McLaren CEO Zak Brown has criticised Racing Point’s handling of Lance Stroll’s absence from the Eifel Grand Prix due to illness, saying he should have been tested for Covid-19 right away.
McLaren withdrew from the Australian Grand Prix in March after a team member tested positive for Covid-19. The race was subsequently cancelled. Brown said he believes the FIA and Formula 1’s measures to control the spread of the virus were working but are contingent on compliance and co-operation between the teams.
“If I look back, we were the first team to get Covid within the team in Australia. This disease is extremely contagious and extremely dangerous. I think the FIA and Formula 1 have done a very good job putting on these grands prix. If you look at some other sports, I think they’ve had bigger issues.
“I think it requires a lot of trust, transparency and communication and responsibility from all the teams to make sure we have not only safety within our own teams, but within the whole racing community.
“For McLaren, we put our people first and foremost, we will not take any risks, we won’t gamble. We recognise how dangerous this is and we want to make sure that everyone stays healthy and we can continue to put on grand prix. So I think that the sport’s done a good job.”
Brown said that subsequent cases showed the need for transparency about infection in the paddock, “There has been more cases, obviously Racing Point’s been most visible recently. We do a tremendous amount of testing, we think we take full precautions. I think we all just need to look after each others’ backs.”
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Stroll pulled out of the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday morning as he was feeling unwell. However, following a telephone conversation with his private doctor, he decided not to take a test immediately, and was eventually tested after he flew home to Switzerland the following day.
“If I look at the Racing Point incident or incidents, I would probably test anyone that isn’t feeling well daily,” said Brown. “When in Australia we had someone that didn’t feel well – Andreas [Seidl, team principal] and I aren’t doctors, but we took the very quick decision to isolate and then once the test came back, positive isolate the team and ultimately we knew that would shut us down for the race.
“I know [Stroll’s] doctor didn’t think a test [would be] positive – maybe in hindsight, that should be different. I don’t know who the doctor was, I don’t know if it was Dr Mallya, Dr Seuss, maybe it was Dr Dre. But maybe next time around we should be testing when anyone has any sorts of symptoms because we know how dangerous this is.”
Both Racing Point’s drivers have tested positive for Covid-19 and missed races during the season. Szafnauer defended the team’s reaction to Stroll’s illness in Germany.
“I think we’ve now done nearly 20,000 tests, 15,000 at the factory and however many that we do here, because we test more than once,” sad Szafnauer.
“We’ve had our two drivers test positive and a few members at the factory and that’s it. But we test more than any other business, more than any other Formula 1 team, on the planet. We test all of our employees every Tuesday and every Friday, and we test everybody that’s at the track upon landing in Britain.
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“So every Monday when our plane lands, we have Eurofins that are testing so everyone has peace of mind when they go home to their families that they’re not bringing the virus with them.”
Brown also questioned why Racing Point took so long to disclose Stroll’s positive test, which was not revealed until Wednesday.
“I don’t know what everyone’s testing protocols are. I know how much we test. I’ve just heard Racing Point tests more than any company on the planet. I’m not sure how you substantiate that.
“All I know is when we had our issue in Australia, we communicated it very quickly to everyone because I think we have a moral obligation to people’s health that they need to have high level of awareness.
“That’s I think exactly what Mercedes did when they had their incidents. So, again, I don’t know all the details, I just know what I read and see.
“It looks like there wasn’t immediate transparency and for an entity that tests as much as they do, all I know is we would be testing anyone at McLaren who doesn’t feel well daily and to make sure that that person is healthy and that they’re not transmitting and then would isolate anyone that was around them immediately.”
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