

This was also why Rosberg, who is a member of the Sky Sports team, could be a part of the coverage remotely. Next season we could see the German making a return to the paddock with the vaccine restrictions removed. There is, however, a discussion to be had to allow an F1 driver to race with a positive COVID report. This was something raised earlier this year by Sergio Perez when drivers like Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo had to miss sessions because of a positive COVID test.