Formula 1 is a competition of speeds. The fastest cars win the races. The nimble mechanics enable overtaking maneuvers in the pit lane. And in March in Melbourne, the teams who left Albert Park as winners were the quickest to pack their trolleys and pull them behind to the airport.
While the grandees of Formula 1 were raving around for a whole night and were still hesitant in the morning, when spectators crowded in queues at the gates of the Albert Park, whether they should cancel the race after the first person infected with the coronavirus in the paddock became known a racing team had long traded: McLaren. Formula One patient zero was a mechanic at the service of the traditional British racing team. And McLaren was now clearing his garages.
141 days and three so-called ghost races passed before Formula 1 had to quarantine the second patient with Covid-19 on Thursday. But this time the suitcases are not packed. The races should go on, even though the infected person is a racing driver: The Mexican Sergio Perez, employed by Team Racing Point, whose cockpit is considered a vanishing point for Sebastian Vettel in 2021, finally feels “physically good”, it said. And what is it? His car will roll anyway!
Perez is exchanged without hesitation – and as quickly as Nico Hülkenberg from Emmerich am Rhein agreed to this temporary job, a tire on one of his cars has probably never been changed. In at least one of the two upcoming races in England – depending on how long Perez has to be in isolation – the 32-year-old can now prove that he was wrongly retired from Renault last year. After 177 races without a single podium, that’s the punch line, he gets, thanks to Corona, for the first time in a car that is more likely to be on the podium. “The Hülk is back for Silverstone,” they wrote at Racing Point on Friday. The press offices are also about speed.
How do he think about the Perez / Hülkenberg case? Andreas Seidl takes his time. He looks into the camera with a sharp look through his glasses, carefully considered. Seidl, 44, the McLaren team manager born in Passau, would have been a sought-after conversation partner in Silverstone without his first Corona case outside of his team. For more than a year, Seidl has ensured that the brand, which is not far from Silverstone in the county of Surrey, has found its way back on track. “I think,” says Seidl, “the case shows that the hygiene concept works. It shows that we can race and still protect people.”
It is also true that the hygiene concept, which allows the protagonists of the racing series to exist in isolation in so-called bubbles, has no alternative from an economic perspective. Had the season not started four months late in early July, even McLaren would not only have wavered. But possibly overturned.