Stroll case did not expose COVID test ‘loophole’

Date published: October 20 2020

Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll’s illness that caused his withdrawal from the Eifel Grand Prix has not exposed any ‘loopholes’ in the FIA’s COVID-19 testing protocols, insists race director Michael Masi.

The Canadian driver declared himself unfit to take part in qualifying on the Saturday at the Nurburgring, replaced by Nico Hulkenberg who dashed to the circuit from Cologne an hour away to stand in for the Racing Point team.

Hulkenberg qualified at the back of the grid but was able to show his capabilities much more in the race, working his way up to a highly creditable finishing position of eighth.

It was the second time this season the German had deputised at Racing Point, having done so in the two races at Silverstone in August after Stroll’s team-mate Sergio Perez had tested positive for COVID-19.

Stroll did not test positive but had started feeling unwell in Russia, where the previous race had taken place two weeks before the Eifel Grand Prix, with Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer saying his symptoms at the Nurburgring were those of a stomach upset.

The 21-year-old driver had a negative COVID-19 test on the Tuesday before the race in Germany, which meant he could enter the paddock on Thursday and Friday.

It prompted questions over a potential loophole in the FIA’s protocols that only require paddock personnel to undergo testing every five days – which is the average time of COVID-19’s incubation period before symptoms start to show.

But Masi stressed the onus of getting tested when showing symptoms lay entirely on the competitors, and that nothing had been reported to the FIA since Stroll’s negative test on the Tuesday.

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“We don’t feel there is any loophole,” said Masi, quoted by Autosport. “The requirement for Lance, or any other attendee, is that there are various time requirements to test before entering the paddock, and then the follow-up testing from that point.

“Based on the Tuesday test, his next test would have been Sunday morning to fulfil the requirements of the FIA COVID protocol. That’s quite simple.

“With regards to Lance feeling ill, it’s incumbent upon the driver and Racing Point to determine if they feel the driver is not up to the capacity to drive the car, which they obviously did.

“From the requirements within Appendix S [of the FIA’s COVID protocols], it’s incumbent upon Racing Point as the stakeholder in this case, and Lance himself as an attendee, to declare within the parameters of the protocol if they are having any of those requirements, and then there is the requirement from there to report.

“None of that was reported to the FIA, so there’s nothing further from our perspective.”

Both the FIA and F1 have issued regular updates on the number of COVID-19 tests undertaken by those working in the paddock on race weekends, with a negative result required to enter the circuit.
The latest report from the FIA and F1 on its COVID-19 testing noted eight positive results from 1,506 tests conducted between October 9-15.

Two members of the Mercedes F1 team tested positive at the Nurburgring, prompting the squad to respond swiftly and place further personnel in isolation in line with its COVID protocols.

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