McLaren protecting drivers even more after COVID 'wake up call'


FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Portuguese Grand Prix - Algarve International Circuit, Portimao, Portugal - October 22, 2020 McLaren's Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. during the press conference FIA/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - McLaren are tightening procedures against COVID-19 to protect Formula One drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris after what team principal Andreas Seidl called a 'wake-up call' in Germany two weeks ago.

Champions Mercedes had two positive cases of the new coronavirus at the Nuerburgring ahead of the Oct. 11 race, and had to isolate team members and fly in replacements from England.

Racing Point's Lance Stroll and his team owner father Lawrence then tested positive at home in Switzerland on the Sunday.

"What happened at the Nuerburgring, that's just another wake-up call for the entire team to make sure we don't get complacent," Seidl told reporters in a video conference at the Portuguese Grand Prix.

"We did some additional measures now for here again, in terms of even separating the people even more as far as it is possible in the offices and in the garages.

"We did another step also with the drivers to separate them even more from the team during the race weekend, simply to make sure we do what is possible," added the German, whose team are fourth and in a tight battle for third.

Formula One is operating in 'bubbles', with teams tested every five days and kept apart in the paddock. They are also keeping replacement staff on standby.

The governing body has tightened procedures since the Nuerburgring, with nobody allowed into the paddock without having produced a negative test result on site.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said at the Nuerburgring that six times champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, first and second in the championship, were isolating as much as possible to prevent the virus impacting the title race.

"The drivers are the most restricted of the whole group, of the whole team," said the Austrian.

"It's certainly not a great situation for them because you almost need to live like a hermit and that's what they are doing."

The original season start was delayed to July by the pandemic, with the Australian opener in March called off when a McLaren team member contracted the virus.

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

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