Doubleheaders, no crowds, no handshakes, no trophy presentation, no razzmatazz. But strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) that doesn’t matter. What matters is that racing at the highest level has returned in the face of great adversity and enormous upheaval.
And what a return it has been. The entire F1 circus descended on the Red Bull Ring for the much delayed season opener and, although there were no spectators in the stands to witness it, the race lived up to the very best moments of Formula 1 drama. As Bottas, Hamilton and Norris stood on the (socially distanced) podium, the dust was settling on a “proper” F1 race showing that at the very least none of the drivers had lost any of their skills or drive during the enforced layoff.
But the real question is when will fans be back in the stands. As much as it’s enjoyable to watch the action from the comfort of your sofa, nothing replaces the thrill of seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling the world’s premier motorsport championship up close. Tickets are on sale for the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi in September, but the rest of 2020’s events currently seem set to be taking place behind closed doors.
With the 2021 calendar still to be confirmed, and the future course of the COVID-19 outbreak still so unpredictable we’re not going to bet the farm on any particular round of the 2021 F1 being open to the public, but the important thing is we are moving towards the public being readmitted. With every race that happens behind closed doors, we are one race closer the day fans are back in the grandstands.