July 31, 2020 / 4:34 PM / 11 days ago

Racing Point boss says F1 COVID-19 code may need tightening

SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Formula One teams may need to keep drivers within protective ‘bubbles’ all season after Sergio Perez contracted COVID-19 following a trip home to Mexico, Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer suggested on Friday.

Formula One F1 - Hungarian Grand Prix - Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary - July 17, 2020 Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer during a press conference FIA/Handout via REUTERS

Racing Point’s Perez went into quarantine after the positive test ruled him out of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, and quite likely the following Sunday’s 70th Anniversary race at Silverstone.

Asked whether the sport’s novel coronavirus code needed tightening, Szafnauer agreed it might be something to consider.

“In hindsight... perhaps we should look at that, change the code and say throughout the season you stay within your bubble,” he told a video news conference.

“I don’t know. That’s something for the (governing) 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.”

The sport has been operating in ‘bubbles within bubbles’ at racetracks, with groups of employees kept apart from others within the same team to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The teams are also separated from each other and races run without spectators. Even the select group of reporters allowed into the media centre can only talk to drivers and team officials remotely.

Everybody must also test negative before they can enter the paddock at the start of an event but are given freedom of movement in between races when not back-to-back.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Perez’s result served as “a stark reminder that these procedures are here for a reason.”

Szafnauer said the Mexican, who flew on a private plane, had done nothing wrong in going to one of the countries worst hit by the virus and had no clause in his contract ruling out such trips.

“I think it’s no different to Ferrari going back to Italy,” he said.

“There are many people that are in hotspots all around the world. A big contingent of our factory live in Northampton, and Northampton was shut down as well.”

A small group of employees who came into contact with Perez were self-isolating as a precaution but Szafnauer said none had tested positive.

Three were present, but in a separate room and wearing masks, when Perez did a session in the simulator while the others were his physio and a personal assistant.

Formula One’s original Australian season-opener in Melbourne in March was cancelled due to a McLaren employee testing positive.

The bubble system was designed after that to limit contagion, keep teams safe and enable them to slot staff in and out without jeopardising the overall event.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ken Ferris

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