Just before Saturday’s qualifying session at the Eifel Grand Prix, Racing Point driver Lance Stroll withdrew from the event, citing a mysterious illness that he noted at the time was not COVID-19. Now, two weeks later, the Canadian driver has admitted that, despite a negative test before the race weekend, he had indeed come down with COVID.
Racing Point noted that Stroll felt unwell just after the Russian Grand Prix but did not test positive for the coronavirus prior to the race at the Nurburgring. Indeed, team boss Otmar Szafnauer confirmed that it was instead a kind of stomach bug and that Stroll had just lost fluids after spending the night on the toilet.
New reports say otherwise, though.
On Wednesday, Lance Stroll announced via Instagram and Twitter that he had indeed tested positive for COVID-19 after flying to his home in Switzerland during the Eifel GP weekend. He claimed to have tested negative at the track and only tested positive after arriving at his home, where he then isolated for 10 days. He says he has since tested negative.
Stroll’s father and part team owner, Lawrence Stroll, also tested positive for COVID-19.
However, a recent report has brought to light even more criticism regarding the situation. After Stroll began to feel ill at the Eifel Grand Prix, he contacted his personal doctor via phone, Motorsport reports. Over the call, the doctor said Stroll did not have the coronavirus, but that diagnosis was not confirmed with a test until Stroll had already flown home.
F1 has implemented fairly stringent protocol when compared to other racing series. Everyone in the paddock is tested before COVID-19 before entering for the weekend, and they are asked to remain within their bubble to prevent contact with any possibly sick person. Temperature checks are conducted any time someone enters the paddock.
As we noted a few weeks ago, though, some drivers were very unhappy with the protocol at the Russian Grand Prix. Russia does not force people to wear masks, and F1 drivers were in contact with many people at their hotels that were unmasked.
Szafnauer defended his team’s response:
He had a stomach upset, and he’s had it consistently. And one thing that Lance did is he called his doctor. So what should I do? Right? So instead of listening to Otmar, he called his doctor. I’m not a physician.
He’s Lance’s private physician in Switzerland... it was a phone call. And it was the same guy Lance saw after Russia. So, you know, he’s got a stomach upset after Russia, we test him a couple of times. Lance went and saw the doctor in Switzerland, so called him.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but let’s not forget, he tested pre-event negative. He tested twice post-Russia negative. The symptoms were there post-Russia.
Now that he had a test on Sunday, and it came back positive, yes, you could look in hindsight. But you’ve got to remember at the time, with the information we had, it was unnecessary. It didn’t even come into my mind: go do a test.
He also noted that he tests everyone at the factory twice a week to ensure that no one is sick.
Other folks in the paddock have been harsh in their criticism. CEO of McLaren, Zak Brown, said, “I know [Stroll’s] doctor didn’t think a test was positive; maybe in hindsight, that should have been different. Don’t know who the doctor is. Don’t know if it was Dr. Mallya, Dr. Seuss, maybe it was Dr. Dre. Maybe next time around, we should be testing when anyone has any sorts of symptoms because we know how dangerous this is.”
At this point, more testing is all teams can do, along with consultations with in-person doctors that are able to make a health evaluation based on physical symptoms and tests, not based on what a person reports.
Stroll has tested negative ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix and is set to race.