- World champion practised new grid procedures
- Valtteri Bottas ran similar test on Tuesday
Giles Richards – The Guardian
Lewis Hamilton takes to the wheel of the 2018 Mercedes W09 on day two of the team’s testing at Silverstone. Photograph: Steve Etherington/Daimler AG
Lewis Hamilton successfully returned to driving after completing a test at Silverstone on Wednesday, with the British driver saying it had been “just great to get back in the car”.
With Formula One set to begin its season in Austria on 5 July, the world champion and Mercedes took the opportunity to put some miles on the clock and, crucially, for the team to practise implementing the new procedures they have to employ at race meetings under coronavirus restrictions.
Hamilton has not driven since the second test of the season at Barcelona in February. Before that his last competitive outing was at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December 2019. Using the current season’s cars is banned under regulations so Hamilton took to the track using the Mercedes W09 from 2018, a car with which he won the world championship. With the season starting with an intense programme of three races in succession, putting in time behind the wheel in advance was seen as essential.
Hamilton completed a substantial period of running in wet and dry conditions and pronounced himself very satisfied with the results.
“When you leave the garage the first time, you get this buzz, and it doesn’t matter how many years you do it, it always feels new and fresh,” he said. “Obviously this is an older car, but it still felt fantastic. We got through a solid programme today.
“I didn’t feel like I’ve ever left the water, so that’s a positive. Every time you take a big break – I think it’s been 103 days or something – you always wonder whether you can still drive. So it’s a good feeling to know of course I can, I’m ready, I feel fit.”
Mercedes ran a similar test for Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, on Tuesday and applied their new operating protocols across both days. F1 is intending to run each race as a closed biosphere and teams are expected to commit to minimising risks.
The Mercedes crew operated wearing face masks, and in some cases full facial protection for team members who had to operate in proximity to drivers – such as when they are being strapped into the car. All team members were practising physical distancing and were tested for coronavirus before they got to the circuit. All returned negative results and Hamilton wore a face mask when he was not in the car.
The team implemented a range of procedures including a full grid-start simulation. When racing resumes the starting-grid process will involve a far more limited number of personnel than is usual.
Ferrari are expected to run a similar programme at their test track in Fiorano. The F1 season opens with races in Austria on 5 and 12 July before a third in Budapest on 19 July, all held behind closed doors. Subject to the sport being granted exemption from the government’s 14-day quarantine restriction, Silverstone will then host races on 2 August and 9 August.