Lewis Hamilton says he is excited about the return of fans to the British GP but has concerns about the rise of Covid-19 cases in the UK.
Silverstone have confirmed they have been granted permission to run the July 16-18 event at full capacity after it was added to the latest phase of the Government’s Event Research Programme.
140,000 fans are set to attend the Sunday race day, while there could be even more fans in attendance earlier in the weekend than normal due to the new F1 format that debuts at Silverstone. Qualifying is taking place on Friday, with the new Sprint Qualifying short race on Saturday.
Hamilton, a record seven-time winner of the British GP, said he is looking forward to seeing the home crowd again after last year’s race took place behind closed doors, but admitted he felt conflicted about the news.
“I’m kind of split,” said Hamilton in Thursday’s pre-event press conference at the Styrian GP.
“One, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see people and the British crowd because it is the best crowd of the whole year. Last year we didn’t have them, so to be able to see them and feel the energy that they bring into a weekend.
“On the second, obviously I watch the news so I hear about the cases going up massively in the UK. So on that side I worry for people, naturally.”
Hamilton made clear he did not want to “turn it into a negative” about the announcement and urged fans who attend the showpiece event to remain vigilant.
“I read that the vaccination is good for there is less people being in hospital but, I don’t know, it feels a bit premature to me [to have a full crowd],” he added. “But people go there, I hope we learn something from it, and I hope everyone stays safe.”
On Thursday, the UK reported 16,703 new Covid-19 cases and 21 coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, according to government data.
Silverstone explain why full crowds possible
'We were going to go bust, simple as that.'
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) June 24, 2021
After months of discussions with the government, Formula 1 and Public Health Northamptonshire, Silverstone have welcomed being given the green light to run at capacity with stringent measures in place.
Ticket holders will be asked for either proof of a negative lateral flow test, taken within 48 hours of arrival at Silverstone, or proof of full vaccination, provided the second dose was received at least 14 days prior to attending the event.
Silverstone is the largest sporting venue in the UK with and the July 16-18 event will now be the biggest ticketed event since the first lockdown in March 2020.
“What is often our Achilles’ heel, a lack of railways, tube trains or buses, is actually on this occasion a benefit,” Stuart Pringle, Silverstone’s managing director, told Sky Sports News.
The single biggest ticketed sporting event since the start of the pandemic.@craigslatersky reports on the news that Silverstone will operate at a full capacity for the #BritishGP 🇬🇧#SkyF1 | #F1 pic.twitter.com/vRcs3TO6yI
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) June 24, 2021
“So, there is no public transport, that’s a huge area of concern for city-centre sport. We don’t have those concourses that you get in a stadium. Yes, we have got the seating capacity here about the same as Old Trafford, but our 75,000 seats are spread around 3.5 miles.
“We have got a 5.5-mile perimeter that’s accessed by 19 separate gates, so people genuinely are coming in from huge areas. It’s simply not the same as a tight city-centre sporting event. So that has worked in our favour.
Silverstone’s stark reality: ‘We were going to go bust’
Speaking with emotion about the green light to run at capacity, Pringle told Craig Slater: “I’m both pleased and I can say personally very, very relieved.
“It was a real concern when lockdown was entirely understandably extended for an extra month, but to finish on Monday 19th July when we have got to deliver the British GP on Sunday 18th July has caused a few sleepless nights.
“But by working with the government and Formula 1, and we have a fantastic relationship with the director of Public Health here locally in Northamptonshire, we have managed to find a way where actually this 550-acre site in the countryside can safely host this great sporting event, so we are delighted.”
Pringle laid out starkly the consequences had Silverstone, the recognised home of British motorsport, again been unable to welcome a large crowd for 2021.
“We were going to go bust. Simple as that,” he said.
“We have been sustained by the fans. We owe everything to the fans this last year. They have left their ticket money with us, they have bought tickets, they have supported Silverstone.
“I can’t thank them enough.”