F1 stars back in the fast lane amid pandemic
The Red Bull Ring in Austria's countryside of Spielberg, will host the delayed season-opener
After more than a 100 days, the sound of a Formula One engine will be music to the ears of petrolheads around the world. After more than a 100 days, there cannot be an even better sight than that of a Formula One car hurtling past in a blink of an eye.
Yes, after more than a 100 days, Formula One will restart its engines after a season gone haywire, this weekend.
Originally set to begin in March in Melbourne, Australia, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the pinnacle of motorsport, like every other sport around the world, down on its knees.
Following that embarrassing exercise Down Under where the F1 bandwagon tried to go ahead with the season-opener without comprehending the effect of the pandemic, better sense finally prevailed.
After a McLaren employee tested positive and the Woking-based marquee withdrew, F1 bosses and the teams held a meeting and decided to call off the race before a wheel had turned at the street circuit in Albert Park.
And after a lull which has seen races fall off the calendar like ninepins, F1, under former Ferrari mastermind Ross Brawn, has put together an initial calendar of eight races starting with a double-header in Austria.
The Red Bull Ring in Austria's countryside of Spielberg, will host the first of the double headers from Friday as British icon Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes begins his quest to equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven world championship titles.
And in keeping with the new reality and a new normal, F1 will be operating in a 'bubble' within a 'bubble.'
First up, there will be no spectators with racing to be held behind closed doors. The 10 teams will have a limited number of staff, down from the usual 130 to 80.
The teams flew into Austria on charter planes and remained isolated in their hotels, with no mixing with other rival teams, wearing masks and maintaining appropriate social distancing.
There will be temperature and symptom screening checks every five days. There will be remote briefings, no motorhomes, limited personnel at the starting grid and new podium protocols.
All the teams have backup staff on standby, tested and ready to step in if needed.
After this weekend, Spielberg will host the second round from July 10-12, with Hungary the venue for the third round. Britain's Silverstone will host two races thereafter with Spain, Belgium's famed Spa-Francorchamps, and Monza - Ferrari's fortress, pencilled in, for now.
The remaining races of the season will be announced later.
The teams and the drivers will be sort of treading into the unknown after months of being in lockdown and pre-season at the Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona in February, seeming like it happened in another world.
Some of the drivers kept themselves busy by indulging in virtual racing and fitness, while some enjoyed the unexpected downtime in their farmhouses, with their families, after living out of a suitcase most of the time.
But now, the racing driver in them will be itching to race.
So, it light's out and we are ready to go!
TIME TABLE (UAE Time):
Practice 1, 1 p.m to 2.30 p.m
Practice 2, 5 p.m to 6.30 p.m
Practice 3, 2 p.m to 3 p.m
Qualifying, 5 p.m to 6 p.m
Race, 5.10 pm to 7.10 p.m
THE REVISED CALENDAR:
July 5: Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg)
July 12: Styrian Grand Prix (Spielberg)
July 19: Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest)
August 2: British Grand Prix (Silverstone)
August 9: 70th Anniversary Grand Prix (Silverstone)
August 16: Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona)
August 30: Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps)
September 6: Italian Grand Prix (Monza)
September-November: Eurasia (Russia), Asia (Vietnam and China) and Americas (Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil)
December: Middle East (Bahrain and Abu Dhabi)
Australia, Monaco, France, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Japan
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