F1 drivers say COVID should not stop them racing

Red Bull's Sergio Perez who was the first to miss a Grand Prix due to the virus when he had to sit out two rounds in 2020, spoke after two drivers tested positive ahead of Sunday's Bahrain season-opener.

Formula One has relaxed its previous strict COVID protocols at races this year but Perez said the sport was still too restrictive.   -  REUTERS

Formula One drivers who contract COVID-19 should be able to race if they feel well and can do so without endangering other people, Red Bull's Sergio Perez and others said on Friday.

The Mexican, who was the first to miss a Grand Prix due to the virus when he had to sit out two rounds in 2020, spoke after two drivers tested positive ahead of Sunday's Bahrain season-opener.

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel is isolating himself while McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo will race after an absence last week.

Formula One has relaxed its previous strict COVID protocols at races this year but Perez said the sport was still too restrictive.

"COVID has evolved so much you know that I think the best judge will be ourselves," he told reporters at the Sakhir circuit.

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"We should leave it up to the drivers to decide. I think we all have raced once in our lives while feeling really bad, health-wise. We are the judges to say we can race the way we are at the moment or we can simply not.

"If the driver feels comfortable to race like that, I wouldn’t think it’s a problem. The world seems to have moved on from it."

Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas agreed that it should be the driver making the call providing there was no risk of further spread.

Others suggested drivers could carry out team briefings remotely but still race.

"I think there’s ways of being very cautious and responsible whilst having COVID and still competing," said Vettel's teammate Lance Stroll, who missed a race in 2020.

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"I think there’s ways of isolating yourself, putting your helmet on in your room and minimising complete contact with everyone... I do think I could compete with it."

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz said it would be hard to accept missing a race if a title was at stake and he felt perfectly well.

Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, making a comeback with Haas after it parted company with Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, said he was more worried about missing a race than getting COVID.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton said there was no way he could have competed in 2020 when he missed a round after winning his seventh championship.

"I was very, very sick. Even when I came back just on the tail-end of it I barely made it through the race," added the Briton.

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