Virus means F1 teams lining up reserve drivers


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Jul.1 – Formula 1 teams are organising their respective reserve drivers as the sport prepares to get back to racing amid the corona pandemic.

Max Verstappen‘s manager Raymond Vermeulen has told De Limburger newspaper that F1 is looking at the Austrian GP this weekend “almost as a military operation”.

“There is no role for Jos and myself there,” he said. “Everything is so well protected, everyone will be in their own bubble and contact with people from other teams is impossible.”

Indeed, so nervous is everyone about the risk of infection that, according to Kronen Zeitung newspaper, local police are warning fans not to try to get close to the Red Bull Ring.

“There will be nothing to see,” a police source is quoted as saying.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul admits that an outbreak of coronavirus could mean the team involved will not be able to qualify or race.

“The test can take 24 hours for the result,” he said. “If this happens on Saturday morning, you may not be able to do qualifying.”

Abiteboul is therefore expecting some flexibility in the detailed ‘code of conduct’ that will govern the way F1 handles the risk of an outbreak.

“We have to find the right balance between risk minimisation, practicability and common sense,” said the Frenchman.

Indeed, FIA safety director Adam Baker is quoted by the broadcaster RTBF: “We want to avoid quarantining people for suspected positive cases when they are in fact negative.

“Just as importantly, we want to avoid harm to the wider community.”

One of the actual teams’ biggest concerns will be if one of their race drivers becomes caught up in a virus outbreak within their ‘bubble’.

Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko told Speed Week: “If one of our drivers cannot start due to a positive result, we have Sergio Sette Camara who can replace him.

“Almost every team will have a reserve, and we also have people who are ready to replace the mechanics,” he added.

Marko also told APA news agency that in “the worst of all cases”, Red Bull can also summon Sebastien Buemi to the circuit, “but he also has a contract with Nissan in Formula E”.

“We obviously cannot replace all 80 people, but everything else has been thought out to the smallest detail,” said the Austrian.

Renault, meanwhile, has re-signed its 2019 reserve Sergey Sirotkin.

“In the circumstances in which we all find ourselves, we need to have a plan for any situation that may occur. We will be glad to see Sergey this weekend in Austria,” Abiteboul told the SMP Racing press service.


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