Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes end first day back in impressive form in Austrian Grand Prix practice

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Luke Slater
·22 min read
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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, Friday, July 3, 2020. The Austrian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday - AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, Friday, July 3, 2020. The Austrian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday - AP Photo/Darko Bandic

02:43 PM

F1 is back and... I quite enjoyed that

Again, not too much to be read into the order. Plenty of teams will be holding back, but Mercedes look quite strong. That is not surprising — they are going for their seventh double championship in a row, after all. It's final practice and qualifying tomorrow, and I'll be back on the blog for the latter of those two. In about 24 hours' time we will know where things stand a little more, at least. Thanks for joining me. 

02:33 PM

SESSION ENDS

FP2 is over. No changes from the below classification. Everyone did a decent amount of laps. The fewest of anyone was Daniil Kvyat's 33. The most was Pierre Gasly's 51. Mercedes will be happy with that. Racing Point also. Not sure about anyone else.

02:27 PM

Into the final five minutes of FP2

And here's the order. Which is unlikely to change.

  1. HAM

  2. BOT

  3. PER

  4. VET

  5. RIC

  6. NOR

  7. STR

  8. VER

  9. LEC

  10. SAI

  11. OCO

  12. KVY

  13. AKB

  14. GIO

  15. AMG

  16. GRO

  17. GAS

  18. RUS

  19. RAI

  20. LAT

02:24 PM

Perez gets some good news from his race engineer

On his race simulation. He's two tenths quicker than team-mate stroll and matching Verstappen. Very encouraging. 

02:21 PM

Vettel still going well on lap 20 of a set of hard tyres

21 now, actually. Seems their pace has been decent, though. Certainly not terrible. Bottas comes into the pits after complaining about his gear changes. That'll be his running for the day done. He's done a healthy 37 laps in this session. 

02:15 PM

Christian Horner going with the "we've got some good data" line

He could be right. Saying their times are not really representative. That's fairly easy to believe. Mentions front wing damage they've picked up at turn six, which is where Carlos Sainz did himself a mischief. 

02:13 PM

Now it's Albon's turn to spin at turn one

Even if they are holding it back, Red Bull are having a scrappy day. The rear end being lost on exit A LOT today. 

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5 - DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5 - DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

02:09 PM

A little over 20 minutes of FP2 left

Current observations after nearly three hours of running in 2020...

  • Mercedes looking the business in every way

  • Red Bull — where are they? A mystery at the moment, I feel they are going to great lengths not to show their hand

  • Ferrari are in trouble, but just how much?

  • Racing Point look the class of the midfield

  • Williams do not look in as much trouble as they were last year

02:03 PM

Yellow flags out...

It's Max Verstappen who has had another off at the middle of the lap. It's been a scruffy day for him so far, pushing for and finding the limits. He manages to find the perimeter road around the gravel trap that he had just been through. 

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01:57 PM

Only 10 laps for Max Verstappen

Fewest of anyone bar Ricciardo in this session. Their performance is a bit baffling at the moment, though best not to look too far into it at the moment. 

01:54 PM

Carlos Sainz runs wide and does a number on his front wing

At a time when resource is severely limited (with three races in three weeks) and spare parts not easy to get out, that's not great for McLaren. It is a circuit where this happens a lot, although they have removed some of the more severe kerbs on the outside at the end of the lap.

01:51 PM

Full classification so far, around half-way through

  1. HAM 1.04.304

  2. BOT +0.197

  3. PER +0.641

  4. VET +0.657

  5. RIC +0.668

  6. STR +0.831

  7. VER +0.911

  8. LEC +0.994

  9. OCO +1.111

  10. KVY +1.139

  11. ALB +1.149

  12. GIO +1.304

  13. MAG +1.374

  14. SAI +1.560

  15. NOR +1.565

  16. GRO +1.604

  17. GAS +1.712

  18. RUS +1.821

  19. RAI +1.974

  20. LAT +2.820

This is with the quick, qualifying simulations, having been done. Time for the high fuel runs.  

01:43 PM

Hamilton is on a hot lap

On brand spanking new fresh soft tyres. He's quickest in S1, a tad up in S2. Can he top the standings at the end of the lap? Yes, by two tenths! That was a handy final sector. 

01:41 PM

It's too early to tell now

But I would be very surprised if Williams are half as bad as they were last year. I think they could still be the slowest team here but it does not look guaranteed to be so. 

George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria - Getty Images/Bryn Lennon
George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria - Getty Images/Bryn Lennon

01:38 PM

Top 10 after 1'7" of FP2

  1. BOT

  2. PER

  3. VET

  4. HAM (medium tyres)

  5. STR

  6. LEC

  7. VER

  8. GIO

  9. ALB

  10. RIC (M)

Everyone on the softs apart from Hamilton and Ricciardo, on the mediums.  Raikkonen has a diversion into the kitty litter but escapes any real danger. 

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01:36 PM

Now Bottas is flying and he goes top

With a 1.04.5... he was giving it everything on that lap. Well, a lot anyway. Vettel follows him over the line on the same compound tyres and is nearly half a second down, just behind Perez. Is the Racing Point quicker than the Ferrari here?

Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5 - LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5 - LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

 It looks in the same ball park/race track/cricket pitch/dart board. 

01:34 PM

Daniel Ricciardo on a first hot lap

No running in the first 30 minutes for him. It's a decent effort first up on the medium tyres, P7 eight tenths off new leader Perez, who set his 1.04.945 on the soft tyres. 

01:32 PM

Hamilton using DAS again in the middle of a lap

Could it be a device primarily for tyre warm-up? He did it in the middle of a quick lap, so I don't think it'll be just for that. He's now top with a 1.05.095 — nearly three tenths ahead of Verstappen. 

01:28 PM

Hamilton's first timed lap puts him P11

0.750s off the pace. Suspect this is a long, run, though. Or at least a high fuel one. 

01:25 PM

I get the feeling that Red Bull are keeping ALL of their cards close to their chest

About their true pace, about whether they are going to protest Mercedes' DAS system and whether they have a version they are hoping to use themselves. Meanwhile, Hamilton takes to the track for the first time in the session. 

01:22 PM

Top 10 and times - Verstappen now quickest on a set of medium tyres

  1. VER 1.05.379 - Medium tyres

  2. STR +0.090 M

  3. BOT +0.155 M

  4. PER +0.268 M

  5. ALB +0.404 M

  6. NOR +0.490 M

  7. SAI +0.496 Hard

  8. GAS +0.637 H

  9. LEC +0.696 H

  10. KVY +0.708 H

01:20 PM

Quite a few spinners out there

Kvyat locks up and spins as well. Verstappen currently in third after five laps, two tenths off Stroll. 

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01:17 PM

Sebastian Vettel circulating on the hard tyres

He goes P12 with a 1.06.920, eight tenths off leader Lance Stroll. The Racing Points were looking quite handy in testing, will they be best-of-the-rest at the start of the year? Imagine if they were genuinely quicker than Ferrari...

01:15 PM

Some interesting chat from Christian Horner about Mercedes' DAS system

Which they used in FP1. He says it's best to get any protest and discussion out of the way early on rather than waiting for qualifying or the race to be done before launching a protest. David Croft on Sky Sports F1 keeps trying to get Red Bull to admit that they have their own version of DAS, but Horner is having precisely none of it.

Meanwhile, rookie Latifi has a spin. No damage, though, as he stays out of the barriers. 

01:12 PM

Right, quite a few times already done in the first 10 or so minutes

So here's a quick running order so far...

  1. STR

  2. PER

  3. NOR

  4. SAI

  5. KVY

  6. GIO

  7. RAI

  8. MAG

  9. GAS

  10. LEC

  11. VET

  12. GRO

  13. RUS

  14. LAT

  15. ALB

  16. BOT

01:03 PM

Romain Grosjean wastes no time

He only did four laps (none of them timed), so it's not a surprise to see him out there. He'll want to do a good chunk of laps in this first 30 minutes to get up to speed. 

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01:00 PM

FP2 is go!

We're underway. No cars out yet, though. 

12:50 PM

Sainz gets a bit excited...

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 Who can blame him?

12:45 PM

And we are back!

Looking forward to some more action in this 90 minute session where, hopefully, we will get more of an indication on the overall order of things. FP1 didn't tell us that much, other than Mercedes look strong. But we knew that already, really. 

Austrian Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria - July 3, 2020 Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during practice, as F1 resumes following the outbreak of the coronavirus diseas - Joe Klamar/Pool via REUTERS Image title: MOTOR-F1-AUSTRIA
Austrian Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria - July 3, 2020 Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during practice, as F1 resumes following the outbreak of the coronavirus diseas - Joe Klamar/Pool via REUTERS Image title: MOTOR-F1-AUSTRIA

10:43 AM

Thanks for joining me

I'll be back a little before 2pm for second practice, where we should get a bit more idea into how things stand. 

10:37 AM

FP1 - Classificiation

  1. HAM 1.04.816 

  2. BOT +0.356

  3. VER +0.602

  4. SAI +0.615

  5. PER +0.696

  6. NOR +0.805

  7. ALB +0.885

  8. RIC +1.044

  9. MAG +1.091

  10. LEC +1.108

  11. STR +1.258

  12. VET +1.261

  13. OCO +1.454

  14. GIO +1.544

  15. RAI +1.549

  16. GAS +1.588

  17. RUS +1.679

  18. LAT +2.090

  19. KVY +2.127

  20. GRO (no time set)

Hamilton not just quickest, but doing the most laps, too, with 42 to his name. Most drivers did between 24-40, with only Grosjean in single figures and Kvyat not past the teens. Ominous? No, not quite but very encouraging for Mercedes. Ferrari didn't do any proper running on the soft tyres, in case you were wondering why they are so far down. 

10:31 AM

FP1 ENDS

Hamilton quickest, Bottas second, Verstappen third. Have we learned much that we didn't know from testing. Not really...

10:31 AM

Grosjean is going to get out for another lap

He'll have to jump back into the pit lane straight away, though. But he's out again at least, with that brake issue apparently resolved. 

10:27 AM

Here's that Russell/Gasly moment in more detail

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10:23 AM

Decent running for most teams today

Apart from Haas, where Grosjean has completed just three (non-timed) laps and Alpha Tauri, where both drivers have yet to do more than 20 laps. Hamilton has done 33 and Sainz 36, for reference. Into the final 10 minutes of FP1...

10:21 AM

Another yellow flag

This time for an AlphaTauri spinning at the final turn and George Russell behind nearly getting involved. It did ruin his lap, though. He's currently down in P15, 1.8s off the pace. 

10:18 AM

Verstappen eventually gets it together and goes third

It's six-tenths away from Hamilton. A smidgen ahead of Sainz in the McLaren. 

10:16 AM

Verstappen has a bit of a spin

Not sure if he was on a hot lap, but he's ruined whatever lap he was on. Lost it on exit at turn one and did a 180. 

10:14 AM

Current classification - top 10

  1. HAM 1.04.816

  2. BOT +0.356

  3. SAI +0.615

  4. PER +0.696

  5. NOR +0.805

  6. ALB +0.885

  7. MAG +1.091

  8. LEC +1.108

  9. RIC +1.124

  10. STR +1.258

10:12 AM

22 minutes left in FP1

The first of the year. Mercedes leading the way, 1-2. We haven't seen much of the Red Bulls, though, who are running down in 12th (Albon) and 14th (Verstappen). Meanwhile, the Virtual Safety Car comes "out" to clear a bit of bodywork from the Renault that flew off on the pit straight. 

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10:02 AM

Hamilton sneaks into P1, two tenths quicker than Bottas

Five or six cars out there at the moment. We cannot work out much from the running so far, this being the first session of the season. Mercedes look unsurprisingly strong, though. 

Current order:

  1. HAM

  2. BOT

  3. PER

  4. NOR

  5. STR

  6. RIC

  7. SAI

  8. LEC

  9. VET

  10. ALB

  11. OCO

  12. VER

  13. LAT

  14. GAS

  15. KVY

  16. MAG

  17. GIO

  18. RAI

  19. RUS

  20. GRO

09:58 AM

Perez the first man into the 1.05s...

Bottas the second, as he leads the Racing Point by 0.287s. Currently Grosjean is the only man not to set a time with his brake trouble, which is being worked on in the Haas garage. 

09:56 AM

That is what you call a lock up

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09:55 AM

Stroll cuts across Sainz at the final turn

Not great. Sainz isn't happy about that. The quick double-right hander at the end of the lap isn't too spacious but he should be off the racing line, there, rather than ruining the laps of others'. 

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09:53 AM

Not much wrong with Perez's car in the end

He's just gone quickest of all, ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll by just 0.023s, with Ricciardo a further 0.001 and Sainz 0.004s further back. That's close. The Racing Points on the softest tyre, though. 

09:47 AM

The onboard engine sounds are a bit better this year

The Mercedes in particular sounds pretty rough and ready. Daniel Ricciardo giving it full beans on a hot lap but is approaching traffic towards the end of the lap. What does he do? 1.06.550, P6. Will it be deleted for a track limits, infringement?

09:41 AM

It's pretty busy out there at the moment, so here's an updated order

  1. HAM 1.06.547

  2. RIC +0.362

  3. SAI +0.473

  4. LEC +0.659

  5. VET +0.816

  6. BOT +1.031

  7. VER +1.137

  8. NOR +1.290

  9. RAI +1.719

  10. OCO +1.748

  11. MAG +2.048 

  12. ALB+3.403

  13. STR +9.490

Stroll had his lap deleted for exceeding track limits.  His second lap was in traffic, though. Hence the massive gap. 

09:39 AM

Sergio Perez with a few puffs of smoke out the back of his car

Not good news. He's back into the garage. The Mercedes teams had a few issues with power unit reliability in pre-season testing. 

Speaking of Mercs, Hamilton is now top, his third timed lap being into the 1.06s, nearly six-tenths ahead of Bottas. Leclerc's first timed lap is a 1.08.336 — we're getting a bit more proper running now, times changing and tumbling as we speak. 

09:33 AM

Hamilton sets his first timed lap

It's a 1.10.7, which he set on the hard tyres. He's spent a lot of that lap jinking around the back of an Alfa Romeo, for a bit of on-track action simulation, though. 

His second timed lap is 0.023s away from Bottas's quickest time. 

09:31 AM

A handful of drivers out on the intermediate tyres

Not sure it's wet enough for that. Meanwhole, Romain Grosjean has a problem with his brake pedal and ducks into the pits. No change in the timed laps at the moment, only three proper timed laps at the moment. 

09:29 AM

Mercedes are running their Dual Axis Steering system this weekend

Interesting. Perhaps could be a protest from one or more of the teams. Want to know more about the innovative Das? Then click here for the low-down one of the most interesting technical developments in F1 in recent years. 

09:22 AM

Cannot overstate how good the Mercedes Benz looks

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09:21 AM

Just the three cars to set a time so far

And here they are...

  1. BOT - 1.07.578

  2. NOR - 1.08.206

  3. SAI - 1.08.380

09:17 AM

Norris the first man to set a lap time

It's a 1.10.251.  That's swiftly beaten by Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes, who goes 1.3s quicker. McLaren one of the few teams who didn't get any running between testing and now. Norris then improves to a 1.08.206 on his next lap round, to go quickest. Bottas mentions a spot of rain...

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, Friday, July 3, 2020. The Austrian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday - Joe Klamar/Pool via AP
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, Friday, July 3, 2020. The Austrian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday - Joe Klamar/Pool via AP

09:13 AM

The customary lull

After all those install laps, the track is silent again. That is until Lando Norris goes out on track. Will we see a timed lap?

09:07 AM

Hamilton is out

In the new, black liveried Mercedes W11. Yeah. It does have a Batmobile feel about it. I love it. 

09:05 AM

Naturally these are all "installation" laps

So after a trundle around the Ring, they duck back into the pits without setting a lap time. 

09:02 AM

Sainz, Norris, Albon, Magnussen and Ricciardo

They are all out. As is the sun. Actually there's a gaggle of them around there now. 90 minutes to go. 

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09:00 AM

GREEN LIGHT! FP1 AND THE 2020 FORMULA ONE SEASON IS GO!

AHHHH. It feels good to say that. Extremely good. 

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08:57 AM

What's the weather like?

It's cloudy in the hills. Dry at the moment but the edges of the track will be a bit damp. Perhaps the first run will be on inters. Not sure yet. Anyway, we're less than five minutes away from the first proper running of the 2020 season and I am very giddy. 

08:53 AM

Who is likely to emerge on top at the end of practice today?

It is likely between Red Bull and Mercedes at the front. Ferrari struggled in pre-season testing, let us know that they struggled and have had to redesign their car significantly. It would be a huge surprise to see them within half a second of the pole time tomorrow, but teams do not often show their hand in practice. So don't be surprised if they are up there — or at least closer than that — today. 

Ferrari's mechanics practice a tire change on the car of Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc on July 2, 2020 - JOE KLAMAR/AFP
Ferrari's mechanics practice a tire change on the car of Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc on July 2, 2020 - JOE KLAMAR/AFP

Perhaps as interesting will be to see where the midfield lies, both in relation to the top teams and also how close they are among themselves. The thing I am most hoping for is for Williams to not be miles at the back of the pack as they have been the last two years. 

08:48 AM

Lewis Hamilton has found his voice as a crusader – but shaming of his peers has to stop

Oliver Brown took a nuanced and in-depth look at Hamilton's recent activism in his column yesterday. 

Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, has taken the scorched-earth approach to promoting the causes closest to his heart. In recent weeks, he has been British sport’s loudest voice on the George Floyd killingthe toppling of the Colston statue, and all points on the compass in between. At the same time, he has turned on fellow members of the F1 paddock for their reticence. “Just know I know who you are,” he said. “And I see you.” He sought to clarify on Thursday that he was not referring to other drivers directly, but to the entire motor racing industry.

Read his whole piece here.  

08:41 AM

F1 calendar 2020, the dates confirmed so far...

It is just the eight dates confirmed so far, though that is likely to expand to 10 or so in the next little while. 

2020 F1 season
2020 F1 season

08:25 AM

What is the schedule of running for today?

  • FP1 - 1000-1130 BST

  • FP2 - 1400-1530 BST

It has been extremely wet in Spielberg for the last couple of days but hopefully we'll see a decent amount of running today.  

07:58 AM

Good morning F1 fans

After what seems like a lifetime ago — or at the worst, a very long seven months — F1 is finally back after a prolonged absence due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm a little shocked that F1 has so far managed to pull this off but all credit to them. It's all very well and good arranging a football league in one country, but the first proper international sport? That is something else. 

The 2020 season was supposed to be 22 races long and was due to kick off in Australia. Instead it's a currently-unspecified amount (probably between 12-18) and will start in Austria. If you're like me you'll savour every moment of this season. Even if it's one of those dull races like we had at the 2019 French Grand Prix. At least at first. 

Formula One F1 - Austrian Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria - July 2, 2020 A member of the Austrian Grand Prix security is pictured wearing a protective face mask ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, as F1 resumes following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease -  REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Formula One F1 - Austrian Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria - July 2, 2020 A member of the Austrian Grand Prix security is pictured wearing a protective face mask ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, as F1 resumes following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease - REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Naturally, the on-track action will look mostly the same but for empty grandstands. What happens behind the scenes, though, is different. We have Phil Duncan on the ground, who filed this report from behind F1's cordon sanitaire. 

Spectators have been banned, team numbers have been slashed from around 130 to 80 and there will be no customary champagne spraying for the top-three drivers here on Sunday. The sport’s star-studded paddock, usually a hive of activity throughout a race weekend, is to replicate something of a ghost town. The extravagant team hospitality suites - described by F1 motorsport Ross Brawn as Gin Palaces where celebrities, sponsors and guests scoff on champagne - are gone. They have been replaced by office blocks.

The teams are operating in closely-monitored bubbles, roughly consisting of four people, to ensure, unlike in Melbourne, a positive test will not close the show. They all arrived deep in the Styrian Mountains - 120 miles south west of Vienna - on chartered planes with only F1 personnel on board.

Hamilton will stay at the track in his own motorhome. Other drivers, including the young Briton Lando Norris, will effectively be under lock and key at his nearby team hotel. He ate on his own in his room on Wednesday night. The 20 year-old has packed his laptop to contend with the probable boredom.  

Just 20 journalists from around the world have been granted access through the gates - a 10th of the regular number - but the paddock is off limits, with interviews to be conducted remotely. All press must have proof of a negative test taken not more than 72 hours earlier, and will be tested while attending the event. It is all part of a package of measures to ensure the sport is taking the minimum risk possible to ensure competition starts up again safely.

You can read his full piece here.  But in the meantime, it's only an hour or so until we get the first running of F1 cars in 2020 and I don't think I have ever felt as excited to watch practice. I'll be here with all the updates from first and second practice today.