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Formula 1

Why Istanbul F1 return rumours are wide of the mark

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Speculation linking Formula 1 with a potential return to Turkey and the popular Istanbul Park circuit in 2020 is incorrect and no discussions are taking place, The Race understands.

F1 has assembled a very different 2020 schedule because of the coronavirus crisis, with more than half the original grands prix now cancelled and an entire content – the Americas – missing out on any races at all this year.

A bumper European schedule has been formed in place of the original calendar, with 13 grands prix confirmed and the rest of the season likely to be bolstered by at least three races in the Middle-East, with an Asian presence undetermined but China’s race expected to be cancelled.

The revisions have allowed several unexpected venues to either regain their places on the calendar or make their F1 race debuts, with debutants Mugello and Algarve and returning venues Nurburgring (absent since 2013) and Imola (2006) all confirmed.

In recent days speculation has intensified that Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit was primed to be added to the schedule as well, but The Race understands it is not being discussed.

The misunderstanding appears to have originated from the official website of the presidency of the Republic of Turkey, where the Turkish language version has an entry in its list of projects that related to a Turkish F1 race.

It claims that work under the auspices of the presidency is ongoing to include Turkey on the 2020 calendar.

Nico Rosberg Williams Turkish Grand Prix 2008 Istanbul

However, the text on the English-language version of the site only refers to 2018, and the wording is almost identical – suggesting it is effectively a placeholder text representing a lingering desire for the Turkish government to revive its grand prix.

A serious suggestion from the Turkish authorities that the race could be revived would have been curious given Istanbul Park does not have the appropriate FIA grading and since 2012, a year after its final grand prix, has been owned by a rental-car company.

The renamed Intercity Istanbul Park hosted World Rallycross for two years in 2014 and 2015 but has not held major championships since, only local and corporate events.

F1 CEO Chase Carey did meet with the Turkish president in 2017, as well as other senior government figures, and track officials claimed there was an opportunity for the Turkish GP to be revived.

But it is yet to add to the grands prix held from 2005 to 2011.


Mark Webber Sebastian Vettel collision Turkish Grand Prix 2010

Istanbul Park ranked second in our countdown of every 21st century F1 track this year, and was also high up our recent list of circuits we wanted to see brought back onto the calendar.

Edd Straw explained its appeal in the latter article:

The gold standard of Tilkedromes, the Turkish GP venue was never very popular with spectators but the drivers loved it.

Think Istanbul Park, and you immediately think of the blandly-named but spectacular Turn 8 left-hander. A fast, triple-apex corner 680 metres in length, this instantly established itself as one of the great corners on the grand prix calendar.

Drivers would spend around 8.5s in the turn at average speeds often well in excess of 160mph with a peak g-force of around 5G.

This was a true test of man and machine, stressing both to the maximum and rewarding commitment and precision. What’s more, things could go wrong here, as Sebastian Vettel learned when he crashed after spinning at the exit of the corner during practice in 2011.

It also produced some good races and unforgettable incidents – most famously the clash between team-mates Vettel and Mark Webber while Red Bull ran first and second in the 2010 race.

Istanbul Park ticks the all the boxes for a grand prix track, including those for spectacle, challenge and storylines.

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