ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish Formula One Grand Prix will be held without spectators next month after organisers scrapped plans for a 100,000-strong crowd at the Istanbul circuit due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Istanbul Governor’s office announced on Monday that the Nov 13-15 race would be behind closed doors, based on a recommendation by the Istanbul Provincial Pandemic Council, amid a rising trend of cases and deaths in Turkey.
“It was decided that the race be held without fans,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
Formula One is returning to the Istanbul Park circuit for the first time since 2011. The track layout was popular in the past among drivers but the race was sparsely attended.
In a bid to boost the numbers, Istanbul Park’s operators Intercity put tickets on sale at record-low prices for the 2020 weekend and had talked of allowing in up to 100,000 fans.
Tickets went on sale in early September, with organisers and officials reporting great interest.
Formula One has held 10 races so far in a COVID-hit season, the first eight all without spectators. Organisers of the most recent race in Russia reported 30,000 fans a day at the Sochi circuit.
“Our season has been guided by a safety first approach and that will continue to be our priority,” a Formula One spokesman said.
“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.”
Intercity has said it hopes to achieve a lasting place on the F1 calendar after this year’s race, despite so far unsuccessful talks between the sport and the Turkish government. Intercity was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu/Alan Baldwin; Editing by Daren Butler and Ed Osmond)