Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton voiced concern for fans visiting next month’s British Grand Prix, calling the decision to allow a full capacity crowd at Silverstone “a bit premature” amid the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Organizers announced Thursday they received government approval to host up to 130,000 fans for the July 18 race, but Hamilton said he was feeling “split” about the decision.
“I watch the news, so I hear about the cases going up in the UK. On that side I’m worrying for people, naturally,” Hamilton said.
“I know that the UK rates have increased since people are loosening up a bit and not everyone is vaccinated," the Mercedes driver continued. "There is less people being in hospital but it feels a bit premature to me. I hope we learn something from it, and I hope people stay safe and keep their masks on.”
Silverstone organizers said the British GP was included in the latest phase of the government’s “Event Research Program” and can host all ticket holders. Many fans still have valid tickets from the 2020 race, which took place behind closed doors.
The Silverstone team said it was working with health authorities in Northamptonshire on the specific conditions of entry that will enable the event to operate safely. It said visitors must show proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of arrival.
The announcement came after a day with more than 16,000 new confirmed cases in the United Kingdom — the highest number since early February. The figure marked a rise of nearly 5,000 compared to Tuesday, and of over 7,000 compared to last Wednesday.
Silverstone will host the second Grand Prix with a full capacity crowd since the start of the pandemic, after next week's Austrian GP.
Hamilton said he did not want to “turn it into a negative” and that he was excited “to see people, and firstly to see the British crowd … to be out to see them and feel the energy that they bring into a weekend.”
Hamilton main's challenger for the F1 title this season, championship leader Max Verstappen, called a packed Silverstone “simply lovely."
“To have a full crowd in Silverstone is what you want, that is what creates the atmosphere and what makes F1 special,” the Red Bull driver said.
The drivers spoke at a news conference ahead of the Austrian GP on Sunday.
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