LONDON: Seven months after they final competed in earnest, the System One circus will push a post-lockdown reset button to open the 2020 season in Austria on Sunday.
The occasion at Spielberg is being held on its unique calendar date, however is just not the once-anticipated 11th spherical of the championship, however the first – a season-opener delayed by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Greater than three months after the Australian Grand Prix was deserted on the eve of opening follow in Melbourne, the race within the Styrian Alps might be run behind closed doorways, with out followers, sponsors’ brokers and friends and solely a handful of reporters restricted to the media centre.
The standard high-rise motor properties might be changed by tents and awnings whereas the groups, lower to 80 members and all in protecting gear, will function in sanitised “bubbles inside bubbles” in a paddock bereft of human contact and the same old swell of hearsay and hypothesis.
For all concerned, who’re examined 4 days earlier than the occasion and 5 days later, it is going to be an unprecedented and distinctive expertise.
But, regardless of all of the change and the surreal environment it’s anticipated that the motion, when it begins, will ship the identical seemingly story.
Lewis Hamilton, powered by the all-conquering Mercedes, goes seeking a seventh drivers’ title to equal the report of Michael Schumacher.
“It has been insufferable – I’ve missed the racing and the competitors a lot, so it is going to be nice to be again,” mentioned Mercedes staff boss Toto Wolff.
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Even throughout lockdown, drivers strikes for subsequent yr befell, Ferrari asserting the discharge of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, to be succeeded by Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo signing to depart Renault and be the Spaniard’s alternative on the cash-starved outfit so badly hit by the pandemic.
These 2021 strikes won’t have an effect on this yr’s line-ups, however might have an effect on relationships between departing drivers and groups anxious to not enable distinctive operational and efficiency intelligence to depart with them.
If anyplace, that is more likely to have most impact at Ferrari because the Italian staff strives to keep away from open battle between rising star Charles Leclerc and Vettel, who’s a free agent and a possible goal for not solely Renault, but additionally Mercedes.
The pair, who have been intense rivals final yr, examined in Italy final week forward of the opening “double-header” with two successive races at Austria’s Pink Bull Ring circuit earlier than a 3rd race in Hungary.
“I’ve no expertise of heading again to the identical monitor and having a second race, however I have been round for some time,” mentioned Vettel.
“I suppose the extent of perfection might be greater the second weekend – the extent of errors might be even smaller.
“It will likely be an opportunity to evaluate technique simply seven days afterwards in order that’s a primary and let’s have a look at how we deal with that problem.”
The opening three races kind simply a part of an intensive spell of eight European races in 10 weeks, which can develop into 9 in 11 if a spherical at Mugello, in Italy, is added.
Vettel added that he “cannot think about what it is going to be prefer to race with none followers,” particularly on the sweeping circuit the place Max Verstappen was roared to victory by an enormous orange wave of Dutch supporters final yr.
Verstappen and Pink Bull are anticipated to problem Mercedes, with Ferrari and Racing Level, newly dubbed “the pink Mercedes” staff after copying the champions’ vehicles, in shut pursuit within the opening occasions the place it is going to be intriguing to see if Hamilton’s focus has been affected by his energetic and vocal assist for the present anti-racism protests.
Final week, simply days after launching the Hamilton Fee to spice up range in motorsport, he slammed remarks made by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone as “ignorant and uneducated” earlier than calling for the restoration of Grand Prix in Africa.
“It is a actually bizarre time on the earth and the most important problem in my thoughts is just not in regards to the championship essentially,” he mentioned. “It isn’t a standard yr.”

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