Red Bull F1 Boss Told Drivers to 'Become Infected With Coronavirus'

The boss of Red Bull motorsport has revealed he advised his drivers to contract coronavirus while the Formula 1 season is suspended.

Helmut Marko made the startling admission while speaking with Austrian broadcaster ORF, explaining he had planned to organize a training camp to ensure drivers and team members would be in perfect physical condition once the season eventually resumes.

The camp "would be the ideal time for the infection to come," the 76-year-old added.

"They are all strong young men in good health," he told ORF.

"That way they would be prepared whenever the action starts. We have four Formula 1 drivers and eight or 10 juniors, and the idea was that we would organise a camp to mentally and physically bridge the dead time."

Unsurprisingly, the suggestion appears to have gone down like the proverbial lead balloon with the team management.

"Let's put it this way: it has not been well received," Marko conceded.

Like other sporting events across the world, the Formula 1 season has been thrown in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled to be the fourth race in the calendar, was postponed indefinitely in February but the campaign remained scheduled to get underway as planned on March 15 in Australia until it was canceled at the 11th hour after a series of mixed messages from the organizers.

The Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix, which were the second and third races in the calendar, were called off soon afterward and the remaining four of the first eight races also met the same fate. Races in Canada, France, Austria and Great Britain across June and July could still follow suit.

The Red Bull Ring is scheduled to host the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5, but Marko admitted there are no guarantees the team will be able to run its home race—Red Bull is headquartered in Britain, but races under an Austrian licence.

"At the current time, you would have to be clairvoyant to make a correct forecast," he said. "I cannot judge whether 50,000 or 100,000 spectators would make a difference.

"What is critical, however, is that all European borders have to be reopened, because viewers from all over the world come to such an international event. And it is difficult to assess to what extent the virus can be brought under control in the individual countries."

Over the weekend Formula 1 boss Chase Carey suggested the season could run well into January as opposed to its scheduled November finish, with organizers currently considering a number of contingency plans.

Among them, Carey suggested, was the possibility of getting the season underway in the summer and squeezing between 15 to 18 races of the original 22 into the calendar.

Marko, however, sounded far from enthralled by the prospect of a season protracting until 2021.

"If there is a racing season with 15 to 18 races, it will be very, very tough," he explained.

"There is no possibility to improve your fitness during the season. So it's actually ideal to use this time now."

Max Verstappen, Helmut Marko, Red Bull
Max Verstappen (right) of the Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Racing Team consultant Helmut Marko look on in the pit-lane during qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 21, 2019 in Singapore. Mark Thompson/Getty