Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc have stressed that they did not endanger themselves or others by opting to return home in-between Formula 1 grands prix in Austria.
Formula 1 arranged for its opening two events to be held at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, with team personnel practicing social distancing where possible, and operating in separate bubbles.
For example, Honda personnel who work with Red Bull have not interacted with those operating at AlphaTauri.
All those in attendance at events have had tests for Covid-19 every five days and were free of the virus before travelling to Austria for the opening round last weekend.
Formula 1 personnel have stayed out in the Styria region and it is understood that 18 of the 20 drivers also remained in the area, aside from Bottas and Leclerc, who returned home to Monaco.
Article 3.14 of the FIA’s Covid-19 Code of Conduct, which was last month included as Appendix S of the International Sporting Code, states that “Any time that Profile 1 Attendees spend outside the Venue during a Covered Event or between Covered Events (eg at a hotel) must be spent with other members of the same Group, keeping interaction with persons outside that Group to a minimum.”
It goes on to state that “where the Covid-19 delegate considers that a stakeholder has deliberately or seriously or repeatedly breached the Covid-19 Code the Covid-19 delegate shall submit a report to the stewards.”
“I wanted to find out if it was safe to go back, and it is,” said world championship leader Bottas, who resides in Monaco.
“Obviously it doesn’t make any difference, if I stay in the same bubble, with the same people, if I’m here or back home in Monaco.
“So, I decided to go back home as, in the end, we are in Europe and traveling it’s pretty short distances, so there’s no actual stress from travelling.
“I just wanted to spend those three full days at home, and I thought it was very nice. I feel very much recharged for the weekend.
“I think it was a good decision for my side and I tend to only do things that work for me, when it comes to deciding what I want to do when I have days off.
“From a safety point of view there was no difference at all, I was still with the same people that I would have been dealing here.”
Images posted on social media this week showed Ferrari driver Leclerc at a gathering with friends in his native Monaco.
“I did come back home,” confirmed Leclerc.
“On the other hand I’ve been tested twice before coming back, so in two days tested twice, both negative obviously, and that’s it, but yes I went back home for two days and then did two tests to be sure of the result.”
Sebastian Vettel, sat alongside Leclerc in the press conference, commented: “I stayed in the bubble…”
The trips back home, particularly Leclerc’s, have raised some eyebrows within the paddock, with F1 bosses pushing to prove it can operate safely and therefore agree deals with other countries to race there as it looks to expand beyond 8 races.
This move by Leclerc, who didn’t remain in his bubble and was seen meeting people without a mask, threatens that and will likely result in some stern words from the FIA and F1.