After a long delay of over four months, Formula 1 returns this weekend with the Austrian GP.
After the abortive opening race in Australia, the season which had to be shut down in Melbourne back in March, restarts with three consecutive races on consecutive weekends.
The first of two races in Austria will take place this weekend at the Osterreich track followed seven days later at Steiermark circuit followed by a third at the Hungaroring outside Budapest in Hungary.
This will be the start of a hectic run of eight races in 10 weeks spread across Europe, including two in Britain at Silverstone, which F1 hopes will be the start of a World Championship consisting of approximately 15 to 18 races.
Although the exact shape of the rest of the season remains uncertain, other than it will finish in the Middle East with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
Although the racing is resuming, F1 has put in place a package of measures to ensure it is taking the minimum risk possible to ensure competition starts up again safely.
Everybody has been tested for Covid-19 before going to Austria and will be repeatedly tested while on the road. Teams will also be kept apart from each other, both at the track and at different hotels.
When the season was halted back in March, the feeling around the sport was that Mercedes were starting the season as clear favourites, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton favourite to lift his seventh drivers’ championship, that will draw him level with all time record holder Michael Schumacher.
Already it is looking like Mercedes still have the quickest car, with Red Bull and Max Verstappen, likely to be their biggest rivals.
Ferrari have continued to state that they are not as competitive as they would like to be and only this week, they have been forced to make a major change of direction in terms of design of the car.
The Austrian Grand Prix has been won by Verstappen on the past two occasions, with Red Bull having an exceptional record in Hungary.
One stat that will give every other team some hope going into the weekend is that Mercedes have struggled in Austria in the past two years.
In 2018, Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas both retired with hydraulic system failures. A year later the team made a mistake on its cooling package at the design stage, with the car running too hot when it reached a certain level. Surely, they can’t have bad luck three years running.
Three drivers, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz all start the season driving for teams that they won’t feature for next season, with Vettel still unsure whether he will have a future in the sport next season.
With Vettel’s last season with Ferrari, it will be down to Charles Leclerc to push the German all the way this season.
Sainz will replace Vettel in 2021 with Ricciardo taking the Spaniard’s place at McLaren. But that is what will happen in the future, for the present it will be interesting to see how all the drivers will handle the rare sight of no fans available at the tracks.
Will Hamilton continue to dominate or will we at last see a brand-new champion. All will be revealed in the coming few months.