Hamilton: Aust GP confusion 'surreal'

Agencies
Lewis Hamilton says the idea of racing with no crowds "gave me a really empty feeling"

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton admits the confusion of whether the Australian Grand Prix should have gone ahead was a huge "shock to the system".

The British driver was praised for publicly questioning whether the season-opening race in Melbourne should take place on March 15 in light of the spreading coronavirus.

It was eventually cancelled, but only two days beforehand and with fans still queuing up.

Hamilton had used the first official news conference with F1 drivers to say he was shocked that organisers planned to proceed with the race, which attracts more than 300,000 people over four days.

McLaren withdrew even before the cancellation after a team member tested positive for Covid-19.

Hamilton's team Mercedes wrote to governing body FIA and F1 requesting the cancellation and began preparations to leave before the decision was announced.

"It really, really was a shock to the system," Hamilton said in a video interview published by his Mercedes team.

"Obviously on that Thursday, I had commented my opinion of whether or not we should have been there.

"Then to wake up the next day, honestly, with the excitement that I'm going to be getting inside the car ... and then to hear that we're not going to be going to the track. It was very, very surreal."

The six-times champion added the prospect of a home British Grand Prix without spectators leaves him empty inside but he is still raring to get going after months of waiting.

None of the drivers have raced since December, with the season stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are plans to start up behind closed doors in Austria and then Silverstone in July.

"It gave me a really empty feeling, because the fans really make that race," Hamilton -- a record six-times winner on home soil.

"Around the world, the more fans there the more atmosphere you have, that's why you have places like Silverstone and Monza. So it's going to be very empty.

"I don't know how exciting it's going to be for people watching on TV but it's going to be better than nothing.

"For us it's going to be like a test day, probably even worse than a test day in the sense that at a test day there's not a huge amount of people in Barcelona that come to watch but there are still some."

Reflecting on his own lockdown, the 35-year-old driver added: "I'm excited to get back in, I really do miss it. This has been almost a blessing on one side because it gives you more appreciation for the things that you love and do.

"This has given me more energy and inspiration and determination to keep delivering and keep working with this great team."