Perez says contracting COVID-19 was just unlucky

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FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix
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By Alan Baldwin

(Reuters) - Mexican Sergio Perez returned to Formula One at the Spanish Grand Prix on Thursday, saying he took no blame for the positive COVID-19 test that forced him to miss the previous two races.

His Racing Point team said earlier that Perez's latest test was negative and the governing FIA had confirmed he could compete at the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend.

Perez tested positive before the British Grand Prix after returning to Mexico to see his mother, who had been in hospital following an accident, but said he had taken every precaution.

"I was well aware what was going on," he told reporters in a video conference at the circuit.

"I haven’t done anything different to the rest of the paddock... I’m not willing to take any blame for that because anyone can get it, I was just the unlucky one," he added.

Speaking also to Sky Sports F1, he said he was sure he did not get it in Mexico.

Nico Hulkenberg has been filling in for Perez, the first and so far only driver to contract the new coronavirus. The German qualified third and finished seventh in last weekend's 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

Sunday's race, like the five before it this season, is being held without spectators and under strict health conditions with teams operating in separate 'bubbles'.

Racing Point are fifth in the championship despite being docked 15 points by race stewards after Renault protested the team's 2020 car. The row is now set to go to the FIA's International Court of Appeal.

Perez's future has also appeared uncertain, with four times world champion Sebastian Vettel linked to the seat for next season despite the Mexican having a contract to 2022.

"With the rumours of Sebastian, I think there's nothing I can do," he said on Thursday. "What I've heard from the team is that we all want to keep going, to continue. So I believe it's just a matter of time before those rumours can go away."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Jason Neely and Ken Ferris)

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