Formula One may consider further tightening its Covid-19 code of conduct to impose a season-long restrictive bubble on personnel after Sergio Pérez became the sport’s first driver to contract the virus.
The Racing Point driver has entered isolation and been pulled from this weekend’s British Grand Prix. He has been replaced by his former teammate Nico Hülkenberg, who was cleared to take part just before practice began on Friday, where his teammate Lance Stroll was quickest in the afternoon.
Pérez tested positive for the virus on Thursday and it was revealed that since the last meeting in Hungary he had flown home to Mexico to visit his mother in hospital. Pérez was within the FIA’s current code of conduct as he made the trip between the last tranche of three races where the drivers remain in a defined bubble of personnel and the current three meetings.
Racing Point’s team principal Otmar Szafnauer defended Pérez but acknowledged that perhaps the sport would have to impose a season-long restriction on interaction between Formula One personnel and the wider world.
“Between Hungary and here we had had that weekend off, everybody went to where their families were,” he said. “The drivers went to their home countries. In hindsight perhaps we should look at that and change the code and say throughout the season you stay in your bubble. That is something for the FIA to consider. The code of conduct is a living document as we learn this process. But I don’t think Checo did anything wrong going back to his family. He took all the precautions, it is no different than Ferrari going back to Italy.”
Hülkenberg, who is likely to also stand in for Pérez at next week’s 70th anniversary GP at Silverstone, previously drove for Racing Point in 2012 and between 2014 and 2016. The German’s last race was for Renault – where he has been replaced by Esteban Ocon this season – at Abu Dhabi in December last year. In 177 F1 race starts he did not manage a podium, an achievement he will intriguingly have a shot at in the British GP, with Racing Point very competitive.
He was allowed into the paddock only 10 minutes before first practice began having been waiting on his final negative Covid-19 test. He was seventh in the second session. Max Verstappen topped the morning running in front of Lewis Hamilton but in the afternoon practice was interrupted by a red flag and few drivers managed qualifying simulations. Hamilton was fifth fastest, focusing on long run pace.