Lewis Hamilton believes returning to grand prix racing without fans will be an “empty” experience as Formula One prepares to launch the new season behind closed doors.
F1 expects to hold its first race on 5 July in Austria as a double header followed by two meetings at Silverstone, all without spectators. However, there remains the possibility that government quarantine restrictions may make travel for F1 teams unfeasible.
Regardless, the prospect of racing before vacant grandstands does not appeal to Britain’s defending world champion. “It gave me a really empty feeling,” he said. “The fans really make the race, and around the world, the more fans, the more atmosphere you have, like at Silverstone and Monza, so it is going to be very empty.”
That said, Hamilton says any return for F1 could be beneficial. “I am getting messages from people around the world who are struggling through this period because they are not getting to watch sport,” he said. “It shows how significant sport is in people’s lives, it brings us together it is so exciting and captivating. I don’t know how exciting it will be for people watching on tv, but it will be better than nothing.”
This is the longest break from the sport the Mercedes driver has had since his F1 debut in 2007 but the enforced absence has only made him conscious of how much he still enjoyed racing.
“Its almost a blessing on one side because it gives you more of an appreciation of the things that you love,” he said. “This has given me more energy and determination to keep delivering, keep working for this great team and I am excited for the future.”
F1’s future remains unresolved. The government is expected to announce today/on Sunday that all arrivals into the country, including UK citizens, will be quarantined for two weeks. Seven of the 10 F1 teams are based in the UK. If the restriction was still in place in July the current proposals of races in Austria followed immediately by Silverstone would be impossible.
A quarantine period imposed every time team members returned would require planning those periods into the calendar or having teams spend extended time on the road, neither option is likely to be realistic. It is possible the sport may gain an exemption from the measures as F1 is to implement a strict coronavirus testing regime on all team personnel before races and every two days when they are at meetings.