Lewis Hamilton says the prospect of racing without spectators when the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship kicks off again leaves him with an ‘empty feeling’ even if he accepts the compromise is better than not racing at all.

Hamilton, together with his 19 F1 rivals, are currently sat on the sidelines as they await the green light from series bosses that the season can eventually restart.

As it stands, the Austrian Grand Prix on July 3-5 has been identified as the most likely starting date for the season, though it will run without spectators and operate to strict guidelines to ensure the safety of the entire paddock.

It’s a scenario that will feel very alien to the sport when it happens, with Hamilton admitting it will be strange to race alongside empty grandstands, saying it will feel ‘worse than a test day’.

“It gave me a really empty feeling [when it was announced] because the fans really make that race,” he said in an interview posted to Mercedes’ Instagram channel. “Around the world, every race we go to, the more fans the more atmosphere.

“What’s great is getting messages from people around the world who are struggling because they don’t get to watch sports and it shows how significant sport is in people’s lives. It brings us all together, exciting and captivating, so I don’t know how exciting it will be for people watching on TV but it is better than nothing.

“For us, it will feel like a test day - possibly worse than a test day, because even then there are still some people. You will just see empty seats as you are racing down, but racing is racing.

Hamilton heads into the 2020 F1 season on the cusp of equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven F1 world titles. With a strong winter test period suggesting the Mercedes W11 will once again be the car to beat, Hamilton says he is determined to come back to actions stronger than ever.

“I’ve not had time to unleash the potential of our cars, so I am excited to get back in. I really do miss it.

“[The break] It’s almost a blessing on one side because it gives you appreciation for some things that you do and this has given me more energy and inspiration and determination to keep delivering and working with this great team.”