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Motor racing-Szafnauer defends team after Stroll's COVID positive

The Racing Point Formula One team defended their actions on Wednesday after Canadian driver Lance Stroll revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 following the Eifel Grand Prix but was now clear to race in Portugal this weekend. Stroll, whose father Lawrence owns the third-placed team, left the Nuerburgring before the Oct. 11 race after displaying flu-like symptoms and suffering an upset stomach.

Reuters | Updated: 22-10-2020 00:08 IST | Created: 22-10-2020 00:08 IST
Motor racing-Szafnauer defends team after Stroll's COVID positive

The Racing Point Formula One team defended their actions on Wednesday after Canadian driver Lance Stroll revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 following the Eifel Grand Prix but was now clear to race in Portugal this weekend.

Stroll, whose father Lawrence owns the third-placed team, left the Nuerburgring before the Oct. 11 race after displaying flu-like symptoms and suffering an upset stomach. The team said the 21-year-old tested positive on the Sunday after he flew home from Germany by private jet. Tests ahead of the race weekend were negative.

The situation raised concerns about transparency and the COVID-testing protocols but Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer said in a statement the team had acted according to the guidance. "He (Stroll) consulted with a doctor who did not believe his symptoms indicated Covid-19 and did not advise a test was necessary," said the American.

"Based on this clinical assessment, at the time there was no requirement to inform the FIA as to the nature of the illness." Szafnauer said at the time that Stroll had felt unwell since the Russian Grand Prix on Sept. 27.

The only other Formula One driver to date to contract the virus is Stroll's Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, who missed two races in August after a trip home to see his mother. Szafnauer said Stroll had taken the test at home in accordance with the team's policy of testing all members on their return from a race. He had then quarantined for 10 days under local regulations.

"He returned a negative test on Monday this week and will travel to the Portuguese Grand Prix," said the American. "All members of the Racing Point team at the Eifel Grand Prix returned to the UK via a private charter flight and all tested negative upon their arrival, and again in their pre-event test for the Portuguese Grand Prix."

Stroll said he had self-isolated in his motorhome after feeling unwell and had kept out of the paddock. "I feel in great shape and I can't wait to be back with the team and to race in Portugal," he added.

Formula One teams are operating in 'bubbles within bubbles', isolated from each other and separated into groups internally to limit the risk of contagion. The protocol has been tightened ahead of Portugal with nobody allowed into the paddock without producing a negative test result on site.

Champions Mercedes, who have Lewis Hamilton heading for a seventh world championship, reported two positive cases at the Nuerburgring with six replacements flown in from England. Sunday's race at the Algarve circuit near Portimao will be the 12th round of the season and first Portuguese Grand Prix in 24 years. It was added to the calendar after some other races were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The season-opener in Australia in March was cancelled after a McLaren employee tested positive for COVID-19, with the championship then stalled until July.


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