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Turkey set for place on final 17-race F1 calendar

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Turkey set for place on final 17-race F1 calendar
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Formula 1 is set to confirm a 17-race 2020 World Championship calendar, with Istanbul Park the only late addition, assuming that the contract with the Turkish venue is finalised.

Jerez had also been under consideration to plug the gap in November that F1 has been trying to fill, but the Spanish track will not feature after all.

As has long been anticipated, the season will finish with a triple-header in the Middle East, with two races in Bahrain followed by the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

The expected final total of 17 races falls within the “15-18” range that F1 boss Chase Carey has long promised. The key number is 15, the minimum that guarantees that TV broadcasters pay their full fees, so 17 allows for one or two events to be lost to COVID-19 issues.

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Having announced dates up to the Emilia Romagna GP at Imola on November 1, F1 has been trying for some time to finalise the schedule after the loss of all the Americas events.

Vietnam and even China were in contention at one stage, and while neither race has yet been officially cancelled for 2020, they both fell by the wayside some time ago.

Although the dates have yet to be confirmed Turkey has been scheduled for November 15, a fortnight after Imola.

The Bahrain events will follow on November 29 and December 6, with the Abu Dhabi finale on December 13. As previously reported, plans are still in hand for the second Sakhir race to be held on a shorter and faster version of the regular track.

In the past teams took their trucks to Turkey – a major operation that included a boat trip – but amid COVID-19 concerns the plan this time is for it to be a flyaway, with the freight then heading to the Middle East races. However teams might take their usual motorhomes, which have not been used thus far this season, by the road and sea route.

Turkey’s emergence last month as a candidate for a race came as a surprise. The venue last hosted a grand prix in 2011, before dropping off the schedule for commercial reasons.

Carey visited the country early in his tenure in April 2017, even meeting with President Erdogan, although at that stage a return to the schedule seemed highly unlikely.

The circuit has been operated since 2013 by Intercity, a company run by car collector and GT racer Vural Ak, and which was tasked by Erdogan with trying to bring the Grand Prix back.

The only current F1 drivers who have taken part in a Turkish GP are Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez, while Romain Grosjean and Valtteri Bottas competed in support events.

The idea of a return was well received by drivers in Barcelona last weekend.

“It would be mega,” said Romain Grosjean, who raced there in GP2. “I think it would be bloody awesome. It’s such a cool track. I really enjoy going there and racing. Turn 8 is a good one for the neck, so I think it would be very fast.”

“Turkey is a fantastic circuit, if it comes to the calendar, awesome,” said Esteban Ocon. “Old school circuit, something I was watching on TV when I was younger. The massive left hander, flat out, is going to be pretty impressive.”

“It looks really cool, I’m excited,” said Alex Albon. “Liberty and F1 are doing an amazing job choosing these kind of circuits. I don’t know if it’s coincidence, or if they’re just choosing them because they’re the ones that are open to races.

“It’s going to be a proper circuit. Mugello, Imola, Turkey, we’re going to some of the best circuits in the world. I’m all for it. I think that quadruple left hander will be easy flat in these cars.”

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Series Formula 1
Author Adam Cooper