Red Bull motorsport boss Dr. Helmut Marko reportedly floated the idea of intentionally infecting his drivers with the novel coronavirus so they could recover and be ready to race once the season – now on hiatus – resumed, according to the BBC.
Marko talked to Red Bull management about setting up a “camp” where their clutch of F1 drivers, including junior drivers, would somehow become infected as a group, and then recover. “They are all strong young men in good health. That way they would be prepared whenever the action starts,” Marko said in an interview with an Austrian television station. Marko is not a medical doctor, he holds a doctorate in law.
Fortunately, Red Bull management thought better of the idea and the plan was never executed. Incredibly, the 76-year-old Marko thinks he personally survived the coronavirus after a bout with a “severe cold” back in February, but also said he has not been tested for the virus but would like to be at a later date.
The coronavirus infection and the Covid-19 disease it causes has a particularly high mortality rate among older victims and those already battling other medical conditions that affect the respiratory system, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In victims that are in good health, symptoms can resemble a strong cold or flu, although deaths from Covid-19 among healthy young people are not unheard of.
Marko’s suggestion of an intentional group infection may bring to mind “chickenpox parties” that some parents have exposed their children to in order to build immunity to that illness. The CDC has historically advised parents not to let their children attend chickenpox parties. Medical experts worldwide have continually warned that the novel coronavirus is a dangerous pathogen for anyone to contract at any age. So far, there is no known cure for the virus and it is not known if contracting it makes a person immune to future illness caused by a repeat infection. Research is ongoing worldwide to answer those questions.
As of March 30th, John Hopkins University, which has been tracking the pandemic, said about 800,000 people worldwide have been infected by the virus and nearly 40,000 had died from the resulting illness, known as Covid-19. Nations around the world have ground to a halt with billions of lives turned upside down due to business closures, school closures and event cancellations, include the F1 racing season, which was due to open March 15th.
The first eight races have been cancelled with hopes the season could resume in June. F1 races are enormous public events, often drawing 100,000 spectators. Unless some breakthrough in treatment occurs, it’s unlikely racing – at least with crowds in attendance – will resume this summer.
In the meantime, F1 racing teams have been doing what they can to pitch in to help medical staff battle the massive outbreak by using their manufacturing and design prowess to build badly needed medical equipment.