Formula One revises testing protocols, says Racing Point's Szafnauer

Portimao (Portugal) (AFP) –

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Formula One has revised its protocols for managing Covid-19 testing after Racing Point driver Lance Stroll fell ill at the Eifel Grand Prix, but was not tested until he returned home, team boss Otmar Szafnauer said on Friday.

Szafnauer, who claimed Stroll was suffering from a severe stomach upset that led to him missing the race at the Nurburgring, where he was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, said new rules were being introduced after an examination of that case.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix, where Hulkenberg is on stand-by in case Stroll is unfit to drive, Szafnauer said: "The world is learning and the FIA (the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation) are learning, we're learning.

"The FIA now, I understand, have introduced a test you have to take 24 hours from (after) entering the paddock – that's new for everybody in the paddock.

"It's something they have changed. It's a good idea to add another test."

Canadian Stroll, 21, left the Eifel event early on Sunday, flying home to Switzerland, where he returned a positive test result on Monday.

Yet he had been unwell throughout that weekend without taking a test that resulted in proving he had the coronavirus.

Until now, all Formula One members have been required to return a negative test prior to travel and take further tests every five days.

The new in weekend test is designed to identify anyone who develops the virus while attending an event.

Szafnauer said he was confident the new protocol, coupled with Stroll's negative test results ahead of the Portuguese race, ensured the Canadian would return.

"He had a negative test coming into this weekend. The probability of now giving a positive is low. Is it zero? I don't know, I don't know that much about it, but it's low," he said.

"Nico is here as a precaution, but I'm confident Lance will be in the car."

Szafnauer said he tests employees twice at the week and has returned six positives in more than 15,000 tests.

"We take this virus more seriously than anybody. We test all of our staff upon arrival from a Grand Prix so they have peace of mind when they go home that they didn't pick anything up.”

He also revealed that Stroll's father team owner Lawrence Stroll had tested positive, despite not attending the Russian or Eifel races.