Hamil­ton braced for ‘lonely week­end’ on F1’s 70th an­niver­sary

With no fans and biose­cure bub­bles, Sil­ver­stone will be un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally quiet on a land­mark oc­ca­sion for the sport

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Formula One - By Tom Cary

Formula One cel­e­brates its 70th an­niver­sary this week­end, although there is un­likely to be much of a party at­mos­phere at Sil­ver­stone, even if, as ex­pected, Lewis Hamil­ton is vic­to­ri­ous on his home cir­cuit.

The 1950 Bri­tish Grand Prix, which took place here on May 13, was a car­ni­val of colour, at­tended by King Ge­orge VI and the princesses, El­iz­a­beth and Mar­garet.

Such was the clam­our to see star driv­ers such as Juan Manuel Fan­gio and Nino Fa­rina, that one of the largest tail­backs ever seen in the United King­dom de­vel­oped, stretch­ing back al­most 30 miles and forc­ing some of en­trants, in­clud­ing Prince Bira of Siam (Maserati), to have to cadge a lift to the for­mer air­field.

Safe to say, Hamil­ton will not need to do like­wise this week­end as there will be no fans or queues what­so­ever – un­less it is for a Covid test, un­der­taken ev­ery five days by those wish­ing to en­ter the pad­dock.

Team staff, driv­ers, F1 per­son­nel, and me­dia all have to take tests, then self-iso­late for 24 hours be­fore get­ting the re­sults. Of the thou­sands of tests taken since the first race in Aus­tria, up to yes­ter­day there had been only two pos­i­tives, in­volv­ing sup­port staff. How­ever Rac­ing Point driver Ser­gio Perez was then dis­cov­ered to have Covid-19. The Mex­i­can went into self-iso­la­tion and misses this week­end’s race.

Those who made it into the “F1 bub­ble” were met by de­serted roads and grand­stands would nor­mally be packed.

Last year’s race at­tracted more than 140,000 fans on the Sun­day as part of a record-break­ing at­ten­dance of 351,000 over the race week­end. This year’s race, and next week­end’s 70th An­niver­sary Grand Prix, the sec­ond part of a Bri­tish which dou­ble-header, prom­ise to be very dif­fer­ent. Only lo­cal res­i­dents will be al­lowed into the area around the cir­cuit and roads will be closed, as will paths and lo­cal camp­sites.

In­stead, it is all about work­ing bub­bles and clean­ing pro­cesses and op­er­a­tional plans. Lav­ish F1 mo­torhomes have been re­placed by util­i­tar­ian cab­ins, and a me­dia cen­tre which would usu­ally ac­com­mo­date around 450 peo­ple is down to just 51. They can­not en­ter the pad­dock, and pad­dock staff are not per­mit­ted to en­ter the me­dia area. In to­tal there will be 5,000 peo­ple in­side the bub­ble.

Like the Premier League’s “canned noise”, the at­mos­phere is likely to be a pale im­i­ta­tion of the real thing – but needs must. And with eight weeks to get the two races on, or­gan­is­ers and F1’s pow­ers-that-be are to be com­mended.

One thing, at least, is un­likely to feel too dif­fer­ent. Hamil­ton has won ev­ery race here bar one since 2014. Covid or not, this is still very much his era, even if he ad­mits it will feel a bit strange. “Nor­mally you’re so aware of the fans,” Hamil­ton said yes­ter­day. “Not see­ing any flags… it is def­i­nitely go­ing to be a lonely week­end on this track with­out their en­ergy.”

Start­ing out: Tens of thou­sands of fans strug­gled to reach Sil­ver­stone for the 1950 Bri­tish Grand Prix, the first ever World Cham­pi­onship Formula One race

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