Given the current situation the world finds itself in, one could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps it is too soon for international sport to return. With so many countries still facing agonising lockdowns and surges in positive tests and possible second-waves, cheering on your favourite sporting team does seem a little inconsiderate.
But watching Formula One this weekend, seeing the paddock in the build-up to today’s Austrian Grand Prix, motorsport can hold its head high with dignity, positivity and knowledge it has set a shining example for others to follow. And not just in relation to coronavirus.
Having waited over 100 days since the aborted Australian Grand Prix back in March, Formula One set about how to return in as safe of a way as possible. And after apparently 4000 tests since Thursday, there have been zero postive results and a weekend of great racing.
Although the upcoming grands prix are held behind closed doors with absolutely no fans allowed into any part of the circuit, the spectacle of 20 cars from 10 teams thrashing it out on a strip of tarmac did not disappoint. The strict rules of face masks, distancing, hand hygiene, reduced personnel, bubbles and segregation seem to have worked thus far and aside from Lando Norris embracing his boss Zak Brown after claiming his maiden podium, the sport has declared it is possible to entertain the world while maintaining safety.
It was a quiet joy of mine to not have the racing interrupted by pointless and irrelevant celebrities demanding to be interviewed, and I’m sure the driver’s reduced activities have come as a welcome by themselves and their teams.
How well Formula One is able to maintain this is still uncertain. The circus remains in Austria this week as we have a second Austrian Grand Prix at the weekend, and the bubbles will surely need to go outside in what little downtime they have. And then comes the biggest test as they have to uproot themselves to Hungary for the weekend after.
And to add pressure to the already isolated conditions, it is highly unlikely the UK-based teams will be able to return home any time prior to the first British Grand Prix as the races come thick-and-fast and the less they all travel the safer it will be.
But for the joy of watching Charles Leclerc come back from his terrible qualifying, to seeing Lando Norris pounce on the opportunity of a penalised Hamilton to claim his first podium (and fastest lap). To wondering what would have been had Max Verstappen’s car not failed to shouting nooo as Alex Albon pirouetted his Red Bull after receiving a clout from the six-times world champion.
With thunderstorms predicted for sometime over the course of next weekend, the Styrian Grand Prix could be a very different affair, and not just in name. If Formula One can keep up its strict protocols and policies then the sport is set for a season of close racing. Well, behind the Mercedes duo any way.
The photo at the top, credited to Getty Images, clearly shows Norris’s mask has slipped down during his podium celebrations, something I think we are all getting used to at the moment. Sky Sport’s and legendary pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz explains what Formula One has done to make it as safe as possible. Even going so far as ushering Norris away during his broadcast.