By Alan Baldwin
LONDON – Formula One fleshed out its 2020 calendar to 17 races on Tuesday, with the Chinese Grand Prix cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic but Turkey back on for the first time since 2011 and Bahrain handed two rounds.
The sport said in a statement that Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit would host a race on November 15 before a Bahrain double in late November and early December and Abu Dhabi ending the season on December 13 at Yas Marina.
A limited number of fans, and hospitality, will be able to attend some of the races. Russian Grand Prix organisers are already selling tickets for their race in Sochi in September.
All six grands prix held so far since the delayed season started in Austria in July have been held behind closed doors.
Formula One had confirmed only 13 races until Tuesday, all of them in Europe after those in the Americas were cancelled, but teams and drivers now have a clear idea of how many the championship will have.
The original schedule, published before the pandemic, envisaged a record 22 races, but fixtures such as Monaco had to be cancelled and a new calendar drawn up with a mix of old favourites and new venues.
China’s race in Shanghai had looked doubtful for some time due to the virus.
The first Vietnamese Grand Prix, postponed from April, will not be happening either although its cancellation has yet to be confirmed officially.
“Sadly, we will not be racing in China this season,” Formula One said, adding that it looked forward to returning next year.
Turkey will be the only race on this year’s calendar that could be considered a non-European or Middle Eastern round, since the circuit is on the Asian side of Istanbul.
Japan, Singapore, Azerbaijan and Australia have already been cancelled.
Istanbul’s circuit was popular with drivers if not the locals whose attendance was scarce. The only current drivers to have won there are Kimi Raikkonen, six times world champion Lewis Hamilton and four times champion Sebastian Vettel.
“It’s an old-school circuit, something I was watching on TV when I was younger. (That) massive left-hander, flat-out, is going to be pretty impressive,” Renault’s Esteban Ocon told reporters recently.
Bahrain’s two races on November 29 and December 6 will be designated the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Sakhir Grand Prix, after the name of the desert circuit.
Sakhir will be the third circuit to host two races this season after Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Britain’s Silverstone.