Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is worried allowing a full crowd at the British Grand Prix may be “a bit premature” and suggested he is uncomfortable using fans as a “test”.
British GP host Silverstone has been given permission to host an unlimited number of spectators in what will be the country’s largest single gathering since the first national lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Fans will have to either have been fully vaccinated or pass a lateral flow test to gain entry.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton said he is “kind of split” because while the “selfish part of me wants to see all the people there” he is worried about the risk associated with it.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to see people and to see the British crowds because it is the best crowd of the whole year,” he said.
“[But] I watch the news so I hear about the cases going up massively in the UK. So, on that side, I worry for people.”
The UK’s seven-day average for positive COVID cases has risen from just over 2,000 when restrictions were recently eased on May 17 to just over 11,000 as of Thursday this week.
It is due to exit lockdown entirely the day after the British GP.
“Look, I don’t want to turn it into a negative,” Hamilton stressed. “As I said, I am excited to see so many people.
“But I turned on the news this morning, and I have been watching it these past days, and I know that UK rates have increased since people are loosening up a little bit and not everyone is vaccinated.
“So, I do worry about people. But I read that the vaccination is good for less people being in hospital.
“I don’t know, it feels a bit premature to me. But it’s not my choice if people go there.
“I hope we learn something from it, and I hope everyone just stays safe, keeps their mask on.
“That’s what I would encourage everyone, to just continue to wash their hands, continue to wear your masks. Particularly when you’re in those big crowds.”
Hamilton was initially unaware that fans would have to satisfy either the vaccine or lateral flow requirement when he made these initial comments.
He said that was “great” but added: “I don’t know if that covers everything. Hopefully it does.”
And asked by The Race if the knowledge of that requirement for fans changed the concerns he initially outlined, Hamilton replied: “No. No.
“It’s been great that we’ve had people even in the last race and I’ve not heard any negative things come from the last race.
“But I like to err on the side of caution and rebuild up rather than go full pelt.
“And using our British fans as a test then…yeah.”
Fellow British driver George Russell was more positive about the news saying “it’s great we’re doing this”.
“I’ve been told you can fit fifty Wembley Stadiums inside of Silverstone,” Russell added.
“So it’s a big open space, open-air, lots of room to move around.
“I think it’s great that Silverstone have worked together with the government and we will have a good show on our hands for everyone.”
While this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix has a limited capacity crowd of 15,000, the Austrian Grand Prix on the following Sunday will have a full capacity crowd.
Championship leader Max Verstappen was delighted to learn that two successive F1 races would have a full crowd.
“Simply lovely,” was Verstappen’s reaction to the news.
“It’s going to be already pretty crazy here at the second weekend, but then of course, to have a full crowd in Silverstone , it’s what you want, that’s what creates the atmosphere and what makes F1 special.”
His Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez also welcomed the news having seen fans at the French Grand Prix.
“I think it’s great and it really shows that we are advancing with the vaccination programmes, obviously every country differently,” Perez added.
“It’s always down to the governments for the rules but it’s great. We had some fans in France and it was something amazing to get to see some fans in the grandstands.
“It makes you feel very special that things are slowly coming back to normality and definitely as a sport we need a lot the fans.”