Mercedes set for track return to test virus protocols

The curtailed Formula One season will start with two races behind closed doors in Austria on July 5 and July 12 followed by six other grands prix in Europe.

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Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton (L) will return to the track next week in preparation for the Forumla One season.   -  AFP

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas will return to the track next week, spending two days at Silverstone testing protocols ahead of the start of the coronavirus-hit Formula One season.

“We'll be back on track next week @SilverstoneUK!” the Mercedes team tweeted on Thursday.

“Valtteri (Tuesday) and Lewis (Wednesday) will drive the 2018 Mercedes W09 in a two-day test as the team practises protocols ahead of returning to racing in Austria next month.”

The curtailed Formula One season will start with two races behind closed doors in Austria on July 5 and July 12 followed by six other grands prix in Europe.

Formula One said it hoped to have between 15 and 18 races in total, with the season being completed in December.

The F1 season was thrown into chaos with the cancellation of the traditional curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in March only hours before practice was due to begin as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world.

Last week, the Austrian government sanctioned the season-opening double-header at the Spielberg circuit after F1 organisers “presented a complete and professional plan” to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Hungarian Grand Prix will be brought forward to July 19 before a two-week break, followed by consecutive races in Britain and events in Spain, Italy and Belgium. All will likely be run without spectators while participants must adhere to strict safety protocols.

Regular health tests will be conducted with the number of team members and race staff at the venue also reduced.

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