Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Nurburgring, 2020

Stroll decided he wouldn’t drive in practice 30 minutes before session

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Racing Point’s last-minute rush to replace Lance Stroll for this weekend was triggered by the driver half an hour before the final practice session began.

The team’s CEO Otmar Szafnauer said Stroll has been unwell since the last round of the championship, but repeated tests have shown he does not have Covid-19. He decided not to take part in final practice at the Nurburgring today and was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg ahead of qualifying for the race.

“The pre-event test was Tuesday,” said Szafnauer. “We got the results on Wednesday. He hasn’t been tested since. We’re following the FIA protocol. The next test was either Sunday or Monday.”

“He hasn’t been feeling great since Russia,” Szafnauer added. “Since we left Russia he hasn’t been that great, I think he had a bit of a cold.

“At first we thought well, we were in Russia, we better get tested for the virus. We’ve tested him multiple times, including the pre-event test for this race. He’s come back negative three, four times. He doesn’t have the classic Covid-19 symptoms. He just doesn’t feel well in himself.”

Stroll has suffered “flu-like symptoms” and “couldn’t exercise” since the last race. He experienced further prolonged discomfort as a result of his symptoms yesterday. “I don’t know if it’s something he ate or if it’s a tummy bug or what but he just said I’m not feeling up to it,” said Szafnauer.

The team took into consideration the fact there are two race back-to-back after this weekend’s round.

“I talked to him as said ‘we’re going to have a double-header coming up soon’. He said he’d rather rest and get ready for that. So it was a late call – we were hoping that he was going to get better.”

Stroll took the decision not to participate in final practice just in time for the team to arrange a replacement for qualifying, said Szafnauer.

“[He told us] 30 minutes before FP3. He was still thinking ‘I want to do this’. But then he thought if I don’t get better then I’ve got to qualify, then I’ve got to race, and it’s the race that he really wasn’t looking forward to in the state he was in.

“Otherwise, had it been yesterday, we’d’ve have called Hulkenberg a day earlier and he would have done FP3.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Stroll decided he wouldn’t drive in practice 30 minutes before session”

  1. So something other than COVID-19. I didn’t definitely assume it’d be COVID, but didn’t rule it out either.

  2. If he’s been sick for a while it makes you question why Hulk wasn’t on standby, at the track and the team could have ran him yesterday (if the fog hadn’t been an issue).

    As a minimum you’d want him to run P3 this morning.

    1. I was about to say the same thing. It’s always good to be prepared for these things

    2. Yes that was poor, but then they probably don’t want him to show up the owner’s kid either.

      1. @balue pretty sure he already did that at Silverstone. More likely Stroll is still dizzy from the circles Perez ran around him last time out.

        All very strange being last minute if been ill for weeks. Pretty sure he was all ready to go out Friday if the conditions allowed. Then maybe hanging around in the freezing wet and cold hasn’t done him many favours overnight.

    3. Maybe they assumed he’d drive through the pain. I honestly can’t remember a driver ever viewing out for a flu.

      Must be quite the bug if it’s been keeping him from training for two weeks.

      1. Bowing out*

      2. @aiii Takuma Sato did in Malaysia 2005, but then his was so bad that he had to get IV fluids from the hospital. (Not that he missed much, as neither of his team’s cars lasted more than 4 laps…)

      3. @aiii Yeah Webber driving whilst dealing with food poisoning comes to mind too.

  3. In one corner you have Perez who made personal sacrifices to save the team from bankruptcy, & in the other you have Stroll, a spoiled little rich boy who lets his team down minutes before the final GP practice session because he feels a little sick.

    And which one is being sent packing even though he had a contract …

    1. Can we give the “Perez the martyr” routine a break please?

      Was going to say that giving 30 mins notice when you’ve been unwell for 2 weeks is an indulgence of driving for daddy’s team.

      1. Right in this age of Covid we all forgot that Flu exists, that might hurt a man his age with worse symptoms than Covid.

        2 weeks is a long time though. Just strange.

    2. Perez who made personal sacrifices to save the team

      Which ‘personal sacrifices’?

      1. @coldfly Took a bunch of risks, and spent a certain amount of money, in initiating the administration proceedings against Vijay Mallya in order to save the team. (I don’t think “personal sacrifices” means physical sacrifice).

        1. Risks maybe, but then any second/breath/step you take you ‘take risks’.
          But no personal sacrifices. A creditor doesn’t pay the administrator; it’s the company itself. A creditor can merely start legal proceedings to collect their debt. When you do that it’s not a personal sacrifice but a business decision to maximise your (financial) outcome.
          Or if that’s how you define personal sacrifices, then I can challenge Mother Theresa for sainthood.

          I still don’t see how Pérez made any personal sacrifices.

          1. @alianora-la-canta – Thanks for that. Did not know about the contract required for a Reserve Driver, but understand Hulk’s room for freedom.

            Voted for him as driver of the race & still believe he should have been @ the track.

  4. If Stroll was unwell since Sochi, then appears very unprofessional of OS not to have his Reserve Driver @ the circuit, ready. It WAS Qually day. Not knowing the facts, but the 2 week period seems strange.
    Also Nico Rosberg said the biggest drama with Hulk was to have his short term rubber stamped by the Contract Board. If that is the case, why is there not a Reserve Driver contract struck & approved, valid for the whole season??? Not doing, at least part of FP3, puts him w-a-y behind the ‘8 ball’.

    L-o-v-e Rosberg’s comment on Sky TV that he could confirm Hulk had driven into the track carpark as Hulk had recently purchased his Porsche GT2 RS from Nico’s father [Keke]. Also Hulk had done serious performance upgrade to the car!!!

    Perhaps a blessing that Hulk is at the back, so can settle himself in in the first part of the race & avoid the expected first lap mid-grid carnage. Hulk quite capable of getting up-to-speed and passing 10 cars (or less!!!) to score a point+.

    1. @Ancient1 There is no reserve driver contract because Nico wishes to be free to sub for anyone, as far as I can tell. In fact, Nico was nearly unavailable to Racing Point because of potentially substituting for Alex Albon at Red Bull (who had an inconclusive test at one point in the weekend – a subsequent one was negative). Racing Point apparently planned to put Stoffel Vandoorne in the car if that or anything else barring Nico’s way occurred. So this is a situation where both team and driver have the freedom to not make that sort of exclusivity contract.

      1. @alianora-la-canta – Thanks for that. Did not know about the contract required for a Reserve Driver, but understand Hulk’s room for freedom.

        Voted for him as driver of the race & still believe he should have been @ the track.

        1. @ancient1 That puzzled me too – even if he had not been reserve driving, surely there would have been some benefit to him being in the media room to help with the punditry he was set to do on Sunday had nobody required his driving services?

          1. Hulk did say in an ‘Sky F1’ interview on the Saturday that he was @ RTL’s office in Cologne where he got the phone call from ‘Pink‘, approx. an hour away, and his plan was to drive out to the track in the afternoon to do some prep work for the Sunday.

            Nico Rosberg did say that approx. difference for 3rd/4th in Constructor’s C’ship was 15m [don’t recall a currency, but probably Euro’s]. Mindful of a minefield of variables between now & end of season, but if ‘Pink‘ loses 3rd by a point……………..


  5. Fully agree with comments above questioning why Hulk wasn’t on standby. Stroll could have jumped back in for qually if he’d started to fell better (though that seems unlikely given a 2 week illness already).

    On the other hand, I’m not sure why Hulk isn’t just hanging round the paddock anyway. He’s now sure to be no.1 stand in for anybody who happens to test positive during any weekend.

  6. Well at least in my country they say: “If you have similar symptoms to corona virus don’t leave home”. It’s obvious you can be positive and make other people sick. What they were thinking with Stroll? They should be investigated why they didn’t do anything, and why he didn’t communicated his symptoms to the reguling bodies…
    Even if you have a negative test, or unconclusive, they are cases of young people having “neumonia” symptoms and still being negative to coronavirus, because test isn’t 100% reliable.
    Thinking the test is 100% reliable as has been demonstrated in numerous cases, is utterly stupid. So caution and safety first.

    1. In the UK, the authorities specify which symptoms similar to coronavirus should lead to someone staying home (fever as defined by back-of-hand test or thermometer, new continuous cough, loss of taste/smell). Anything else, and the assumption is that whatever is the matter is not COVID-19 (unless of course a test says otherwise). Oddly, this is even applied to “COVID toes”, which aren’t associated with many other conditions if the onset is as sudden as “COVID toes” tend to be.

      Since we have not been told Lance suffered from any of the symptoms previously enumerated, it may well be there was nothing reportable under the paddock COVID protocol. (The F1 medical corps should have been informed anyway, but in practise, they’d only object to not being told if a driver with symptoms they should have been told about chooses to drive in a session. Since Lance did not, they are unlikely to be concerned either way).

      After all, pneumonia symptoms can still be actual pneumonia (and sometimes actual pneumonia can be pretty serious, even in young, fit people).

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