The McLaren Formula 1 team member who was diagnosed with coronavirus ahead of the cancelled Australian Grand Prix is “recovering well” and no longer exhibiting symptoms.
On Thursday last week, the employee’s positive test for COVID-19 prompted McLaren to withdraw from the season opener, which ultimately led to the entire event being called off amid the coronavirus pandemic.
McLaren quarantined the team member and 14 others they were in close contact with, as team principal Andreas Seidl and racing director Andrea Stella stayed out in Melbourne to support those in isolation.
Though Seidl has since returned to Europe, Stella has remained in Australia.
McLaren has confirmed to The Race that in addition to race team members being kept away from the team’s MTC headquarters for 14 days after returning to the UK, the company will also be implementing “split operations” from Monday.
Each department will be split into two groups and alternate working one week in the factory and one week at home, “to avoid risk of infection to entire teams”.
”I’m happy to report that our team member affected with the virus is recovering well and the symptoms have gone and our people in quarantine are in good spirits,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
He also extended his gratitude to the “fantastic” support those in quarantine have received “from their team-mates, our partners, members of the F1 community and fans from around the world”
Brown had promised to protect staff long before the coronavirus situation escalated to pandemic status in the build-up to the Melbourne event.
He said he had agreed with Seidl that had a positive case been identified among its race team “there was only one option”, which was to withdraw from the weekend.
Brown paid tribute to how McLaren handled the situation, praising “leaders” for rising to the occasion and the preparedness with its “scenario-planning” in Australia and back in the UK so it knew how to respond depending on the outcome.
Seidl also praised the “character and coolness” shown by senior team members under pressure as well as team members who “helped make a difficult situation easier to manage” by continuing with their respective jobs in the interim.
”I also want to recognise our team members who have had to stay in Melbourne under quarantine at the moment,” said Seidl.
“This is not an easy situation. Special thanks to our racing director Andrea Stella and his guys, who volunteered to stay Down Under for the next 14 days supporting our guys in quarantine.”
Seidl said that drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris had been concerned about the team members.
“We have to keep them physically away from the rest of the team, even though they are both fine, but they are in constant communication,” said Seidl.
He added that other teams had offered McLaren “immediate help” with dismantling its garage and packing freight on Friday in Melbourne given the personnel the team was missing.
With the Bahrain Grand Prix, the home race for McLaren’s co-owner, postponed, Vietnam also rescheduled and races in the Netherlands, Spain and Monaco uncertain, F1 now faces a huge task of adjusting its planned 2020 schedule.
”Our focus is now on the dialogue with F1, the FIA and the other teams on working through the 2020 calendar and managing the team over the next few months,” said Brown.
“It’s early days and this is an evolving situation but we are planning ahead and will stay flexible.”