Lewis Hamilton says that the last minute cancellation of the Australian GP was a “shock to the system” – and the Mercedes Formula 1 star fears that races held behind closed doors will be “worse than a test day”, with no atmosphere.
On Thursday in Melbourne, Hamilton questioned why the F1 circus had travelled to Australia as the coronavirus crisis began to take hold, but nevertheless he hadn’t expected the event to be called off on the eve of practice.
In subsequent weeks other races have been cancelled or postponed, and the 2020 season is now expected to begin with no spectators in Austria in July.
“I think it really, really was a shock to the system,” Hamilton said in a Mercedes video interview.
“Obviously on that Thursday I commented my opinion as to whether or not we should have been there, and to wake up the next day with the excitement that I’m going to be getting in the car, and then to hear that we’re not going to be going to the track, it was very, very surreal.
“We weren’t quite sure what was going to happen, and then you miss practice one, and the practice two went, and qualifying went. But I stayed there through the weekend.”
Hamilton said it was particularly difficult as he felt he was better prepared than ever.
“Every year I know how to get straight into the zone, I know what preparation means, I know how to be there and ready for the first race, so that we start off better than ever.
“Each year you’re refining it a little bit, to make sure you arrive even better, and start on the right foot.
“And we didn’t get to race. It was definitely a difficult few days, and then following on that from that having something that you love so much, not taken away from you, but it’s not happening at the moment. I miss driving.”
While expressing frustration at potentially racing in front of empty grandstands, Hamilton has been encouraged by fans who want to see the sport return, even if only on TV.
“Around the world, all the races we go to, the more fans are there, the more atmosphere we have,” he said. “That’s why you have places like Silverstone and Monza.
“So it’s going to be very empty. What’s great is I’m getting messages from people around the world who are struggling during this period because they’re not getting to watch sports, and it just shows how significant sport is in people’s lives. It brings us all together, and it’s so exciting and captivating.
“I don’t know how exciting it’s going to be for people watching on TV, but it’s going to be better than nothing.
"But for us it’s going to be like a test day, probably even worse than a test day, in the sense that on a test day there aren’t a huge amount of people that come to watch, but there are still some, whereas here you’re going to have nobody in the crowd, and you’re just going to see empty seats as you’re driving round.
“But racing is racing. I don’t think any of us have truly had time to unleash the potential of our cars. So I’m excited to get back in, I really, really do miss it.”
Hamilton insisted that the enforced break had its positives.
“It’s a blessing on one side because it gives you more appreciation for the things that you love and the things that you do, and this has given me more energy and determination and inspiration to keep delivering and keep working with this great team, so I’m excited.”