Ferrari and Mercedes have both received warnings from the FIA after Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas flew home to Monaco between Formula 1’s two events in Austria.
As part of Formula 1’s measures to try and avoid a positive case of COVID-19 and prevent transmission, all stakeholders – including team members, drivers, suppliers, media, F1 and the FIA itself – must adhere to a COVID Code of Conduct that outlines items such as the testing protocol and how designated groups must stay separate. The idea is to create “bubbles” where personnel avoid interaction with people not in their specific immediate working bubble as much as possible.
Article 3.14 of the Code, which is now part of the International Sporting Code, states: “Any time that Profile 1 Attendees spend outside the Venue during a Covered Event or between Covered Events (e.g., at a hotel) must be spent with other members of the same Group, keeping interaction with persons outside that Group to a minimum.”
RACER understands a number of team principals and personnel also flew elsewhere between races, but Leclerc drew particular scrutiny after being pictured on social media embracing a number of people, as well as at a restaurant that evening. Bottas similarly posted about being at home in Monaco.
The FIA has written to both teams – as the named stakeholders, they are responsible for their drivers – to remind them about their conduct and the need to adhere to the code.
When asked by RACER about his movements between races, Leclerc insisted he had taken all necessary steps to remain safe.
“I did (go back home),” Leclerc said. “On the other hand, I’ve been tested twice before coming back. So in two days, testing twice, both negative obviously, and that’s it.”
In contrast, Sebastian Vettel, who sat alongside Leclerc at the press conference, said, “I stayed in the bubble! I love mountains, I love Austria – I love this place. So I think for the first time in quite a while I had the opportunity to climb some of the mountains around that I’ve always seen from the car. I did that on Monday and yesterday, so I’ve enjoyed a bit of time outside and been cycling as well.”
Bottas also returned to Monaco after winning last weekend’s race, and said he had checked that he was allowed to travel before leaving.
“I wanted to find out if it was safe to go back, and it is,” Bottas said. “Obviously it doesn’t make any difference – if I stay in the same bubble, with the same people – if I’m here or back home in Monaco. So, I decided to go back home as, in the end, we are in Europe and traveling pretty short distances, so there’s no actual stress from traveling.
“I just wanted to spend those three full days at home, and I thought it was very nice. I feel very much recharged for the weekend. I think it was a good decision for my side and I tend to only do things that work for me, when it comes to deciding what I want to do when I have days off. From a safety point of view there was no difference at all. I was still with the same people that I would have been dealing here.”
If a stakeholder is felt to have “deliberately or seriously or repeatedly breached the COVID-19 Code” then the FIA COVID Delegate can report it to the stewards.