Turkish GP organisers hope to remain on F1 calendar

Organisers hope Turkey can retain its place on the F1 calendar

Organisers in Turkey hope its return to the Formula 1 calendar this year proves to be more than a cameo.

Istanbul Park will this weekend host the Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix for the first time since 2011.

Its return comes courtesy of a rebuilt calendar after F1’s original schedule was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turkey first appeared on the calendar in 2005 with the Hermann Tilke-designed Istanbul Park popular among drivers and fans.

However, financial pressures as a result of high race promotion fees ultimately put paid to the event and F1 has not returned for almost a decade.

With the sport now under new management, as is the circuit, there are hopes it could be retained beyond 2020.

“I am trying to retain it,” Vural Ak, CEO of Intercity, the organisation which now manages Istanbul Park, told the state-run Anadolu Agency.

“We are in talks (with F1 officials) to hold the Turkish Grand Prix next year as well.

“It will likely be finalised very soon.

“My goal is to make this race a regular feature.”

Formula 1 is expected to release its 2021 calendar this week, with Australia tipped to open the season on March 21.

Saudi Arabia was last week confirmed as an addition to next year’s schedule, the kingdom poised to host its first grand prix in November.

In Turkey, this year’s event is set to be run without the use of public money.

“As Intercity, we have brought Formula 1 back to Turkey without imposing any financial burden on the state,” Ak explained.

“I think this is the ideal formula.

“Hosting it under the auspices of the Turkish state and president has given us a lot of advantages in the operational aspect.

“But it was right not to pass on the financial burden during such times of economic hardships. Unlike other races or sports, this was not organised on the Turkish state’s expense.”

Preparations for this weekend’s event, which will go ahead without spectators, are all but complete. That has included laying a new racing surface.

“All preparations are done. Decorations are underway. Billboards have been placed. Some minor cleaning and landscaping have been done. We have already finished all the major work,” Ak said.

“The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality helped us a lot in the repair works, except the cleaning, landscape, and asphalt renovation.

“In recent years, Formula 1 has been one of the most-watched motorsports and, generally, it has become a sport loved even more than football.

“I am very happy that we have done it. Now we are counting down the days. Only one week to go.

“Perhaps, this season’s champion will be unveiled at the Intercity Istanbul Park,” he added.

“Lewis Hamilton is leading the standings but has not secured the title yet. With the points that he gets here, Hamilton may be crowned the 2020 champion.”

Hamilton holds an 85-point advantage over his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, the only other driver mathematically still in contention for the title.

With three races remaining beyond Turkey, Hamilton needs only to hold a 78-point advantage at the end of the weekend to be crowned champion for a seventh time.

Track action in Turkey begins on Friday with two practice sessions, the first set to kick off at 19:00 AEDT.

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