The McLaren Formula 1 team staff that had been quarantined in Melbourne due to coronavirus concerns since the aborted 2020 Australian Grand Prix will return to the UK this week.
McLaren pulled out of the Melbourne event, which was ultimately cancelled, after one of its team staff tested positive for COVID-19 the night before the race’s opening practice sessions were due to take place.
A further 14 members of its staff were quarantined after being in close contact with that individual and also entered a 14-day isolation period, with some of McLaren’s senior race team management voluntarily remaining in Melbourne to offer them support as the rest of the squad flew home.
It was later determined that seven McLaren employees required testing to check if symptoms they displayed were coronavirus-related, but the tests came back negative.
Announcing the news that the quarantined crew are now able to return home, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said: “They’re doing well, I stayed out with them for a couple of extra days and some senior members of the team are still there with them. All the team members who had been tested as a precaution tested negative, which is fantastic news.
“The person that had tested positive is now feeling well and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the UK this week.”
Reflecting on the decision to pull his team out of Australian race after the positive was confirmed, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said: “Even though we’re all racers and we were looking forward to hitting the track, it was an easy decision to make. Protecting the wellbeing of our team is always the number one priority.
“We have a duty of care to our people, fans and wider F1 stakeholders, and that’s why we informed Formula 1 and the FIA of our withdrawal shortly after hearing on the Thursday night that a member of the team had tested positive.”
Siedl also explained that McLaren will be allowed to make changes to its 2020 car to allow it to the run Mercedes engines next year.
It was confirmed on Monday that McLaren’s engine supply switch would go ahead as planned despite the decision to push the 2021 rules revolution back to 2022 and implement a chassis freeze to keep the current cars in action next season.
“From the outset, we have been a leading supporter of the new sporting and technical regulations for 2021,” Seidl said. “They present the opportunity to deliver an exciting new era for Formula 1.
“Nevertheless, there is no escaping the severity of the pressures faced by the sport right now. In the same way that decision to introduce the new regulations was aimed at improving the long-term health of Formula 1, the decision to postpone them has been made in the same vein.
“We support the postponement and have played an active part in the conversation around doing so. We recognise that it is crucial to protect the financial health of all the teams while ensuring a level playing field when we do go racing.
“Furthermore, this decision does not impact our change to Mercedes power units in 2021, and we will be allowed to make the necessary changes to our car to accommodate this.”