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F1 returns to Turkey after almost a decade, but there will be no spectators

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Istanbul Park’s operators Intercity had sold tickets at record-low prices for the 2020 weekend and announced that as many as 100,000 fans would be allowed in. However, it was announced on Monday that the race weekend would be held without fans amid a rising trend in coronavirus cases and deaths in Turkey.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing leads the field at the start of the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit on May 8, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. File picture: Mark Thompson, Getty Images

ANKARA – Formula One’s Turkish Grand Prix next month will be held without spectators due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Istanbul governor’s office said on Monday, as the event returns to Istanbul after an absence of almost a decade.

The Turkish Grand Prix, scheduled for November 13-15, was put back on the Formula One calendar in August. Turkey last hosted a race in 2011 at the Istanbul Park circuit, which was popular among drivers but attracted small crowds.

In order to boost attendances, Istanbul Park’s operators Intercity had sold tickets at record-low prices for the 2020 weekend and announced that as many as 100,000 fans would be allowed in.

However, the Istanbul Governor’s office announced on Monday that the race weekend would be held without fans amid a rising trend in coronavirus cases and deaths in Turkey, based on a recommendation by the Istanbul Provincial Pandemic Council.

“It was decided that the race be held without fans,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Tickets went on sale in early September, with organisers and officials saying there was great interest in the race. Intercity Chairman Vural Ak said in a statement on Monday that all tickets would be fully refunded, and added: “human health is all of our priority”.

“I am sure that even if it’s without fans, after the perfect hospitality we will show here, we will bring the races here next year and fill the stands together,” Ak said.

Intercity has said it hopes to achieve a lasting place on the F1 calendar after this year’s race, after several rounds of unsuccessful talks between the sport and the Turkish government.

The only current drivers to have won at Istanbul Park are former champion Kimi Raikkonen, six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton and four-times champion Sebastian Vettel.

Reuters