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Camp for F1 drivers to catch coronavirus, suggests Red Bull's Marko

Ex-racer makes startling suggestion that they should get the virus, in order to be protected from it later on

Red Bull's motorsport head Helmut Marko suggested his Formula One and junior drivers should catch the coronavirus while racing is on hold, so they would be protected from the sickness later in the year.

The Austrian, 76 and a former grand prix racer who is now Red Bull's head of driver development, made the startling revelation in an interview on Sunday with broadcaster ORF.

Marko added that the idea had "not been well received" by Red Bull management.

"We have four Formula One drivers and eight or 10 juniors," he said.

"The idea was that we would organise a camp to mentally and physically bridge the dead time and that would be the ideal time for the infection to come.

"They are all strong young men in good health. That way, they would be prepared whenever the action starts."

Nearly 800,000 people have been infected across the world and about 39,000 have died.

Red Bull own two Formula One teams, with Dutchman Max Verstappen and Thai racer Alexander Albon in the main one and Frenchman Pierre Gasly along with Russian Daniil Kvyat at Italy-based AlphaTauri.

The Formula One season is stalled after the cancellation of the March 15 Australian season-opener in Melbourne due to the spreading pandemic.

Six races have also been postponed and the showcase Monaco GP next month has been cancelled.

Formula One has said it hopes to get the season started some time in the European summer with a reduced calendar of 15-18 races.

Marko, whose Formula One career ended when he was blinded in his left eye by a loose stone thrown up during the 1972 French GP, said European countries had to emerge from lockdown before any racing could happen.

Formula One teams, commercial rights holder Liberty Media and the governing FIA have agreed to save money by using the same cars next year, postponing a raft of major technical changes that had been due in 2021.

"Liberty expects a loss of US$200-300m (S$285-427m) in revenue, and this is also transferred to the teams in a quota. That is why we decided to take these austerity measures to make up for this loss of revenue," said Marko.

Meanwhile, if British industry succeeds in saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic, it will be due in part to the pioneering role played by Formula One racing teams in the country.

Seven of the 10 Formula One teams have joined forces with leading aerospace and engineering companies to ramp up production of ventilators.

Mercedes have also worked with medics and academics to produce an alternative breathing aid. - REUTERS