F1 'bubble' call after Perez gets virus

Racing Point Formula One team driver Sergio Perez contracted Covid-19 following a trip home to Mexico.
Racing Point Formula One team driver Sergio Perez contracted Covid-19 following a trip home to Mexico.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer has suggested that Formula One teams may need to keep drivers within protective "bubbles" for the remainder of the season, after their driver Sergio Perez contracted Covid-19 following a trip home to Mexico.

The Mexican, who will not only miss today's British Grand Prix at Silverstone but is also likely to be absent for next weekend's 70th Anniversary race at the same venue, is currently self-isolating after becoming the first F1 driver to be infected since the start of the season.

Under current enhanced health protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic, all F1 personnel are required to remain within the safety "bubble" during race weekends, but they can leave it outside of events.

While Red Bull boss Christian Horner called Perez's positive test "a stark reminder that these procedures are here for a reason", Szafnauer jumped to his driver's defence, insisting it was "no different to Ferrari going back to Italy".

But, when asked whether the motor sport's Covid-19 measures needed tightening, the Romania-born American agreed it might be something to consider.

"Between Hungary and here, we had that weekend off, everybody went to where their families were," he told a video news conference ahead of today's closed-door race.

"In hindsight, perhaps we should look at that, change the code and say throughout the season you stay within your bubble.

"I don't know. That's something for the (governing body) FIA to consider.

"I read through the code a couple of times now and it is a living document. They say at the very beginning, from time to time as we learn this will change, so perhaps that will change."

Szafnauer also confirmed that a small group of Racing Point employees, including his physiotherapist and personal assistant, who had come into contact with Perez, were in quarantine as a precaution but none had tested positive.

F1 has been operating in "bubbles within bubbles" at racetracks, with groups of employees kept apart from others within the same team.

 
 

The teams are also separated from each other. Even the select group of reporters allowed into the media centre can talk to drivers and team officials only remotely.

Everybody must also test negative before they can enter the paddock at the start of an event.

However, the freedom of movement when there are no back-to-back races appears to be a loophole in which the virus can penetrate the "bubble".

As a result, F1 may "consider further tightening its Covid-19 code of conduct to impose a season-long restrictive 'bubble' on personnel", according to The Guardian.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2020, with the headline 'F1 'bubble' call after Perez gets virus'. Print Edition | Subscribe