F1: Lewis Hamilton on 'empty' racing without fans, and a 'part-sabbatical'
"I'm excited to get back in. I really do miss it": Hamilton speaks about F1 2020 returning, considering taking a year away, and more
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 10/05/20 11:02am
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that racing without fans in attendance will leave him feeling "empty" - but says Formula 1's enforced hiatus has given him even more motivation to perform once the sport returns.
In his first interview since F1 2020 was delayed, a "healthy and fresh" Hamilton also revealed that he is trying to make the most of the "part-sabbatical", having considered taking a year off in the past.
Although the first 10 races of the planned calendar have been called off, the sport hopes to start a potentially 18-race season with back-to-back races in Austria at the start of July, before heading to Silverstone.
Both of those Grands Prix, however, as well as the race in Hungary, will take place behind closed doors if they go ahead.
"It gave me a really empty feeling," Hamilton, F1's six-time world champion, said of hearing the news. "The fans really make the race.
"Around the world, all the races we go to, the more fans there, the more atmosphere. That's what you have at places like Silverstone, Monza... so it's going to be very empty."
He added: "It's going to be like a test day for us, probably worse than a test day... there's not a huge amount of people in Barcelona who come to watch but there are still some.
"Here there's going to be no one in the crowd and you're just going to see empty seats as you're driving down. But racing is racing."
However, Hamilton is also seeing the positives of potentially returning to action.
"I'm getting messages from people around the world who are struggling during this period because they're not getting to watch sports.
"And it just shows you how significant sport is in people's eyes. It brings us all together and it's so exciting and captivating. It's going to be better than nothing.
"I don't think any of us have really had time to truly unleash the potential of our cars so I'm excited to get back in. I really really do miss it."
Speaking about the lack of F1, Hamilton continued: "It's almost a blessing on one side because it gives you even more appreciation for the things that you love and the things that you do.
"This has given me more energy, inspiration, and determination to keep delivering and keep working with this great team. I'm excited for the future."
Hamilton considered year away from F1
In the interview on Mercedes' YouTube channel, Hamilton said he had recently thought about taking a year away from F1 but that it was "never a good thing" for an "athlete in their prime" to leave.
"I'm a workaholic and I love that challenge [of a season]," Hamilton said. "I miss seeing my team, my friends, as everyone does.
"There have been times in the past five years that I have thought that it would be good for my mind and my body to take a rest for a year, but I don't think [for] an athlete in their prime it is ever a good thing to step away for a year and then come back.
"Technology moves so fast and at such a rate, you need to stay on top of this car. To take a sabbatical is just not on the cards.
"But we've been handed a part-sabbatical, which I'm enjoying. I feel fresher and healthier than I've ever been."
A 'shock to the system' in Australia
Hamilton also explained how the late cancellation of the season's opener in Australia was a "shock to the system".
The race was set to go ahead as of Thursday - when Hamilton spoke out against it - but was cancelled hours before practice was due to start.
"It really was a shock to the system," the Mercedes driver added. "Obviously on that Thursday, I commented my opinion on whether or not we should have been there, but then to wake up the next day - honestly with excitement that I'm going to be getting in the car - and then to hear that we're not going to be going to the track, it was very surreal.
"This is my 14th season, I know how to get straight into the zone every year, be there and ready for that first race so that we start off better than ever. Each year, you're refining it to start off on the right foot... and then we didn't get to race.
"It was definitely a difficult few days.
"To have something that you love so much... it's not been taken away from you, but it's not happening at the moment. I miss driving, but you have to look at the positives."