Racing Point driver Lance Stroll has revealed that he tested positive for coronavirus after the Eifel Grand Prix 10 days ago, with Formula One facing renewed pressure surrounding its Covid-19 protocols.
The Canadian missed F1’s return to the Nurburgring after falling ill between the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi and the Eifel Grand Prix. As Friday’s running in Germany was washed out by rain and low fog, Racing Point waited until Saturday morning to replace Stroll, with Nico Hulkenberg urgently called into the team to race alongside Sergio Perez.
Racing Point issued a statement to say at the time that Stroll had tested negative for coronavirus earlier in the week, but he has since revealed that he tested positive for Covid-19 upon returning home after the weekend, which has left serious question about why he was able to travel cross-border without being tested over the weekend.
Stroll announced the positive test on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao, which he will be able to compete in after returning a negative test since ending his period of self-isolation.
“I just want to let everyone know that I recently tested positive for Covid-19 after the Eifel GP weekend,” said Stroll in a statement. “I am feeling 100 per cent and have since tested negative.
“To fill you in on what happened, I arrived at the Nurburgring after testing negative in the normal pre-race tests.
“On Saturday morning I started to feel unwell and woke up with an upset stomach. I followed the FIA protocol and self-isolated in my motorhome and did not re-enter the paddock. I wasn’t fit to race so I flew home early Sunday morning. As I was still feeling under the weather I took a Covid test on Sunday evening.
“The next day the results came back positive, so I stayed at home self-isolating for the next 10 days. Luckily, my symptoms were pretty mild.
“I was tested again on Monday this week and my results were negative. I feel in great shape and I can’t wait to be back with the team and to race in Portugal.”
Under the FIA’s coronavirus protocols, F1 drivers only need to be tested every five days, which resulted in Stroll being tested on the Tuesday before the Eifel Grand Prix and granted full access to the paddock on Thursday, before his eventual departure on Sunday.
The FIA stressed that the measures remain strict enough to keep the paddock safe, but Stroll’s positive test will see many questions asked about who he contacted during his time at the Nurburgring, and why he wasn’t tested over the weekend before travelling home. It will also see Racing Point face renewed scrutiny, having already seen Perez sit out two races for testing positive after he travelled to Mexico in-between races earlier this season.
"We don't feel there is any loophole," said Formula One race director Michael Masi before Stroll’s positive test was announced.
"The requirement for Lance, or any other attendee on that matter, there are the various time requirements to test prior to entering the paddock, and then the follow up testing from that point.
"Based on the Tuesday test, his next test would have been Sunday morning to fulfil the requirements of the FIA Covid protocol. So that one is quite simple.
"With regards to Lance feeling ill, like any other driver, it's incumbent upon the driver and the competitor, in this case, Racing Point, to determine if they feel that their driver is not up to the capacity to drive the car, which they obviously did and chose to do.
"From the requirements within Appendix S (of the FIA's Covid protocols), it's incumbent upon Racing Point as the stakeholder in this case and Lance himself as an attendee to declare within the parameters of the protocol if they are having any of those requirements, and then there is the requirement from there to report.
"None of that has been reported to the FIA, so there's nothing further from our perspective at this point in time."