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F1 to return to Turkey for the first time in nine years

Turkey’s Istanbul Park will host a Grand Prix for the first time since 2011 this year, after Formula 1 announced four more races have been added to the 2020 calendar.

The Turkish Grand Prix will be run on November 15, just before a back-to-back double header in Bahrain, with the Bahrain Grand Prix on November 26 followed by the Sakhir Grand Prix on December 6.

The season concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place at the Yas Marina Circuit on December 13.

Formula 1 also confirmed that the Chinese Grand Prix, which was initially postponed earlier this year, will now not be run in 2020, bringing the current race total to 17 for the season.

The return to Turkey was agreed following talks between Formula 1 chiefs and Intercity, who operate the Istanbul Park circuit, which have been taking place since 2017.

“We can confirm that Turkey, Bahrain (hosting two races), and Abu Dhabi will be part of the revised season and want to express our thanks to the hard work of all our promoters and partners in making this 17-race season possible,” a Formula 1 spokesperson said.

“We can confirm that a number of races in the revised 2020 season will be open to a limited number of fans, including hospitality, and we are working with each promoter to finalise the details.

“While we want to see as many fans as possible return as soon as it is safe to do so, our priority remains the safety of the Formula 1 community and the communities we visit, and we review fan access on this basis.

“Due to the ongoing fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic we continue to maintain close dialogue with all promoters and local authorities to ensure we operate in the safest way possible and monitor each national situation closely – including travel restrictions and local health procedures.”

Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit can hold up to 130,000 spectators but the Turkish Grand Prix was plagued by poor attendance figures during its seven-year stint. Just 25,000 tickets were sold for the most recent event, back in 2011, with some saying at the time that tickets were too expensive for Turkish consumers.

In the past, F1 chiefs were also concerned about the viability of the the venue as it hosted few events other than the annual Grand Prix. Intercity said it now stages 300 days of events, educational programs and festivals each year.

“One of the most important factors in Formula 1 management’s inclusion of Istanbul in the 2020 calendar was that the track was active and ready as if it would be for racing anytime during the nine-year period when no races were held,” said Intercity chairman Vural Ak.

The problems caused by the spread of Covid-19 has meant F1 has been forced to reconstitute an almost entirely European calendar, with many of the races on tracks that had either not held a Grand Prix before or had fallen off the schedule some years ago.

The three events concluding the season are the only races on the 2020 calendar outside geographical Europe.

Chase Carey, chairman and CEO of Formula 1, added: “We are proud to announce that Turkey, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi will be part of our 2020 season.

“This year has presented Formula 1 and the world with an unprecedented challenge and we want to pay tribute to everyone across Formula 1, the FIA, the teams, and our partners who have made this possible.

“While we are all disappointed that we have not been able to return to some of our planned races this year we are confident our season has started well and will continue to deliver plenty of excitement with traditional, as well as new, races that will entertain all our fans.”

Image: Formula 1