Szafnauer: Perez did nothing wrong

Sergio Perez

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez should not be criticised for his decision to return to Mexico, where he contracted the coronavirus, says team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

The first driver to test positive for COVID-19, Perez revealed on Friday he had caught the disease while visiting his mother in his native Mexico.

Asked about his Perez’s actions and whether it breached any clause in his contract, Szafnauer maintained he could see no wrongdoing.

“We’ve got no clauses in the contract where he’s got to ask permission to go back to his family,” he told reporters on Friday. “I think his family was in Mexico, and it’s not a surprise that he went back to Mexico, that’s what he’s done forever while he’s been driving for us.

“We did though discuss how he was flying there and back, and it was always by a private flight, never commercially. There’s no issue with that.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing. There are many people that are in hotspots all around the world.

“We have a big contingent of our factory who live in Northampton, and you know Northampton was shut down as well. So our philosophy is we take all the precautions necessary in light of where we are travelling.

“And if we do take those precautions, I’m confident that we won’t get the virus. We just need to now forensically look back and try to ascertain how Checo became infected, and make sure that we cover that off in the future.”

Expanding further, Szafnauer explained that drivers are under no obligation to adhere to the same code-of-conduct regarding bio-safety when not in a race week.

“The code, as it’s written now, in between the Austrian races and in Hungary we shouldn’t have left and gone outside, which our drivers didn’t do, neither did our team personnel.

“For example, we had a rule that once we were in Hungary nobody could leave the hotel even if you had a Schengen passport. We treated everybody the same, including the drivers.

“But in between Hungary [and Silverstone], because we had that weekend off, I think everybody went to wherever their families were. I think the Italian teams went back to Italy.

“Probably the Swiss team went back to Switzerland, Pirelli flew everyone back to Italy, and the drivers went to their home countries.

“Like I said, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Perhaps we should look at that, change the code and say throughout the season, you stay within your bubble? I don’t know, but that’s something for the FIA to consider. I read through the code a couple of times now, and it is a living document.

“So they say at the very beginning: from time to time as we learn this will change, so perhaps that’ll change. But I don’t think Checo did anything wrong, going back to his family. He takes all the precautions. I think it’s no different than Ferrari going back to Italy, for example.”

Szafnauer also detailed that those working in close contact with Perez have tested negative for the coronavirus.

“There are two members of staff that travelled with Checo, his PA and his physio,” he revealed. “They both tested negative, but they’re isolating as well for either seven or 10 days.

“And then there are three members of the team that did a simulator session with Checo, so they didn’t really come in contact with him, because the simulator is in one room, and the control centre where they’re at is in a totally separate room.

“So we had the social distance required. We also wore masks as we always do, and PPE as well. As a precaution they then stayed at home and isolated until they got a negative test.

“So we tested them, all three of them are negative as well. They tested again this morning. They’re at the factory now, working from the factory.

“They haven’t come into the paddock, but my anticipation is they’ll be negative again for their second test. And then thereafter, we’ll see if we’ll make a decision on whether they can come in, whether they should come into the paddock. I’m 100% confident they don’t have the virus. But it’s belt and braces, so we’re testing them twice.”