Lewis Hamilton is worried for the safety of the British public following what he described as a “premature” decision to allow 140,000 fans to attend next month’s grand prix at Silverstone.
Circuit organisers have been permitted to sell out for the entire July 16-18 weekend, paving the way for the biggest UK crowd since the start of the pandemic.
But seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has won the British Grand Prix more times than any driver in Formula One history, questioned the logic behind Thursday’s decision, with cases on the rise.
“I cannot tell you how excited I will be to see the British crowd because it is the best crowd of the whole year,” said the Mercedes driver. “But of course I watch the news, I hear the cases going up massively in the UK since we have loosened up a bit, and on that side I worry about people.
“I have read that the vaccination programme is working and fewer people are in hospital, but it feels a bit premature to me. I like to err on the side of caution and slowly build up, rather than go full pelt and using our British fans as a test pen.”
Ticket-holders for the British GP will have to provide proof of a negative lateral flow test – taken within 48 hours of arriving at the Northamptonshire circuit – or be fully vaccinated, with the second dose 14 days previously.
Asked if that requirement altered his outlook, Hamilton, who missed last December’s Sakhir GP with Covid-19, said: “No. It is not my choice. There have been lots of confusing things coming from the Government during this period.
“People will go to Silverstone and I hope we learn something from it, and everyone stays safe and keep their masks on. That is what I would encourage everyone to do, to continue to wash their hands and wear their masks in those big crowds.”
Hamilton departed the press conference room, previewing this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, saying: “I am going to be in trouble.”
Prior to Hamilton’s comments Silverstone were celebrating an announcement which comes after months of tense discussions with the Government.
Managing director Stuart Pringle is understood to have stressed to Government officials that the circuit – which staged the first ever Formula One world championship event in 1950 – would go bust if fans were not permitted.
Both last year’s British and 70th Anniversary Grands Prix at Silverstone took place behind closed doors.
Silverstone made the case that their 70,000 grandstand seats at the former Royal Air Force base are scattered over 3.5 miles, while the event is not reliant on public transport with the large majority of spectators arriving in cars.
The grand prix also takes place just one day before the mooted end of coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19.
F1’s inaugural sprint race will also be held at Silverstone on the Saturday of the GP weekend.
It was confirmed earlier this week that more than 60,000 fans will be allowed to attend the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at Wembley.
Wimbledon’s Centre Court is also set to be at its full 15,000 capacity for the women’s and men’s singles finals on July 10 and 11, while Royal St George’s will admit up to 32,000 spectators a day for The Open.