The McLaren team member who contracted the coronavirus on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix is “recovering well” and is now free of symptoms, team boss Zak Brown has confirmed.
Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix was cancelled after news broke that a McLaren team member had tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the first practice session in Melbourne. In order to stop the spread of the virus in the F1 paddock and limit the impact on the wider public health in Melbourne, the race was called off following a meeting of team bosses, Formula One and the FIA.
While the rest of the F1 paddock packed up their equipment and flew back to Europe, the infected McLaren employee and 14 others who had been in close contact were quarantined in Melbourne for 14 days.
Coronavirus: Postponements and cancellations in sport
In a statement released on Sunday evening, McLaren CEO Zak Brown confirmed the employee was already feeling better and thanked the F1 community for its support.
Season preview: Bold predictions for F1 2020
Alexis Nunes returns as Nate Saunders and Laurence Edmondson look ahead to the new season of F1 and put their necks on the lines with some sensible, and some outrageous, predictions for the year.
Listen to the latest episode.
Next episode on March 15
“I’m happy to report that our team member affected with the virus is recovering well and the symptoms have gone and our people in quarantine are in good spirits,” Brown said. “The support they have been getting from their team-mates, our partners, members of the F1 community and fans from around the world has been fantastic and our thanks go out to all of them.
“Our focus is now on the dialogue with F1, the FIA and the other teams on working through the 2020 calendar and managing the team over the next few months. It’s early days and this is an evolving situation but we are planning ahead and will stay flexible.”
McLaren was the first team to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix and made its decision as soon as the positive test result came back. Brown said he and team principal Andreas Seidl had already discussed such a scenario and there was never any doubt over what action to take.
“We had been continually scenario-planning together with the team back in the UK, so we knew what our options were in the event of various outcomes,” Brown said. “Andreas and I already agreed that if we had a positive case in the garage there was only one option. As I said before, as a racer it was the hardest decision I’ve had to take but as CEO it was the easiest. Our people come first and Andreas feels very strongly about this too.
“When the news came through on Thursday evening Andreas and I were at dinner with one of our shareholders. We immediately returned to the team hotel to join our race team leadership and while Andreas focused on leading the team, I focused on our board and shareholders, who were absolutely supportive I must say, while informing the other teams, F1 and the FIA.”
Like other F1 teams, McLaren has ordered all travelling members of the team to stay away from its factory for at least two weeks. Some members of the team’s management have also stayed in Melbourne to support those in quarantine.
“I want to recognise our team members who have had to stay in Melbourne under quarantine at the moment,” Seidl added. “This is not an easy situation. Special thanks to our racing director Andrea Stella and his guys, who volunteered to stay Down Under for the next 14 days supporting our guys in quarantine.
“When I talk about our team members, I also want to thank our two great drivers, Carlos [Sainz] and Lando [Norris], who have been obviously concerned about their team-mates. We have to keep them physically away from the rest of the team, even though they are both fine, but they are in constant communication.
“We also appreciate our fellow teams in the paddock who offered immediate help on Friday to dismantle the garage and pack the freight, which was obviously a challenge for us missing 14 of our core guys. This is the spirit of F1 and racing we all embrace.
“I stayed in Melbourne for a few days to support the team but I’m back in Europe now to work with Zak and my leadership on planning how we operate in the weeks ahead, but we already decided the travelling race team definitely stays away from factory for two weeks as a precautionary measure.”