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F1 Opinion: Could Sebastian Vettel’s Unusual Performance Be A Result Of Long Covid?

Sebastian Vettel has been in the news lately for the wrong reasons. The 34-year-old Aston Martin driver missed the first two races this year after he was tested positive for Covid-19.

When he made it to the Australian Grand Prix, the entire episode has sort of turned against him in many ways, all thanks to his behaviour and performance, which if one observes closely, was quite unusual.

If you’ve watched him race earlier, you’d probably know what we’re talking about. During the race weekend at Melbourne, he attracted two fines, suffered two crashes, and broke down in his Aston Martin AMR22 F1 car once.

While this could happen to any driver, it isn’t something you’d expect from a four-time world champion with three wins at Melbourne. The nature of the crash on Lap 24 that saw him spin into the wall was quite unusual too.

Not to forget the childish error of riding a Marshal’s scooter around the racetrack without permission or, exceeding the pit lane speed limit. Even a newcomer wouldn’t make such errors.

Aston Martin Boss Mike Krack has commented something on similar lines. He said:

“This is really something that we need to really look at, at what car we provide him, what feedback he gets from the car.

Because he would agree with me that him being off so much as he was at the weekend is not normal, and I do not think it is related to him having missed two races.”

Read: Aston Martin Boss Enquiring Into Sebastian Vettel’s Poor Performance At Australian GP

Giancarlo Minardi, a former F1 team boss has gone a step ahead with his comments. He has suggested that Sebastian Vettel has made a lot of money and won a lot of titles. He should now retire.

While the world points fingers at a spirited racer, I tried to look into the cause of the uncommon events that followed. I’ve been following Covid-19 quite closely and have put in time and effort in the last 2 years to gather information, mainly out of the belief that the more you know about this new virus, the more you can do to protect yourself.

While I don’t claim to be a doctor nor am I a medical expert, many papers on the internet hint at quite a few neurological symptoms a patient could show, when infected by the virus. The symptoms could trigger unusual behaviours and reactions from patients that one may not be used to seeing normally.

The symptoms could be subtle or harsh, based on the severity of the disease. Medical News Today reported a series of Long Covid symptoms from an International study that states that more than 88% of the people who completed the survey reported memory problems and cognitive dysfunction, with the most common problem being ‘brain fog’ while recovering from the illness.

65% of the people reported that they experienced the symptoms for nearly six months after testing positive. Brain Fog- the most commonly reported long covid symptom is a condition where the patient is unable to think clearly.

As per the report, researchers and doctors use the term ‘Neuro-COVID’ to describe the manifestations of Covid-19 in the brain. The symptoms could range from mild ones such as headaches and loss of smell to rarer problems such as stroke and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

WebMD reports that one in three covid patients have had neurological problems post-Covid, with the most common problems being anxiety, mood disorders, and insomnia. What’s worse is that many patients who are asymptomatic could also suffer from the stated neurological disorders.

“In fact, there is a significant percentage of Covid-19 patients whose only symptom is confusion” – they don’t have a cough or fatigue,” says Robert Stevens, associate professor of anaesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland- as stated in an article by the BBC.

Researchers believe that the neurological effects of the virus on a patient’s brain could be an indirect result of oxygen starvation to the brain (as a result of choked lungs) or, they could be a result of the body’s inflammatory response popularly called ‘cytokine storm‘.

That brings us back to Sebastian Vettel. Could a Long Covid brain fog be the reason for his failures at Melbourne? Could that be a reason why he rode around the track on a scooter without permission? Has long Covid been wreaking havoc backstage while Vettel gets pointed at by the world?

We may never know until he gets diagnosed. To reiterate, brain fog could prevent a person from being completely aware of their action. It could also hamper memory function and cause confusion. If you’d relate this to Vettel’s weekend at Melbourne, you might be joining the pieces of a puzzle that may, or may not, exist.