Lewis Hamilton says it is important that Formula 1 starts to provide some entertainment and respite for fans during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though it will be some time before races can run in front of full grandstands again.
F1 is targeting two races in Austria in early July before a similar pair of rounds at Silverstone, both of which will take place without fans in attendance. Hamilton has won in front of his home crowd in Great Britain – which regularly attracts the largest attendance of the season – on a record six occasions, and he admitted he is not looking forward to racing in front of empty grandstands on a personal level.
“It gave me a really empty feeling because the fans really make that race,” Hamilton said. “Around the world, all the races we go to, the more fans there the more atmosphere you have. 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 peoples’ 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 a sense. On a test day there’s not a huge amount of people in Barcelona 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 down.
“But racing is racing and I don’t think any of us have had enough time to truly unleash the potential of our cars. So I’m excited to get back in. I really, really do miss it. This is almost a blessing on one side, because it gives you even more appreciation for the things that you love and the things that you do, and this has given me more energy and inspiration and determination to keep delivering and keep working with this great team. So I’m excited for the future.”
A return to real racing is still two months away, however, and while Hamilton doesn’t envisage himself taking part in any official online races he says his time in lockdown has been spent gaming with other drivers as well as learning French.
“I’ve always wanted to learn a language and I still don’t know any other languages,” he said. “It’s embarrassing when people ask, and I think it’s probably similar for many people who only speak one language. I aced French at school – it’s the only thing I aced – and so I’ve been going on this online course.
“The thing is, the course I have is like a six-week course, and you’re supposed to do half an hour a day, and when I do things I just do it to an extreme, so I sit down and I do a week in two hours, basically! I just do one week a day. So I was already on week four by the fourth day, and I was so stressed and wasn’t enjoying it and I stopped for like a week or so, and now I’m trying to get back into it.
“I do a bit of gaming. It’s interesting, as you see a lot of the drivers – I’m not really interested in much driving simulated racing, but Gran Turismo and Sony sent me a whole set-up. I grew up playing Gran Turismo and spending hours earning the money to buy all these cars, and it was really a great opportunity to do something with them.
“I’ve been working with them for the last couple of years and I got to do this challenge – a beat my time kind of thing – so I’ve been racing myself trying to beat my own laps and stuff! And it’s been frustrating as hell because my laps were pretty decent, I think! So that’s been one thing, and I’ve played on Call of Duty with Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc.”