Turkish Grand Prix in U-turn on plans for 100,000 fans to attend F1 race due to rise in coronavirus cases

Turkish Grand Prix organisers have performed a late U-turn on plans to welcome fans to Istanbul Park next month after deciding to stage the race behind closed doors due to a rise in coronavirus numbers, the Istanbul governor’s office has announced.

Intercity, the company that owns the Istanbul Park circuit and who were responsible for the returning Turkish Grand Prix, announced plans last month for up to 100,000 fans to be in attendance across the event on 13-15 November.

In order to attract fans, prices were set as low as £3 for weekend tickets with aspirations of up to 100,000 fans per day at the circuit, which would have been more than 10-times the number that attended the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello last month, while up to 30,000 were allowed into the Russian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

But with Turkey’s coronavirus numbers on the rise, the Istanbul Provincial Pandemic Council recommended that the race take place without any fans in attendance, with the governor’s office confirming the U-turn on Monday.

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

As a result of the ruling, Intercity will refund all tickets that have already been purchased, having gone on sale in early September.

“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,” said Intercity chairman Vural Ak, who added that “human health is all of our priority”.

The initial plans for up to 100,000 fans attending the Grand Prix were met with caution by Formula One, who felt that a number between 60,000 and 80,000 was a more reasonable expectation. However, the sport accepted that the growing concern regarding the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey means that is no longer possible.

An F1 spokesperson said: “Our season has been guided by a safety first approach and that will continue to be our priority.

“In Turkey we had hoped to welcome fans, but the situation in the country means this is no longer possible and we fully understand and respect the decision.”

The U-turn will not impact plans for fans to attend upcoming races in Portugal and at Imola, while this weekend’s Eifel Grand Prix at Germany’s Nurburgring is set to welcome 20,000 fans per day in socially-distanced blocks.

“The permission for 20,000 fans is within the decision of the state that allows up to 20 per cent of stadium capacity for major sports events if infection figures are inconspicuous and the public infrastructure allows for social distancing rules to be met,” Ahrweiler district council said last month.

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