Racing Point team members who came into contact with Sergio Perez have returned negative COVID test results ahead of the British Grand Prix as team principal Otmar Szafnauer defended his driver.
Perez briefly returned to Mexico between the Hungarian Grand Prix and this weekend’s race at Silverstone, which is the first of three rounds on consecutive weekends. He became the first Formula 1 driver to test positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and will miss the race as a result, and Szafnauer says the track and trace protocol saw those closest to Perez isolating despite returning negative test results.
“Two members of staff who travel with Checo, his PA and physio, they both tested negative but they’re isolating as well for either seven or 10 days,” Szafnauer said. “Then there’s three members of the team who did a simulator session with Checo. So they didn’t really come in contact with him as our sim is in one room and the control center they’re at is in a totally separate room.
“So we had the social distance required — we also wore masks as we always do, and PPE as well — as a precaution they then stayed at home and isolated until they got a negative test. So we tested them, all three are negative as well. They tested again this morning.
“They’re working from the factory, they haven’t come into the paddock, but my anticipation is they will be negative again and then we’ll make a decision on whether they should come into the paddock.”
Despite Perez having to miss at least one race — and probably two due to UK quarantine rules — Szafnauer defended his driver’s actions between events as he returned to Mexico to visit his injured mother after her release from hospital.
“We’ve got no clauses in the contract where he has to ask permission to go back to his family. His family was in Mexico and it’s not a surprise that he went back to Mexico — it’s what he’s done forever since he’s driving for us. We did discuss how he was going there and back and it was always by private flight, never commercially. But there’s no issue with that.
“Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. There are many people that are in hotspots all around the world. We have a big contingent of our family living in Northampton, and Northampton was shut down as well.
“Our philosophy is we take all precautions necessary in light of where we’re traveling and if we do take those precautions, I’m confident we won’t get the virus. We just need to now forensically look back and try to ascertain how Checo became infected and make sure we cover that off in the future.”
Szafnauer also confirmed Nico Hulkenberg will continue to stand in for Perez for as long as he is unable to race, having only been confirmed for the British Grand Prix at this stage.