Global sport continues its tentative return to the surface after the coronavirus lockdown at the weekend when the Formula 1 season finally gets under way, albeit in a disrupted and reduced form to what fans had looked forward to back in the winter.
This was supposed to have been a record-breaking season for the sport with 22 races taking place globally across 2020. What we will have instead is a pared down, bare bones version with just eight events being held at select venues around Europe.
There's still hope for F1 fans spread further afield with a number of venues still possibly hosting races later in the year. Vietnam, Bahrain and Canada are amongst the countries that may yet see action in 2020, though at this stage everything is largely dependent on the public health situation and the success of the races coming up in July and August.
We've taken a look at what fans can expect when things finally get back under way at the weekend.
Things kick off with a double bill in Vienna with the Austrian Grand Prix and the Steiermark Grand Prix taking place between 3 - 12 July, before the action moves on to Budapest and the Hungarian Grand Prix from 17 - 19 July.
Next up is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone from 31 July - 2 August before the track also hosts a 70th Anniversary Grand Prix the following weekend.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) at Silverstone
Image credit: Getty Images
The Spanish Grand Prix will run from 14 - 16 August at the Circuit de Catalunya, followed by the Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa Francorchamps the following week and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza marking the end of the firm schedule from 4 - 6 September.
Also yet to be confirmed but of which fans and organisers remain hopeful of seeing are events in Canada, Vietnam, Bahrain and China. The races in Azerbaijan, Australia, Monaco, France, the Netherlands, Singapore and Japan have all been cancelled.
Ferrari plan to isolate Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s respective teams so as to ensure the team doesn’t have a situation where both test positively for cornavirus.
Teams are not permitted to interact with one another, with the public excluded from attending circuits and all paddock members will be made to undergo regular Covid-19 testing.
F1 chiefs have made it clear to the teams that should anyone test positive, all the mechanics working on that car, and the driver, will be removed from action until they are able to provide a negative test.
It’s hoped fans will be able to attend races later in the year if the situation globally permits, but all depends on the changing state of information on the ground with local authorities dictating safety principals.
The situation remains fluid around the world and F1 will continue to maintain dialogue with promoters and authorities. If there is a need to adapt the calendar, F1 has the contingencies in place – such as other venues willing to host events – to do so.
Teams and drivers
Several teams will be looking to move up from the middle of the leaderboard and take on the leading three teams this year, not least of all Renault who fell back a place to a disappointing fifth last season but whom have looked good in testing with their new R.S. 20. Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon will be at the wheel again and will be hoping to haul the team back above McLaren and up into the leading pack.
Max Verstappen and Red Bull will be looking to seize their moment and emerge early on as championship leaders. Results in testing would indicate their car certainly has the speed, but may not be the most reliable. But Verstappen and his teammate Alex Albon have the ability to trump Ferrari and cause serious problems for champions Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton will be aiming for a record-equalling seventh drivers’ title and is likely to be the season favourite just narrowly ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Verstappen. That being said, last season's champion admitted that there will be more on his mind than just points when the season gets under way.
“I’m racing for all of you out there who may feel that you don’t have a voice,” said Hamilton in reference to the recent anti-racism protests.
“In the world, in the society that we live in, I think making it as a young black kid from a council estate in Stevenage, making it to F1 through the tiniest window of opportunity — that’s a very, very important part of my journey and then staying there and continuing to deliver against adversity.”
Asked where F1 should race, he added: “Africa. It’s such an important place to go back. At the moment, F1 goes to countries and doesn’t really leave much behind, if anything. Formula 1 has to shift into being a sport that does go to places and leaves behind something that can really help the communities.”