8 The Daily Telegraph Friday 3 July 2020 *** Sport Formula One Inside F1’s safety bubble: cotton buds, masks a in Spielberg By Philip Duncan Tucked away in the Austrian mountains, teams are learning to adapt as they prepare for the start of the grand prix season The teams are operating in closely-monitored bubbles, roughly consisting of four people, to ensure, unlike in Melbourne, a positive test will not close the F1 roadshow down again. They all arrived deep in the Styrian mountains, 120 miles southwest of Vienna, on chartered planes with only F1 personnel on board. Hamilton will stay at the track in his own motorhome. Other drivers, including young Briton Lando Norris, will effectively be locked down at his hotel. Norris ate on his own in his room on Wednesday night. The 20-year-old has packed his laptop to contend with the boredom. Just 20 journalists from around the world have been granted access through the gates, a 10th of the regular number, but the paddock is off limits, with interviews to be conducted remotely. All press must have proof of a negative test taken not more than 72 hours earlier, and will be tested while attending the event. It is all part of a package of measures to ensure the sport is taking the minimum risk to ensure competition starts up again safely. “I would always prefer to have a normal weekend, but this is how it is at the moment,” said Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who could prove Hamilton’s closest rival this year. “We cannot change what has happened in the world so we will have to deal with it. “The test is not a very nice feeling – to have a stick that deep in your nose – but everything else is OK. We are back racing and we will try to do it in the best and safest way possible.” F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, hope to stage 18 rounds before the end of the year, and this weekend’s race, the first of eight scheduled in just 10 weeks, will act as the acid test as to whether that ambitious target can be met. There will be two races here in Austria, on the next two Sundays, before the circus moves on for the race in Hungary, on July 19. There will then be back-to-back rounds at Silverstone (Aug 2 and 9) before races in Spain (Aug 16), Belgium (Aug 30) and Italy (Sept 6). The campaign is due to end in Abu Dhabi in the middle of December, but the make-up of the middle of the season remains unclear. There will be no Monaco Grand Prix for the first time since 1954, while races in Japan and Azerbaijan have also been cancelled. “It makes no difference to us how long the season is,” said Hamilton. “There will still be a lot of races condensed into a shorter period. It is not a normal experience for us. We are under a different set of pressures and circumstances, but it is great that we are back at work, and the measures that have been put into place are the best I have seen so far. “I am quite impressed with what Formula One has done in terms of its protocols, social distancing, everyone wearing masks and PPE. “As long as we continue that quality, it is a good work environment to be in,” he added. A remote Austrian village of 6,000 inhabitants provides the backdrop for the first global sporting event of the Covid-19 era. It has been 112 days since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix was cancelled and Lewis Hamilton today begins his pursuit of a record-equalling seventh world championship at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring. This might be Formula One, but not as we know it. Hamilton, who heads into the delayed campaign just one title shy of Michael Schumacher’s haul, wore a mask yesterday as he spoke at a public forum for the first time since he was deeply critical of F1 chiefs for originally pushing ahead with the opening race in Melbourne, despite the escalating coronavirus crisis. The Albert Park race was called off at the 11th hour after a British The star-studded paddock, usually such a hive of activity, is now rather a ghost town Heads up: Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas bears an anti-racism message on his helmet mechanic from McLaren, who later recovered, contracted the disease. Three-and-a-half months on, it is impossible to escape the impact the virus has had on the strangest opening race in the sport’s 70-year history. All travelling personnel are required to be tested every four days – an eye-watering experience that involves a supersized cotton bud being shoved up both nostrils twice, and to the back of the throat. A temperature check is taken upon arrival at the track, two-metre social distancing is enforced, face masks are customary and hand-sanitiser is everywhere. Spectators have been banned, team numbers have been slashed from around 130 to 80 and there will be no post-race champagne spraying for the top three drivers. The sport’s star-studded paddock, usually a hive of activity throughout a race weekend, is something of a ghost town. The extravagant team hospitality suites – described by Ross Brawn as “gin palaces” for sponsors and guests – are gone. They have been replaced by office blocks. Winning title will mean more, claims Hamilton more, given that it is such a momentous year in a sense of this pandemic, which we are still very much in and we are still fighting,” said Hamilton, who was wearing a mandatory face mask as he spoke to the media. “On a personal level, the Black Lives Matter movement and fight against inequality and injustice is so important. It is not going to change in our time for our generation, but for our kids’ kids it is such an important moment for us. “So, winning a world title during that moment of time will be even more significant than before.” Hamilton refused to confirm whether he and his fellow drivers would take a knee in the moments before Sunday’s race, but it is expected that a show of solidarity is By Philip Duncan Lewis Hamilton says winning this season’s Formula One world championship against the backdrop of his personal fight against racism will rank as the ultimate triumph. Hamilton begins his assault on matching Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring this weekend, three and a half months after the campaign failed to get off the ground at the coronavirus-hit Australian Grand Prix. The 35-year-old British driver has become an increasingly vocal figure on the Black Lives Matter movement during his enforced time away from the track, attending a march in London last month, while encouraging his Mercedes team to ditch their traditional silver livery for black this year. “Winning the title would mean
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