Red Bull rejects team official’s idea to expose F1 drivers to coronavirus

Mar 31, 2020
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen declines to sign an autograph for a fan in Melbourne on March 12, 2020.
PHOTO: AP

VIENNA — An official at Formula One team Red Bull has proposed holding a training camp that would expose drivers to the coronavirus so they could build immunity to the disease while the season is suspended.

The idea by motorsport adviser Helmut Marko was rejected by the team.

Marko said it would be good for the team's drivers to be infected now so they could recover in time for scheduled races later in the year.

"We have four Formula One drivers, we have eight or 10 juniors and the idea was to hold a camp where we could bridge this rather dead time mentally and physically," Marko told Austrian public broadcaster ORF on Sunday.

"And then it would be ideal, because these are all young, strong men in really good health, if the infection comes then. Then they would be equipped, if it starts up again, for a really hard world championship."

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Marko, who was responding to a question about whether he would recommend drivers should contract the virus, said the idea of holding a training camp "was not accepted positively" within Red Bull and was abandoned.

It wasn't immediately clear if by "four Formula One drivers" Marko meant Red Bull's two drivers and two reserves, or the two drivers from sister team Alpha Tauri.

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Marko also praised Red Bull driver Max Verstappen for throwing himself into the world of online racing to stay sharp, and said the drivers were focusing on their fitness.

"Max Verstappen is having more races than in a regular season," Marko said. "If we come to a season with 15 or 18 races, it will be very hard and there won't be a chance to rebuild the conditioning."

The first eight races of the season have been canceled or postponed, leaving the Canadian Grand Prix in June as the first event still on the schedule. That could be followed by a string of scheduled and rearranged races.

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The 76-year-old Marko, who raced in F1 in the 1970s, acknowledged he could be at risk for COVID-19.

"I belong to the high risk group but I'm not frightened. I respect it," he said.

Marko added he had what he thought was a "heavy cold" in February but now thinks it could have been coronavirus symptoms.

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    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen declines to sign an autograph for a fan in Melbourne on March 12, 2020.
    PHOTO: AP
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