The first weekend of the Formula 1 World Championship got underway against the backdrop of concerns about the coronavirus, especially in Europe and the USA. Yesterday, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc had already tackled the usual track walk to get their first look at the Albert Park circuit.
With the media. On Thursday, both drivers met the media, with Sebastian taking part in the official FIA press conference. “I don’t think there is any driver who doesn’t like Australia and this track, which is quick even though it’s a street circuit. It will be the first chance we have to see what the real hierarchy is among the teams.” However the atmosphere is a bit different to usual. “There are fewer people,” reckoned Vettel, “and people are reacting differently to the threat in terms of what it means to us. There are a few less handshakes, a bit more hand sanitising, but we’re here. A lot of sports events have been cancelled around the world and many people are asking if it’s right to go on and race. I think we have to put our trust in the FIA, in Formula 1 and the Australian authorities. If they say the way is clear to go ahead with the event then it is right to do so,” concluded the German, who is about to start his 14th Formula 1 season.
SF1000. As for the SF1000, Sebastian confirmed that it had felt good in testing. “It’s definitely a step forward in many areas compared to last year’s car, but that probably goes for all the other teams. Winter testing is not representative and I think we will only have a really clear picture of where we stand on Saturday in qualifying.”
In the open air. To mitigate the risks for everyone, Charles met the media outside the paddock hospitality area and he too was asked about the coronavirus. “There’s an unusual atmosphere because many people are thinking about their families back home trying to fend off the virus. The situation in Europe and Italy is worrying. Given that the Australian authorities have given the go ahead for this Grand Prix, then we hope we can give our fans something to be cheerful about. Many Italians are at home at the moment,” continued the Monegasque driver. “So one can expect that a lot of people will watch the race, because Ferrari is something very important in Italy. We might not be able to make them feel really happy, but maybe we can bring a moment’s respite.”
Expectations. Leclerc is keen to get out on track. “I am curious to see where we are compared to the other teams. Our aim? I am looking to the podium because it would be nice to get the season off on the right foot,” said Charles. “Having said that, the Albert Park track is so unique that usually, it’s not very representative. As for our own car’s performance, I’d say a few things have changed this year: there’s more downforce and it’s usual to pay for this in terms of top speed. The target I’ve set myself for this season is to perform more consistently in the races. I’ve been working on this already since the second half of last season and I expect to make progress compared to 2019. The fact I’m with the same team and so I know all the procedures and the people I work with, will definitely help.”