THE long wait to begin the Formula 1 season will finally end for Oxfordshire’s teams this weekend.

The Red Bull Ring in Austria is hosting the first two rounds of the championship on consecutive Sundays.

It is part of a calendar heavily impacted by coronavirus, which shut down the sport on the eve of the scheduled opening race in Melbourne, Australia in March.

Teams at Grove (Williams), Enstone (Renault) and Haas (Banbury) went into a shutdown period but have been looking to play catch-up in the last few weeks.

And the fruits of their labour will finally be seen when practice sessions start tomorrow.

Williams are looking to put a miserable 2019 – where they scored just one point – behind them, but the circuit in Austria holds fond memories for driver George Russell.

He said: “I’m really excited to get back racing and at a circuit I enjoy driving and have gone well at in the past.

“We’ve done a lot of virtual racing recently, so it will be great to now race in reality and provide some entertainment for the fans that will be supporting us from home.”

For teammate Nicholas Latifi it will be a relief just to start racing again after making the switch to the team during the winter.

He said: “It goes without saying that I am extremely excited to finally make my Formula One debut.

“It’s definitely not been a conventional build-up to the first race of the season, but these past few weeks have been good getting back into the swing of things, upping my preparations, and getting back into the factory and into the groove with the team.”

The lockdown period saw Renault announce Daniel Ricciardo would be leaving for McLaren at the end of the season.

But the Australian’s focus for the moment is on the present, rather than the future.

He said: “It’s about getting back to business. We’re all so excited to go racing again.

“We want to get some points on the board, begin the season on the right foot and lay a solid foundation for us to build some good momentum.”

For teammate Esteban Ocon it will be his first Grand Prix since 2018.

He said: “It’s been a year and half of waiting to be on the Formula 1 grid again, so I’m very excited.

“I’m looking forward to it, and we’ll be targeting coming away with points.”

While there is a lot of uncertainty over how prepared teams will be, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said: “The drivers obviously kept on training.

“I know Kevin (Magnussen), for example, has been doing a lot of karting, Romain (Grosjean) has been doing a lot of sim racing.

“Basically, we’re ready, we cannot wait.”