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F1 medical car driver Van der Merwe set to miss final 2021 races

Formula 1 medical driver Alan van der Merwe is set to miss the final races of this season even if he recovers from his current bout of COVID-19.

Alan van der Merwe, Medical Car Driver, FIA, and Dr Ian Roberts, talk to the press

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Having already had COVID early last season Van der Merwe tested positive shortly before the Turkish GP. F1 doctor Ian Roberts also tested positive, and thus both men were unable to travel to Istanbul.

Van der Merwe subsequently confirmed on social media last weekend that he has not been vaccinated against COVID for personal reasons.

Proof of vaccination is currently required for entry to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and it’s understood that it will also be necessary for access to the red zone/paddock area in Abu Dhabi.

Van der Merwe is thus one of a number of unvaccinated F1 personnel who usually travel to races who won’t be able to attend the last events of the season.

He used Twitter to explain the reasons behind his personal choices, and confirmed that he expects to miss some races.

“In Switzerland (I’m half Swiss) and other developed countries, prior infection counts as much as a vaccine,” he wrote.

“I trust that those countries know what they’re doing, and also respect countries’ more restrictive rules and not travel there.”

He added: “I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices.

“That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.”

The Medical car on track

The Medical car on track

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

FIA race director Michael Masi confirmed that the entry restrictions will prevent some F1 personnel from travelling to those races.

“From what we understand, there's a couple of countries that you probably won't be allowed to enter the country, unless you're vaccinated,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com. “Which is no different to, let's call it in some parts of the world, malaria shots or whatever it might be that you can't enter the country.

“You need to comply with those requirements to enter the country. And, you know, from that perspective, the FIA obviously has to respect the country's requirements to get in, and as will all the teams and everyone else.”

Masi says Roberts has tested positive independently of Van der Merwe before Istanbul, and it thus wasn’t a case of the former quarantining as a precaution.

He added: “If one tested positive and the other one was negative, he would have turned up. But unfortunately, both of them actually tested positive.

“The only thing that the two of them can surmise is that obviously they spent a lot of time in the car together in Russia.”

Van der Merwe and Roberts were replaced in Turkey by Formula E medical car team of Dr Bruno Franceschini and driver Bruno Correia.

Masi said that the in the COVID era the FIA has been well prepared to replace key F1 officials with their equivalents from other major championships: "The good part is having spoken to both Alan and Ian multiple times over the weekend that they're relatively okay, and have both been available all weekend on the end of the phone, or whatever needed to help Dr Bruno and Bruno in their acclimatisation into this world.

“Generally, we're very fortunate that within all of the various FIA championships, all us race directors talk very regularly.

"You've seen Eduardo Freitas who obviously is the WEC race director as clerk of the course in Portimao, and Scott Elkins and Niels Wittich, who are the Formula E race director and deputy doing a number of events as my deputy.

“So all of us working together is actually a regular thing. And it's the same with the doctors. Bruno Correia has actually been one of our driver advisors in F2 and F3 this year.

“So effectively, it's the broad family, and it was great for both of them to be available at short notice.

"And they're always sort of our first reserves in the case of something like that happening which none of us ever wish."

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