The 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will get underway with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria this weekend. The much anticipated 70th anniversary season of Formula 1 was set to start in March at the Australian Grand Prix.
But the Covid-19 pandemic let to the cancellation of the season opener. Now four months later the season is set to start in Austria with an abbreviated eight race calendar to start with.
The Haas F1 team is coming off a poor 2019 campaign as they fell from fifth position in 2018 to ninth position last season. They had a particularly poor second-half of the season when they managed to score just two points in the seven races.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner is optimistic about the new 2020 season. Steiner reflected upon the serious social issues that the world is facing and said: “We all know there are two big social issues highlighted in the world right now, both still very much on-going and in the spotlight.
“One is obviously the Covid-19 pandemic, the other is racism. I think we’re in a good position to fight them both, very differently, but we will stand up and fight them. We have done this, and we will continue to do this.”
Steiner who is known for his colorful and straight forward personality reflected on the positives of the long lay-off.
“There are always positives in everything. I would have liked to have made them under different circumstances, but I think the positives are everybody got together – the teams, F1 and the FIA, and we came up with ideas how to make the sport better going into the future. I hope then, in the future, we remember this time and don’t forget about it. I hope that we’re not just thinking about ourselves in three years and so on and not trying to do the best for the sport, both for the mid to long-term future,” he said.
Steiner felt that the Haas F1 team and drivers are as prepared as they can be under the circumstances and is confident of the team’s prospects at a track at which they have performed well before.
“I think we’re as ready as we can be. Everybody on the team is highly motivated to get back out there and go racing again. They want to go out there and do their job, not just be sitting at home waiting on news as to what’s happening next. The drivers obviously kept on training. I know Kevin (Magnussen), for example, has been doing a lot of karting, Romain (Grosjean) has been doing a lot of sim racing. Basically, we’re ready, we cannot wait.”
Steiner felt the team will be on an emotional high when the season resumes after a long hiatus at the Red Bull Ring. The back to back races at the venue is a novel prospect and he said: “It’s a new situation to have two races at the same track in the one year, especially one week after the other. We’ll have to see how it works out. Undoubtedly, we will learn a lot in the first weekend and hopefully what we learn we can put in place for the second weekend. I’m just really looking forward to being back out racing and getting the most out of both events.”
Another unusual aspect of these races in the 2020 season is the lack of spectators in the stands in the initial races. The Haas F1 boss felt the team would miss having the buzz of the fan support at the races.
“For me, it’s the first time in my career – which is pretty long, over 30 years in motorsport, that we won’t have fans at an event. The fans are the backbone of any event. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a little bit longer this year to have the fans around us again. I’m sure they’ll be back, and we’ll be open to them returning as soon as they can.
“We just cannot do it now otherwise we would more than welcome them back. I hope all the fans tune in on television or on the internet when we race and come back when the opportunity arises for them. For sure though, we will miss them, but hope to see them soon,” he concluded.