McLaren confident of avoiding repeat of Australia withdrawal

McLaren Formula 1 chief Andreas Seidl is confident new protocols in place for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix should prevent a repeat of the team’s race withdrawal in Australia.

McLaren pulled out of the planned 2020 season-opening Australian Grand Prix on the Thursday night before the race after one of its team members tested positive for COVID-19.

The team’s withdrawal set the ball rolling for the cancellation of the grand prix, which was confirmed two hours before the scheduled start of practice.

After being forced to call off a further nine races due to the coronavirus pandemic, F1 will commence its season this weekend in Austria, with a strict set of procedures to prevent transmission of the virus in the paddock.

Speaking to select media in a conference call on Monday, Seidl expressed his confidence in the new procedures that would mean McLaren would not have to pull out in the event of a positive test result.

“I’m very happy with the plan that has been developed under the leadership of the FIA, which clearly gives us clear procedures of how we execute the race weekend in Austria,” Seidl said.

“What is different now to Australia is that we have a clear concept of isolation of the teams, between each other. We will show up in Austria in these different groups, and we are building, in addition to that, set groups within the team.

“The policy is clear. If anyone would develop symptoms, we would immediately test the team member in the paddock, plus all the close contacts as well, so all the members of this sub-group.

“We should get the test result within a couple of hours on-site, which then allows us to make a quick decision of what the next steps are.

“If someone is positive, he needs to be isolated from the team and can’t continue. But for everyone else who is not affected or who is negative, we can simply keep going.”

McLaren will have back-up personnel on standby in the UK to fly to Austria should one of the race team be forced to pull out.

All members of the race team have undergone regular testing in recent weeks, with all results coming back negative.

Seidl said that even with all of the procedures in place, the nature of the virus meant the risk of a driver being forced to miss a session due to a positive test result remained.

“We have to be honest, the risk is there, because in the end it’s a virus, and as we have seen, it can spread quite quickly,” Seidl said.

“But at the same time, with all the measures we have in place now, with all the testing of the people already before arriving at the circuit, and following this over several weeks now, we think we will arrive down there in Austria well prepared.

“We know it can happen anytime, that some team members are developing the virus, and then it’s important we strictly follow all the procedures we have in place.”

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