Lewis Hamilton admits the prospect of Formula One returning without fans leaves him cold but is still eager for a return to action that could prove “chaos” according to fellow driver Daniel Ricciardo.
After a delayed start to the season caused by Covid-19, racing is set to resume behind closed doors in Austria on July 5.
Ricciardo said on Saturday that the lengthy break could lead to some frantic driving from an out-of-practice grid but world champion Hamilton, who is going for a record equalling seventh title, is just as concerned about the loss of occasion.
“Around the world all the races we go to, the more fans are there the more atmosphere you have. It’s going to be very empty,” he said in a Mercedes YouTube interview.
“For us it’s going to be like a test day, probably even worse than a test day. You’re going to have nobody in the crowd, you’re just going to see empty seats as you drive around.
“But racing is racing…I really do miss it. What’s great is getting messages from people around the world who are really struggling in the situation not being able to watch sports.
“It just goes to show how significant sport is in people’s lives. It brings us all together, it’s so exciting and captivating. I don’t know how exciting it is going to be for people watching on TV but it’s going to be better than nothing.”
Hamilton’s concerns over the visual spectacle are not shared by Renault driver Ricciardo, who predicts some lively work on the track.
“(It will be) some form of chaos, hopefully in a controlled manner,” the Australian told BBC Radio Five Live.
“There is going to be so much rust, a combination of emotion, excitement, eagerness. You are going to get some guys who perform on that level of adrenaline and others who might not.
“So you’re going to get some bold overtakes, some miscalculated ones. You’re going to see a bit of everything, I’m sure.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, has found positives in the lockdown period. As well as taking a break from the usually packed schedule, he has also been looking for ways to be in even better shape.
“To take a sabbatical (in normal times) is not on the cards but we’ve been handed a partial sabbatical, which I’m enjoying,” he said.
“I feel fresher and healthier than I’ve ever been. I’ve had more time to focus on areas of weakness. I’m really trying to get in deep, really trying to refine my body and trying to get to the next level, to be fitter than I was.
“It’s almost been a blessing on one side because it gives you more appreciation of the things you love and the things you do. It’s given me more energy, more inspiration and more determination to keep delivering.”