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Leclerc missed fan passion in Austria

Leclerc missed fan passion in Austria

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Leclerc missed fan passion in Austria

Leclerc missed fan passion in Austria

Charles Leclerc labelled the Formula 1 season opener in Austria as "very strange" after the event ran behind closed doors and without fans for the first time in its history.

In recent years, since the arrival of owners Liberty Media in particular, F1 has done its best to make the fans a central part of the sport.

While the racing at the Red Bull Ring lived up to expectations, the sight of empty grandstands and fields where the massed ranks of Max Verstappen's 'orange army' would normally congregate was bizarre.

Reflecting on the unusual circumstances after finishing runner-up to Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari driver Leclerc said: "It’s very strange.

"We are lacking the passion of the fan, which is why I love the sport so much, to see the passion of people that are watching you.

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"I actually looked in the grandstands during the race. There was not much to look at – but yeah, I miss this."

While Bottas was naturally focused on driving his W11 to victory, there were occasions when he was aware of the lack of spectators.

"During the race, your full focus is on the thing, so no difference," said Bottas.

"But I have to say, what I’ve really enjoyed in the normal F1 is before the race, when we do the drivers’ parade, really seeing the support to all the drivers, seeing the spectators, all the fans, all the flags of different nationalities.

"It really brings a nice atmosphere before the race, as well as after the race, especially if you have a good result like I had, it would be nice to share it with that atmosphere that we, for sure, are lacking a little bit now, and to celebrate with the spectators."

Leclerc, who experienced fans at their most passionate when taking victory in the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, agreed with the comments of the Finn.

"As Valtteri said, it’s better to race like this than nothing, so very happy to have been back on track and hopefully the fans enjoyed it from home, and hopefully once it’s safe to do so, they’ll be able to come back," continued Leclerc.

"It will definitely be better. And also, as Valtteri said again, the podium, normally there are cheers, people yelling, this time it was not that way, but it’s like this for now and it’s the best we can do."

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