Medical Car driver van der Merwe likely to miss further races due to Covid-19 rules

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe is likely to be absent from further races this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Van der Merwe contracted Covid-19 for the second time ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix and was unable to take part in the weekend. Dr Ian Roberts, who he shares the Medical Car with, also tested positive prior to the Istanbul event and was replaced.

As van der Merwe is not vaccinated against Covid-19, he may not be able to accompany F1 to future rounds of the championship in countries depending on local restrictions.

“From what we understand there’s a couple of countries that you probably won’t be allowed to enter the country unless you are vaccinated, which is no different to in some parts of the world, malaria shots or whatever it might be that you can’t enter,” said FIA F1 race director Michael Masi.

“You need to comply with those requirements to enter the country and from that perspective the FIA obviously has to respect the country’s requirements to to get in and as will all the teams and everyone else.”

The FIA will “quite possibly” have to replace van der Merwe for some upcoming rounds, said Masi.

For the Turkish Grand Prix Formula E Safety Car driver Bruno Correia was drafted in to drive the Medical Car, accompanied by Dr Bruno Franceschini in place of Roberts.

“Bruno Correia has actually been one of our driver advisors in F2 and F3 this year,” Masi explained. “It’s a broad family and it was great for both of them to be available at short notice. They’re always sort of our first reserves in the case of something like that happening which none of us ever wish.”

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“Having spoken to both Alan and Ian multiple times over the weekend they’re relatively okay,” Masi added. “Both have been available all weekend on the end of a phone or whatever needed to help Dr Bruno and Bruno in their acclimatisation into this world.”

Correia substituted for van der Merwe in Turkey
Van der Merwe explained his reasons for not being vaccinated in a series of posts on social media.

“I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices,” he said. “That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.

“I’ll continue to adhere to public health guidelines, reduce risk as much as possible, and I’ll respect other’s decisions equally. There doesn’t need to be polarisation or hate involved with every discussion about masks or vaccines.

“In Switzerland (I’m half Swiss) and other developed countries, prior infection counts as much as a vaccine. I trust that those countries know what they’re doing, and also respect countries’ more restrictive rules and not travel there.

“For the avoidance of doubt: if you want to get vaccinated, do it. I’m pro-vaccine for those that want and can have them.”

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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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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51 comments on “Medical Car driver van der Merwe likely to miss further races due to Covid-19 rules”

  1. Probably a good reminder for everyone that most professional racing drivers don’t have degrees in science and you shouldn’t ever take medical advice from them

    1. Solid point @jonathan. Note that we nowhere see any such comments from Dr Ian Roberts.

      Now, I understand the reasoning for accepting that previous infection does give some protection – it is applied within several countries already, and makes some sense to acknowledge it as partial protection, the problem there is establishing the level of protection and the duration of that protection – since it is largely dependant on severity as well as (probably) the general health of the individual and who knows on what factors (exact variant of the virus?), and it can hardly be studied in a trial like vaccine testing procedures, it will probably remain with a big question mark and that prevents international acceptation as an equivalent.

      We do know however, that previous infection and subsequent vaccination DOES offer a good level of protection. And there really is no good reason NOT to get the vaccine, unless vd Merwe has some very specific alergy or something (his argument about his health).

      1. He hasn’t just had a ‘previous infection’. He has had two infections, with the second no where near as severe. So he is making the judgement that with two infection (of two differing variants) that he wishes not to get the vaccine. A perfectly reasonable decision in a free society to make. There is a ‘good reason’ to not get the vaccines. He doesn’t wish to. You don’t get to decide what is ‘good’ for him. Otherwise you get into the realm of governments deciding what medical procedures and good for you to have without your consent.

        I’ve had both jabs, and support whoever wants it. But the speed at wish a liberal society has designated a certain sub-sect of it as ‘dirty’ or ‘unclean’ is rather alarming (that’s really what is happening here). I’d rather live with some people not being vaccinated and a good health economy dragging people out of extreme poverty, than fascism and the horrors that eventually brings.

      2. “Some protection” might be a severe understatement given the data Dvir Aran & other biostatisticians uncovered in Israel, including a recent preprint showing the convalescent are 27 times less likely to be symptomatic than the vaccinated, ~6 months after the second jab.

        Is not 100%, though no vaccine is, to be fair, and it just makes the passports look silly when a Chinese vaccine with 50% efficacy might be valid but to recover from Covid isn’t.

    2. It’s utter stupidity. He won’t be missed. I will be happy to have someone in the medical car that doesn’t undermine their profession by subscribing to such moronic beliefs and conspiracy theories.

      1. His only connection to the medical profession is driving a medical car. He’s an ex-racing driver and soon to be ex-medical car driver by the looks of it.

        1. I stand corrected on that point. You are right.

  2. Also, it’s absolutely untrue that natural immunity after prior infection is better than being vaccinated:

    1. He’s had it twice (second time no where near sever), and thus irrelevant to that article as his status hasn’t been modeled.

      1. Right, we should take anecdotal evidence of a single individual over peer reviewed studies. Or even better, make an exception that could harm a lot of people on the paddock to accommodate to the asinine beliefs of an incredibly misguided gd medical doctor who should know better

        1. Correction – he isn’t a doctor unless sitting close to one for many hours during race weekends has somehow made him one.

  3. He’s getting away lightly. There’s no real excuse, give him the axe and get someone else on board.

    1. Are you vegan? Studies suggest going vegan can lower the severity of Covid. If this is true then it shares, to some degree, the benefits of the vaccine.

      So, do you think everyone should go vegan and that anyone who isn’t should be subject to losing their job and livelihood?

      I’ve vegan and double jabbed mate, so there’;s no hypocriisy on my part. I’d happily support a vegan passport. i.e anyone not vegan can’t have a job and can’t do partake in normal society, do you?

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        12th October 2021, 14:40

        So… you’re agreeing he should lose his job (or at least not be allowed to do it whilst we’re in a pandemic)? If you’d happily support a vegan passport because it would lower the risk of covid then surely you’d also support a covid passport which would exclude him from doing his job….? You agree with ppzzus’s opinion but would like to make the rules more restrictive than what he’s currently suggesting?

        1. I do support a vegan passport. I think anyone who doesn’t but wants vaccine passports is a hypocrite who deserves to be excluded from society on a permanent basis.

          If the study is replicated, there is no debate. If you aren’t vegan you 100% should lose access to normal society and work. The benefits to the planet would be immeasurable.

        2. someone or something
          12th October 2021, 15:06

          He’s t-rolling. Don’t feed him.

          1. I am not, why shouldn’t we have a vegan passport IF a vegan diet is proven to lower severity (as one, albeit small, study has suggested) in a similar way a vaccine does?

            See thing thing is everyone is ‘pro vaccine passport’ until something they hold dear to them (their diet) is threatened. The hypocrisy is so blatant its blinding.

            If this guy has a value that he doesn’t want the vaccine that’s FINE. Anyone who says otherwise, yet doesn’t go vegan (or agree to if study replicated at population level), then they have NO LEG to stand on from a logic perspective.

            The thing about a vegan diet is it’s perfectly safe, and is just a mere change in diet. So simple. A vegan passport would help speed things up a bit.

      2. If veganism is proven to provide 85%-95% immunity then we can have that conversation. I looked it up and couldn’t find a single peer-reviewed study that suggested that veganism protected against covid in any way.

      3. What’s incredibly funny is that I am actually vegan.

      4. Alan, the research you cite also said being lacto-ovo-vegetarian or pescatarian was as protective as veganism. At which point, it is quite difficult scientifically to prove that someone was wholly pescatarian vs part-time omnivorous. This means it would be easy to cheat a vegan passport.

        Vaccines, on the other hand, get recorded on large databases when applied. It is much harder to fake those records than it would be to fake a vegan or pescatarian diet, thus much more viable as a means of enforcing reasonable COVID-19 measures. Some people have of course paid for fake vaccine passports (in some cases because it was easier to get fakes than the genuine article even with full vaccinations).

        A recommendation to reduce or cut out meat is feasible to issue, mandating it is not because of enforcability problems.

  4. There doesn’t need to be polarisation or hate involved with every discussion about masks or vaccines.

    Good luck with that

  5. He is a silly man in such a science based and technology driven, global sport! He should be ashamed of himself.

    1. Science also says going vegan might help lower covid risk…. are you vegan? If not, are you ashamed of yourself?

      1. There is a big difference between “in a survey, people who reported that they have a plant-based diet also on average reported that they had less severe COVID symptoms” and “going vegan lowers COVID risk” due to a huge number of factors. The only way to say if an action has a particular consequence (or is likely to have) is to do a randomised controlled trial, exactly as has been done with the vaccines. In particular, the important trials are the ones that show that vaccinated people have a lower transmission risk.

        Yes, there is of course a “freedom of choice” argument, but the reality is that living is a civilised society is all about giving up some level of personal freedom to achieve a better outcome for society as a whole. Of course this can be abused, but it’s clear that’s not the case with COVID vaccines. This is the worst health crisis the world has even seen, and the fact is that the speed with which vaccines have been developed and rolled out have saved a huge number of lives.

        I’m a big beliver in personal freedom of choice generally, and am often sceptical of government overstepping its marks, but I’m also a big supporter of mandatory COVID vaccinations.

        1. Firstly, no this isn’t the ‘worst health crisis the world has ever seen’, not by a long long long way and that opionion represents a western ego centrism. The fact you’ve said that makes me skeptical that your conclusions about mandatory vaccines are based a perception of the crisis which is actually quite wrong, or very wrong.

          The influenza pandemic of 1918/19 killed 50,000,000 worldwide out of a population of 1.9Bn, and they were mostly YOUNG people. That makes it orders of magnitude worse than Covid. The pandemic of 1889/1891 killed around 1,000,000 out of a population of 1.5bn (which may have been caused by a coronavirus).

          So Covid is a pretty standard pandemic, and probably below average. The death toll has only reaches nearly 5m because we have high life expectancy nowadays and thus more vulnerable people.

          The ‘biggest health crisis’ we’ve faced is actually extreme poverty, which we had been make substantial headway in reducing until we introduced economic restrictions which reversed the trend of decreasing extreme poverty. The last 18 months we’ve actually created 150,000,000 extra extremely impoverished people, which will dwarf the effects of Covid by around 3000%. If you’ve supported the massive economic restrictions, you’ve in effect supported plunging hundreds of millions of people into extreme poverty (which means a horror filled life that’ll almost certainly end very prematurely). This is the dangerous consequences of the availability bias. It sounds harsh, but that’s how I see it.

          Secondly, the point about veganism is a thought experiment, though a valid one. There has been a study, and it suggested vegans are less likely to suffer from severe illness from Covid. IF, and this is the heart oft he question, veganism DOES in fact lower risk, than logically mandatory veganism follows from mandatory vaccines. To suggest there isn’t an equivalence is to deny basic logic. IF, again IF, veganism does reduce severity, then if you support vaccine passports, you MUST support vegan passports. If you do not, simply put you are a hypocrite and your opinion should largely be discarded, which it would be because you’d be excluded from basic societal functions ift hey were introduced.

          1. ‘Being vegan’ is unlikely to be the contributing factor. Being overweight, obese, high blood pressure are all factors in severity of covid.
            If you took a sample of people the vegan people are more likely to have lower chance of displaying weight related problems.
            That doesn’t mean being vegan is the reason for less severe covid infection. You can eat animal products and still be healthy

          2. It’s not a valid thought experiment or even a valid point. The vaccines don’t have single studies supporting their effectiveness. Even if they had 50 studies it wouldn’t be enough without clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people. Your point about veganism (the you insist on making) is not valid in this context. It’s just more of the same deflections often provided by people with anti-vaxxer sentiments to justify their inaction and selfish-wrecklessness

  6. petebaldwin (@)
    12th October 2021, 14:34

    “Prior infection counts as much as a vaccine” says the man who has just caught covid for the 2nd time. lol.

    He says “There doesn’t need to be polarisation or hate involved with every discussion about masks or vaccines” and whilst that’s true, as someone champions being “pro-choice”, he will obviously understand that it’s anyone’s choice to say whatever they want about him and his views on masks and vaccines.

    1. The vaccine isn’t doing terribly wells at stopping infections either? So if you are pro-vaccine (which I am too) one needs to be cautious about talking about second infections because you then have to defend why vaccinated individuals are still infected.

      It should be noted his second infection was far less severe. This isn’t unusual as this is the exact same path almost ALL pandemics follow. Gradually decreased of severity due to prior infection.

      1. The vaccine is doing incredibly well. It’s well documented across multiple countries.

        1. In our jurisdiction, Western Canada, it is the unvaccinated filling the hospitals, around 95% of those are unvaccinated. At least when they come in.

      2. Actual studies, peer reviewed, by actual medical type people, are showing that an un-vaccinated person is 27 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with the infection than an infected vaccinated person. 95% of COVID hospital admissions in the US of A are un-vaccinated persons…. Doesn’t work indeed…….

      3. José Lopes da Silva
        13th October 2021, 9:56

        You maybe “pro-vaccine”, but you’re not pro-science.
        To be pro-science is to acknowledge the concept of herd immunity. If you live well with some people unvaccinated, if you don’t understand why vaccinated people get infected and if you think being vegan is a solid protection and Covid-19 because ‘studies’ (where?) indicate a correlation (which does not imply causation), you’re not.

  7. Managing to catch covid twice and not getting vaccinated is pretty stupid. I’m not bothered about the risk to him, but he’s a risk to others.

    1. How is he a risk exactly? Double vaccinated people are still catching the virus. Are they stupid?

      Also, if he’s built up immunity to two variants of the virus as well as experiencing much milder symptoms pretty much in line with what the vaccine does, I think his immunity, in all likelihood (double infected people have yet to be studied) is going to be pretty damn robust.

      1. … and by the way, ascribing people who haven’t had the vaccine as a ‘risk to others’ (i.e dirty, genetically less important etc…) is the language of fascism.

        I’ve had the vaccine, I am PRO vaccine, but I am very anti fascist and the speed at which those who have been vaccinated being designated as what amounts to ‘inferior’ humans has been something to behold. People need to wake up pretty quickly.

        Have people forgotten the 30s/40s?

      2. You’re relentless, but I will just keep going one by one debunking this bs you insist on pushing. He is a risk to people that aren’t vaccinated, a small portion of those that are vaccinated and will still catch it again, those that can’t get vaccinated due to serious medical conditions, and young children, who are not likely to get very sick but sometimes do. Also, even if people don’t die, being quarantined is incredibly disruptive.

  8. All the chatter sounds like wind noise.
    No mention of what an opportunity it is to get The Hulk back into a few F1 events.
    It even looks like the overalls would fit him too.

  9. 0 – Godwin’s Law in 0 replies – this is impressive stuff.

  10. Looks like we a have a t-roll in the comments dungeon.

  11. I went to Switzerland for the holidays and it’s true that there seems to be different guidelines there. No one even asked us for the Covid passport (we were entering from Spain), and no one uses masks outside. People are close together at bars and whatever without masks and the vaccination rate is quite poor compared to other countries, which really surprised us since Spain has been vaccinating people fast and we wear masks everywhere yet the numbers were very bad.

    That being said, Switzerland is one thing, but the F1 enviroment is another. They are trying to keep infections down to a minimum, so you wear a mask even outside pit garages… and surely being vaccinated is another step forward. I understand he might have a different opinion, but it does not make much sense to travel around the world without a vaccine these days, you know? it might not work as well as we were hoping but it’s just another layer of protection which can’t be bad… specially if you’re pro vaccine… something doesn’t add up

  12. Prior infection counts as much as a vaccine.

    That’s a great policy.
    Vaccine mandate for people who already got infected is against 70 years of scientific evidence.

    1. No, not really.

      “Antibody levels are really variable after recovering from infections, and those at the lower end of the spectrum might be more susceptible to reinfections.”

      “But after a single vaccine in people who have recovered from Covid-19, antibodies skyrocket up, including those that neutralize variants of concern”

      There are several studies demonstrating the positive effects of having someone who was infected to get vaccinated.

  13. Get him back in the car. Rebranded flu is nothing to bother about unless you are the typical at risk, just like seasonal flu.

    Asymptomatic spread is a myth spread by the great reset agenda to scare the sheep and bring in more surveillance and control.

    1. Nobody under 70 or at risk should even consider the still in trials jab for a flu they are 99.97% safe from! If you still want a jab after those odds, then maybe you shouldn’t get out of bed!

  14. Brings about the question… are F1 drivers vaccinated? All? Or 75%?

    This is all quite a mess as it is. But people who just had covid, are well and fit, shouldn’t need a vaccine for some time. Then again F1 is a global sport and nearly every country has a different law for this.

    Maybe it’s easier to just find a vaccinated driver and be done with all the issues.

    Granted we get vaccines for various diseases before traveling to various disease hotspots, nobody asks us if we had the disease before.. you want to travel to that certain part of Africa you need vaccine.

    :D And i’d happily get whatever safe vaccine to drive that Mercedes behind the F1 grid.

  15. He should be donating his blood. Two strains of antibodies. Untarnished by spike proteins…
    That could save some poeple

  16. Not a doctor… however I love a bit of data (I am an engineer…)

    Response to vaccination AND natural infections, vary wildly by individual.
    Myself, wife, mother in-law, 3 year old (then 2.5) and my mum all got Covid last Nov-Dec, my mum (had it worst, oldest, most overweight, least healthy) – has been double vaccinated as well ,and then started feeling like a superhuman who didn’t need to consider the rising cases/distancing/masks anymore, been on holiday – lots of restaurants and bars etc.

    My mother in-law is second least-healthy, not so overweight but with some underlying immune issues (crohns), and had an “event” earlier this year being hospitalised with an immune flare up, she was told because of her condition vaccination should wait until they study more her bloods for healing the immune issue and whether she’d need immunsupresents and either should have a calm period and be vaccinated, or they were desperate and would need to become an extreme shielder, with that in mind and her critical childcare support we’ve been rather conservative/careful vs the general populance ourselves (my wife and I), being we had it mildly and upon my review of the data on immunity waining vs vaccinated immunity etc. we chose not to vaccinate at this time – unless I see stronger data.

    My wife and mother in-law (both got Covid last Nov/Dec), wife young 31/32 – had a moderate reaction and prolonged loss of smell/taste), mother in-law barely registered anything – mild temperature for like 6 hours and was fine. They decided to get antibody tests recently and found,
    Wife – strong(er) reaction 15 U/ml anti-bodies statistically
    Mother in-law – very mild reaction – immune “abnormalities” – had an off the scale high response –

    So my wife is – on-point with 43% of AZ single vaccinated, 5% of double-vaccinated population. Pfyser/BioNTech are generally higher 69% of second vaccinated population has over 2500 U/ml
    Mother in-law has as prevalent / more antibodies as most double vaccinated people.

    knowing that I held up fine, and am probably somewhere in that midst and that if I was vaccinated 3 months ago it’d be waining anyway -> i’m good over here.

    And bottom line – it’s a choice, and the science/data is not nearly strong-enough in my view to enforce, and the commentary around a vegan diet “could” easily be extended to – do you smoke, exercise regularly, are you obese, do you eat crap food and control us all – but those topics are unthinkable to discuss, yet apparently vaccination is a major issue… “slipper slope”

    p.s. there’s more out there that shows the antibody evoluition and dorp-off with strong responses 240 days + from infection (but a wide range of variance I get…)

  17. What baffles me is how riled up and righteous people can get about this, while it’s an undistuped fact that different countries have different views and policies on this, meaning some countries have got it completely wrong. Meaning that slamming others for their take is just silly, when entire nations with all their expertise can’t agree. Even UN and WHO changed their recommendation from no mask to mask, meaning they at one point got it completely wrong too.

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