Racing Point chief says F1 may need season-long bubble after Perez contracts COVID-19

By Sports Desk July 31, 2020

Racing Point chief Otmar Szafnauer absolved Sergio Perez of blame after the driver's positive coronavirus test, but he suggested Formula One should consider implementing a permanent 'bubble' this season.

Perez will miss this weekend's British Grand Prix having contracted COVID-19 between the Hungarian Grand Prix two weeks ago and the latest round at Silverstone.

During that time he returned to Mexico to visit his mother, who had been in hospital.

The 30-year-old, whose seat for this week has been filled by Nico Hulkenberg, said he had followed all the protocols and Szafnauer defended his driver's trip, despite Mexico being one of the worst-affected countries by the global pandemic.

"I think it's no different to Ferrari going back to Italy," Szafnauer said in a video news conference.

"There are many people that are in hotspots all around the world. A big contingent of our factory live in Northampton, and Northampton was shut down as well."

In other sports, such as basketball and cricket, organisations have implemented 'bubbles' which players and support staff must remain within between competing to minimise the risk of someone contracting coronavirus.

Szafnauer sees the merit in such a method, even if F1 operates within bubbles at actual races.

"In hindsight, perhaps we should look at that, change the code and say throughout the season you stay within your bubble," said the Racing Point team principal and CEO.

"I don't know. That's something for the FIA [motorsport's world governing body] to consider."

Even without Perez, Racing Point had a fine day at Silverstone on Friday as Lance Stroll was fastest of all drivers in the Free Practice 2 session.

Hulkenberg, whose return was only confirmed on Friday morning, placed seventh.

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  • MotoGP 2020: Starting grid and preview for the Emilia Romagna and Rimini's Coast Grand Prix MotoGP 2020: Starting grid and preview for the Emilia Romagna and Rimini's Coast Grand Prix

    Maverick Vinales has another golden opportunity to put himself firmly in the MotoGP title picture when he starts on pole at Misano on Sunday. 

    Vinales was on pole for the San Marino Grand Prix last time out but was unable to convert that position into a victory, finishing down in sixth. 

    The Spaniard is 18 points adrift of Andrea Dovizioso in a wide-open fight to replace the injured Marc Marquez as world champion. 

    However, he is in the prime spot to vault up the standings after an error by Francesco Bagnaia gave him pole for the Emilia Romagna and Rimini's Coast Grand Prix. 

    Yet the owner of the lap record at Misano cannot afford to take anything for granted ahead of what looks set to be a fascinating fight for the chequered flag.

    WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

    Bagnaia should have been celebrating a maiden MotoGP pole - and another Misano lap record - having smashed the previous mark in FP3. 

    He crossed the line on his final flying lap in one minute and 30.973 seconds, a time that would have seen him top the timesheets. 

    However, he crucially exceeded the track limits on the final turn, an infraction that saw his lap struck off and both pole position and the record handed to Vinales.

    Vinales will have Jack Miller and Fabio Quartararo for company on the front row, with Bagnaia dropping to fifth as a result of his error. 

    Championship leader Dovizioso heads the fourth row, with Franco Morbidelli - winner of the San Marino Grand Prix - sandwiched between Valentino Rossi and Danilo Petrucci on the third row. 

    THE STARTING GRID

    1. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha), 2. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), 3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
    4. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), 5. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), 6. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
    7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha), 8. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha), 9. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
    10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), 11. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar), 12. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda)
    13. Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), 14. Johann Zarco (Avintia), 15. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
    16. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), 17. Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda), 18. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar)
    19. Bradley Smith (Aprilia), 20. Tito Rabat (Avintia)

    EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

    The searing pace displayed by Bagnaia will be a topic of discussion despite his phenomenal last flying lap counting for nothing. 

    He and team-mate Miller will surely pose a significant threat to Vinales, though Quartararo is concerned about some of his title rivals positioned further back on the starting grid. 

    Joan Mir of Suzuki trails Dovizioso by 16 points, but he produced a disappointing display in Q2 and starts 11th. However, with Quartararo branding the Suzuki "a perfect bike", a charge through the field from Mir is not out of the question.

    "Yes, I'm worried because they are fast in the straight, they are fast in acceleration to overtake people, they are so fast," Quartararo said on Thursday.

    WHAT THE RIDERS SAID

    Maverick Vinales (pole): "This weekend I tried to work always with a race setting. We make an improvement. Last weekend the bike always feels good without fuel but with fuel on the race I struggle a lot. This weekend we work a lot and it seems that we make an improvement. We wish it will work for the race."

    Jack Miller (2nd): "When we got to Q2 I only had one tyre, so it was kind of a one-shot wonder. Anyway, we made it, not a bad qualifying, I was lucky to get the two off Pecco [Bagnaia]."

    Fabio Quartararo (3rd): "Feeling great to be on the front row, that is really important. Our race pace is looking good. I'm happy because we have a good base for tomorrow."

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 76
    2. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) 70
    3. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) 64
    4. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) 60
    5. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 58

    Teams

    1. Petronas Yamaha 127
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 116
    3. Ducati 101
    4. Suzuki Ecstar 100
    5. Pramac Racing 97

  • Bagnaia hands second successive Misano pole to Vinales with costly late error Bagnaia hands second successive Misano pole to Vinales with costly late error

    Maverick Vinales claimed his second successive pole position at Misano as an error from Francesco Bagnaia saw him miss out on the front row in a dramatic qualifying session for the Emilia Romagna and Rimini's Coast Grand Prix.

    Bagnaia, who smashed the Misano lap record in third practice, found searing pace as the Pramac Racing rider attempted to deny Vinales.

    He crossed the line in one minute and 30.973 seconds, which would have seen him take a first career pole and set the first 1:30 lap at the Marco Simoncelli circuit.

    However, his lap was immediately expunged as Bagnaia exceeded the track limits on the final turn, handing pole to Vinales after his lap record of 1:31.077.

    Bagnaia dropped to fifth, with Jack Miller and Fabio Quartararo completing the front row behind Vinales.

    The KTMs of Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder were fourth and sixth respectively, while championship leader Andrea Dovizioso will have work to do to hold on to his six-point lead over Quartararo.

    Dovizioso was 10th behind Ducati team-mate Danilo Petrucci, the fourth row completed by Joan Mir and Takaaki Nakagami.

    LCR Honda's Nakagami went off at turn 15 in FP4 and repeated that error in Q2, wrecking his second bike of the race week and leaving him to settle for 12th on the grid.

    Provisional classification

    1. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 1:31.077s
    2. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) +0.076s
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) +0.145s
    4. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +0.231s
    5. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) +0.236s
    6. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +0.312s
    7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.359s
    8. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) +0.489s
    9. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) +0.497s
    10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) +0.504s
    11. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.540s
    12. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) +1.207s

     

     

  • Mbappe available for PSG clash with Nice Mbappe available for PSG clash with Nice

    Kylian Mbappe is available to play for Paris Saint-Germain against Nice on Sunday, Thomas Tuchel has confirmed.

    Mbappe has yet to play for PSG in the 2020-21 season after testing positive for coronavirus while on international duty with France.

    However, Tuchel said both Ligue 1 and the club doctor have given clearance for Mbappe to make his first appearance for the club since the Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich.

    "We need to talk with Kylian. The doctor and the league told us it's possible," he said.

    "I don't know if he can play. We have to wait. He's in the squad. We'll see if he can play.

    "It's between me and Kylian. We're going to talk after practice. I have to see if he's feeling okay and we'll decide if he starts or ends the game."

    PSG will be without defender Juan Bernat for much of the season after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the 1-0 win over Dijon, which marked their first victory of the new campaign.

    However, Tuchel is not looking to purchase a replacement, adding: "Bernat is a key player but we have [Layvin] Kurzawa, [Mitchel] Bakker and [Abdou] Diallo. It is not the priority to buy a player for this position."

    Tuchel is eyeing reinforcements in the transfer window, however, with Thiago Silva having joined Chelsea and Edinson Cavani also leaving the club.

    "It is always the objective to have a group ready to start a championship," said Tuchel. "The priority is clear, we need a striker, a central defender and a midfielder. We must replace the players we lost."

     

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