Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack has explained Sebastian Vettel's involvement in the driver discussions that have played out over the course of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend.
The four-time World Champion was absent from the driver meeting held on Friday night in the wake of a missile attack on a nearby Aramco fuel facility, which resulted in intensive sport-wide talks to decide on the best course of action.
The official decision is that the race weekend will proceed as planned, with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association confirming their position through a statement signed by Chairman Alexander Wurz.
Vettel is one of two current Directors of the GPDA, along with Mercedes' George Russell.
Given Vettel's recent firm stance that he would not travel to Russia if a Grand Prix were to be held at the Sochi Autodrom this year, in light of Russia beginning military action in neighbouring Ukraine, the opinion of the German driver into the events at the track are of obvious interest.
"We know Sebastian is a clever guy," Krack told media, including RacingNews365.com, during a press conference on Saturday.
"He has an opinion and he's also free to announce it or to explain it. In this case, he's not here, so he has not been super vocal so far, as far as I know.
"But, at the end of the day, if he thinks he has to voice his opinion, he is free to do it."
Vettel missing due to contracting COVID-19
Vettel is missing his second consecutive race weekend as a result of testing positive for COVID-19 in the run-up to the season-opening Grand Prix in Bahrain.
Nico Hulkenberg has stepped into the cockpit for Aston Martin on both occasions, joining regular driver Lance Stroll.
Krack offered an update on Vettel's condition, revealing that he had been hit hard by COVID effects.
"We have been in touch all the time from when it started, [going] into the Bahrain race," he said.
"He was very rough. He participated in the meetings, gave his advice. Then, over the following days, we were in constant exchanges to see how he goes [and] if we can have him back, or if it was not going to happen.
"At one point, you have the cut-off with the flights and all the contractual commitments, and we had to make a decision.
"At that time, he was not ready, so we had to go with Nico."
Viewed by others:
Krack reveals Aston Martin's stance on Saudi decisions
When asked by RacingNews365.com whether Aston Martin would have forced either of their drivers to race in Saudi Arabia, if Hulkenberg or Lance Stroll were uncomfortable with proceeding, Krack said the team would have been understanding.
"Obviously, you cannot force someone to drive who doesn't want to drive or is uncomfortable to drive," he explained.
"We were not in that situation. But, if we were, we would respect the opinion or the concerns of the driver. We would obviously try to talk, try to understand, try to find an agreement. But I think, ultimately, you need to respect what these people want to do."
Krack added that the same stance would be taken for any member of the team on the ground in Saudi Arabia.
"It applies also to the team," he went on to comment.
"We were very clear about that when we brought everybody together, and there is no difference in this case, whether it's a driver or a team member, because they are all valuable."
F1 Podcast: First blood to Ferrari as F1's new era begins in style
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour, and Thomas Maher look back over the 2022 season opener in Bahrain, which was won in dramatic fashion by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.