Van der Merwe set to miss final F1 2021 races

Henry Valantine
Dr Ian Roberts and Alan van der Merwe, Formula 1 Medical Car team.

Dr Ian Roberts and Alan van der Merwe, Medical Car team.

Formula 1 Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe looks set to miss the rest of the season, as he has decided against being vaccinated.

Proof of vaccination is required to pass through the borders of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with Abu Dhabi also said to be operating strict regulations. Because of his personal decision, this makes Van der Merwe unlikely to take part in the remainder of the 2021 season.

He and Medical Car colleague Dr Ian Roberts both missed the Turkish Grand Prix after they tested positive for Covid-19.

The South African driver has opted to not be vaccinated against the virus, having contracted it for a second time. He spoke about his decision on social media, but received abuse for doing so.

“In Switzerland (I’m half Swiss) and other developed countries, prior infection counts as much as a vaccine,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

“I trust that those countries know what they’re doing, and also respect countries’ more restrictive rules and not travel there.

“I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices.

“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.”

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From the point of view of the FIA, race director Michael Masi said they will continue to respect the laws of individual countries and their entry requirements.

“From what we understand, there’s a couple of countries that you probably won’t be allowed to enter the country, unless you’re vaccinated,” he said when asked about the subject by Autosport.

“Which is no different to, let’s call it in some parts of the world, malaria shots or whatever it might be that you can’t enter the country.

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

In the absence of Van der Merwe and Dr Roberts at the weekend, Formula E Safety car driver Bruno Correia and FIA medical delegate Dr Bruno Francheschini stepped in to take up Medical Car duties.

With the options available to them, Masi is confident that worthy replacements will be available, should the absences continue.

“The good part is having spoken to both Alan and Ian multiple times over the weekend that they’re relatively okay, and have both been available all weekend on the end of the phone, or whatever needed to help Dr Bruno and Bruno in their acclimatisation into this world,” he said, per Motorsport.

“Generally, we’re very fortunate that within all of the various FIA championships, all us race directors talk very regularly.


“You’ve seen Eduardo Freitas who obviously is the WEC race director as clerk of the course in Portimao, and Scott Elkins and Niels Wittich, who are the Formula E race director and deputy doing a number of events as my deputy.

“So all of us working together is actually a regular thing. And it’s the same with the doctors. Bruno Correia has actually been one of our driver advisors in F2 and F3 this year.

“So effectively, it’s the broad family, and it was great for both of them to be available at short notice, and they’re always sort of our first reserves in the case of something like that happening which none of us ever wish.”