The COVID-19 Pandemic completely changed the scope of Formula One in 2020. Fans were not allowed to attend races, new races had to be scheduled, and a vast number of safety precautions were added to the sporting regulations. One such precaution was the usage of masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the paddock. The most prominent vendor of these masks was an Italian company known as U-Mask, famously supplying teams such as McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, and more.
Written by Aryan Desai, Edited by Ryan Lack
U-Mask claimed to offer “Level 3 Protection” against the virus, one of the highest mask safety ratings that featured filters comparable to N95 masks. U-Mask also sold these masks to the general public for roughly $47 USD, a high price when comparable Level 3 masks could be acquired for almost $0.50 USD. U-Mask, however, claimed to offer premium protection compared to other masks with unparalleled styling and comfort. Throughout the season, fans were quick to point out that these masks appeared to continuously slip from driver’s faces during interviews and deemed constant readjustments, taking away from their “comfort” features.
McLaren Driver Lando Norris (Left) and Team Principal Zak Brown (Right) Utilizing U-Masks (Photo Credit: McLaren)
Now, the Italian Government has placed a ban on U-Mask with claims against their ability to protect users from contracting COVID-19. The Italian Ministry of Health claimed that the U-Mask Model 2 masks are “potentially hazardous to health” and were not properly certified to be rated with Level 3 Protection. The Italian news group that broke this story, Striscia la notizia, reported that “the effectiveness of these devices would be emphasized in a deceptive and aggressive way, exploiting unduly the current health emergency situation to induce the consumer to buy the advertised product at high prices”. Some reports have even stated that their performance is worse than base level surgical masks without Level 3 Protection.
Teams like McLaren already began selling McLaren branded U-Masks to fans. Most likely these will have to be recalled as the users of U-Mask on the Formula One grid will have to search for alternative options. Several Formula One personnel on the grid, such as reporters, often used standard surgical masks and this could be adopted by the rest of the teams.
COVID-19 continued to affect the season going into 2021. Fans can only hope that concerns such as this U-Mask development can be handled quickly and efficiently such that the teams continue to stay safe as the pandemic continues.