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Red Bull's Marko says he proposed F1 coronavirus camp

Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has proposed holding a training camp where Formula One drivers could get infected by the new coronavirus — an idea rejected by the team.

Marko told Austrian public broadcaster ORF on Sunday he wanted to gather drivers while the F1 season was suspended.

“We have four Formula One drivers, we have eight or 10 juniors and the idea was to hold a camp where we could bridge this rather dead time mentally and physically,” Marko said.

- FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2020, file image, F1 driver Max Verstappen of The Netherlands drives his car through one of the two banked corners during a test and official presentation of the renovated F1 track in the beachside resort of Zandvoort, western Netherlands. The iconic Monaco Grand Prix was added Thursday to a growing list of Formula One races to be postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The first seven races of the Formula One season have now been postponed, with Netherlands and Spain joining Monaco as the latest to be called off. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP PhotoPeter Dejong, File)

“And then it would be ideal, because these are all young, strong men in really good health, if the infection comes then. Then they would be equipped, if it starts up again, for a really hard world championship.”

Marko said the idea “was not accepted positively” within Red Bull and was abandoned.

It wasn't immediately clear if by “four Formula One drivers” Marko meant Red Bull's two drivers and two reserves, or the two drivers from sister team Alpha Tauri.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands poses for a photo at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP PhotoRick Rycroft)

Marko praised Red Bull driver Max Verstappen for throwing himself into the world of online racing to stay sharp, and said the drivers were focusing on their fitness.

“Max Verstappen is having more races than in a regular season,” Marko said. “If we come to a season with 15 or 18 races, it will be very hard and there won't be a chance to rebuild the conditioning.”

The first eight races of the season have been canceled or postponed, leaving the Canadian Grand Prix in June as the first event still on the schedule. That could be followed by a packed string of scheduled and rearranged races.

The season-opening Australian GP was canceled.

The 76-year-old Marko, who raced in F1 in the 1970s, acknowledged he could be at risk for COVID-19.

“I belong to the high risk group but I'm not frightened. I respect it," he said.

Marko added he had what he thought was a “heavy cold” in February but now thinks it could have been coronavirus symptoms.

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