Red Bull's Sergio Perez: F1 should consider allowing drivers to race with COVID-19

SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Red Bull's Sergio Perez believes Formula One should consider allowing drivers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to continue to race as long as they don't have severe symptoms.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was ruled out of the opening round of the new season this weekend after testing positive on the eve of the first practice session in Bahrain.

Vettel is the second F1 driver to test positive in the space of seven days after McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo missed the final preseason test due to a positive COVID-19 test at the end of last week.

COVID restrictions have eased in the Formula One paddock this year, with testing no longer mandatory and the enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing more relaxed.

Perez, who missed two races in 2020 after testing positive with the virus, believes F1 should consider making exceptions for drivers who have tested positive but are feeling fit enough to race.

"Going forward it's something that we should discuss, whether we allow the drivers to race with COVID, if the symptoms are mild," he said.

"These days if you're feeling bad, obviously the drivers can be the judge, but I think it makes sense to have a discussion."

He added: "There's so much we've learned with COVID now and there is only so much you can do.

"If you want to look after yourself [completely], you have to stay at home for 24 hours and cook for yourself and do everything on your own.

"But there is only so much you can do, so I think it's just luck dependent. It is difficult to not do anything. I'm just very sorry for Seb and for Daniel, but it can happen to anyone."

However, Perez said he was still taking regular COVID-19 tests in order to stop the spread of the virus.

"Yes. At the same time, you have to look after the people around you and to make sure that don't you don't affect anyone around you."

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, who is also being tested regularly under his team's own regulations, thinks the sport should find ways of safely returning to normality.

"I'm not going to lie, it is tiring and it is tough for two years to still do the same things," Sainz said. "Some things I got used to it, some things I still struggle with, like to wear the mask at all times.

"I just hope we can get back to normality as soon as possible because -- it might be a bit controversial -- but I think that we need to kind of move on a bit and get on with life. It's unfortunate for the other drivers and it could be me at some point, but it's really tough to stay as disciplined as we've always been.

"Obviously if I have the chance to fight for bigger things this year, I will need to be but I am in two minds. At the same time I want everyone to move on and to stop thinking about COVID. I'm in two minds, I'm 50-50."