Formula 1’s delayed 2020 season is finally set to begin from Friday in Austria – with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the grid’s two most successful drivers, braced for a number of new challenges.
Seven months after the 2019 campaign concluded – and more than 100 days after the scheduled start to the new one in Australia was abandoned – the sport will reconvene in Austria for the first of two races at the Red Bull Ring – and eight rounds in 10 weeks through the summer.
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With a shortened but condensed calendar ultimately set to run until December, and extensive health and safety protocols in place at GP venues, the nature of the 2020 season will clearly be different to what was originally expected back at the start of the year.
“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that Formula 1 and all of us has experienced,” said six-time champion Hamilton in a Mercedes video this week.
“With the difficult times that we’re facing and the changes that we have to make in order to operate.”
Hamilton is one of a number of drivers to have returned to the track in recent weeks, with teams having tested either using old or current cars to run through F1’s new COVID-19 protocols.
Perennial rival Sebastian Vettel is another to have tested, driving Ferrari’s 2018 car at Mugello, and the four-time champion is now eager to get back racing.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the car,” said Vettel in a Ferrari interview.
“We’ve been waiting now for quite a long time – and it has started to feel like a long time. Having a tease in Mugello was nice but getting back in the real car for the real thing is definitely what we are looking forward to. Going racing, competing with the others.
“Austria is a place that I like and a circuit that I like so it’s good to know that we are finally allowed to get back.”
Racing at the same track on consecutive weekends will be a first for F1, and Vettel – whose Ferrari team are yet to win in Austria since it returned to the calendar in 2014 – says the back-to-back will reduce the room for mistakes.
“I have no experience heading back to the same track just a week after and having a second race, but I’ve been around for a while,” said Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season.
“I guess the level of perfection will be even higher the second weekend, the level of errors will be even smaller.
“I think there will be a chance to look at the race in particular, review the strategy and we get another chance just seven days after, so that’s a first, and we’ll see how we tackle that challenge.”
Sky F1’s Austrian GP schedule
Friday, July 3
8.30am: F3 Practice LIVE!
9.30am: Welcome To The Weekend LIVE!
10am: Austrian GP Practice One LIVE!
11.50am: F2 Practice LIVE!
1pm: F3 Qualifying LIVE!
1.45pm: Austrian GP Practice Two build-up LIVE!
2pm: Austrian GP Practice Two LIVE!
3.55pm: F2 Qualifying LIVE!
4.30pm: Austrian GP: The Story So Far LIVE!
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