No problem for Bottas; Leclerc warned after Monaco trips

Ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas were in the spotlight for possibly breaking COVID-19 protocols in place at Red Bull Ring for the back-to-back Grand Prix weekends at the venue.

Leclerc has been served a warning for making a trip to his home in Monaco, while Bottas was deemed to have observed the requirements despite his own trip back home, also to Monte Carlo.

An FIA spokesperson told the PA news agency: “Ferrari have been issued with a reminder and warned that any further breaches of the Covid-19 Code of Conduct could be referred to the stewards.”

Leclerc was found to have breached Article 3.14 of the code, which reads: “Any time outside the venue during a covered event or between covered events must be spent with other members of the same group, keeping interaction with persons outside that group to a minimum.”

Bottas’ movements between races were also looked into by the sport’s governing body after it emerged the Mercedes driver flew back to Monaco after winning last weekend.

But it was deemed that the Finn stayed in his permitted group, which consists of girlfriend Tiffany Cromwell and trainer Antti Vierula.

Earlier Bottas and Leclerc defended making trips home to Monaco after Formula 1’s season-opening race in Austria last weekend, despite teams operating in a ‘bubble’ due to COVID-19.

The Mercedes and Ferrari drivers were back with their teams at the Red Bull Ring on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix on the same track where they finished first and second respectively on Sunday.

Bottas told reporters in a video news conference that he had sought permission to go with his girlfriend, Australian cyclist Tiffany Cromwell, who had also been at the race, “Obviously I found out if it´s allowed to go back, and yes it is.

“And of course it doesn´t really make a difference if I stay with the same people in the same bubble whether I´m here or back home in Monaco.

“I just wanted to spend those three full days at home. I thought it was very nice, I feel very much recharged for the weekend… from a safety point of view there’s no difference at all. Still with the same people I will be dealing with here,” said the Finn.

Leclerc’s absence could lead to Ferrari being warned about respecting the COVID-19 protocols.

Television images last weekend also showed the Monegasque’s German teammate Sebastian Vettel talking to Red Bull bosses in the paddock without a face mask.

The governing FIA’s COVID-19 code states that any time spent outside the closed venue “must be spent with other members of the same group, keeping interaction with persons outside that group to a minimum.”

Media reports referenced images on social media showing Leclerc with friends in Monaco.

“I´ve been tested twice before coming back. So in two days, testing twice, both negative obviously. That´s it. I went back home for two days and then did two tests to be sure of the results,” insisted Leclerc.