Ferrari warned over COVID-19 protocol breach


Formula One F1 - Steiermark Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria - July 10, 2020 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during practice, following the resumption of F1 after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Joe Klamar/Pool via REUTERS

SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Formula One's governing body has warned Ferrari about the risks of breaching the sport's COVID-19 protocol and protective 'bubble'.

Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel have been seen mixing with people outside their individual team groups.

Leclerc returned to his Monaco home after finishing second in last Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix while Vettel was shown on television talking to Red Bull bosses, without face masks, in the Red Bull Ring paddock.

"Ferrari have been issued with a reminder and warned that any further breaches of the COVID-19 code could be referred to the stewards," said an FIA spokesman.

He added that the warning was about respecting the group system and need for social distancing rather than Leclerc's travel movements.

The FIA's COVID-19 code states that any time spent outside the closed venue "must be spent with other members of the same group, keeping interaction with persons outside that group to a minimum."

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who won last Sunday, also went home to Monaco after the opening race but remained within his 'bubble' by seeing only those within his existing group -- his girlfriend and trainer.

Some team bosses also left the Red Bull ring, including McLaren's Zak Brown.

"We have rules of engagement for the senior members of the team... at the same time, that was planned from the beginning," McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said of Brown's absence.

"Zak had to fly back for business reasons but he was following all the necessary measures which are in place in terms of social distancing and isolating himself... I don't see any safety risk."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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