Turkey’s red zone issue is F1’s biggest calendar headache

Formula 1 may have recently published a revised 2021 calendar, but the schedule remains in a state of flux.

Turkey’s red zone issue is F1’s biggest calendar headache

There are questions over the fate of Austin amid the scale of outbreak of coronavirus in Texas and logistical complexities for personnel travelling to the event.

However, Turkey remains the biggest headache for the F1 organisation, with a crunch point coming next week.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali remains hopeful that the Istanbul race will go ahead as planned on 10 October, despite the country's current place on the UK's red zone list.

At the moment, around 1000 travelling personnel from the seven British-based teams plus those of F1, the FIA, Honda, Pirelli and the media face a compulsory 10-day quarantine in a UK government-approved hotel on their return.

Much now depends on whether the country comes off the list in the British government's next planned review, which is scheduled for 16 September, four days after the Italian GP.

F1 issued a revised calendar over the recent Belgian GP weekend, with several changes intended to help with a smoother run to the end of the season.

As part of that process, Turkey was moved back a week from 3 October.

That helped logistically as it was no longer a back-to-back with the Russian GP, so that those travelling to Sochi were able to confirm straightforward return flights with no concerns about a late Turkey cancellation.

The move also bought an extra week after any UK red zone decision.

If Turkey does not come off the list next week, the provisional plan is for only skeleton crews to travel to Turkey and for those people to remain out of the UK prior to the US GP two weeks later, either by travelling directly to America or by stopping elsewhere on the way.

However, that strategy is clearly not optimal and would still have to be agreed by the teams, should it become the only option.

The Austin event has its own issues, and F1 is currently in talks with the US authorities about how many people will be allowed to enter the country given the stipulation that they must be "essential" personnel.

Last weekend, F3 moved its season finale from Austin to Sochi, citing "unavoidable logistical changes that heavily impacted the overall costs of the planned Austin event".

The F1 organisation subsequently stressed that the F3 decision had no bearing on plans for the grand prix itself.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF90, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10 Alex Albon, Red Bull Racing RB15, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90, Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL34 and the rest of the pack tab the start

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF90, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10 Alex Albon, Red Bull Racing RB15, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90, Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL34 and the rest of the pack tab the start

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Domenicali says that the updated calendar issued at Spa remains solid for the time being.

"So far all is what we delivered in terms of information," he told Autosport. "And so far, it's all stable. So let's hope that there will be no other situations that will get situation more critical, but so far, that is confirmed."

Regarding the upcoming Istanbul race, he said: "I think we are monitoring the situation, of course, we really hope that the situation will improve.

"And the only thing is that I know that the sales are going extremely well in Turkey. And that's really great news."

The current schedule includes a "to be confirmed" slot on 21 November, which has yet to be officially announced as Qatar as the deal for the event is still being put together.

Domenicali declined to be drawn on the latest progress with the event, which if confirmed is set to be a night race.

"As you know when we can confirm what will be the next event I will tell you, otherwise we would not have announced that as a TBC."

However, plans are understood to be moving ahead for the event at the Losail circuit outside Doha.

The venue is best known for MotoGP but it hosted the GP2 Asia series in 2009 – with one race won by current F1 driver Sergio Perez – and the WTCC in 2015-2017.

FIA F1 race director Michael Masi and F1's sporting director Steve Nielsen visited the track after the Hungarian GP early in the summer break, and pinpointed what would be needed to update it for an F1 race.

Among areas understood to have been highlighted were the pit entry plus barriers and kerbs that are more suitable for two-wheeled racing than F1 cars. Temporary buildings in the paddock for the use of teams will also have to be upgraded.

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