F1 2020: Fans banned from attending Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

By Sports Desk October 28, 2020

Formula One has confirmed that spectators will be unable to attend the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after the Italian government banned large crowds.

It had been hoped that up to 13,000 spectators would be able to attend this weekend's event at the Imola track.

However, due to a rise of coronavirus cases across Italy, the nation's government has decided to ban crowds at events.

Though disappointed that Imola – which has been included on the F1 calendar for the first time since 2006 – will be unable to host fans, F1 respects the Italian government's decision.

"We had hoped to welcome fans to the race this weekend but completely understand and respect the decision taken by the authorities," an F1 spokesperson told Stats Perform News.

"We hope our fans still enjoy the race from home."

This weekend's race will be held over a two-day schedule rather than three. One practice session will take place on Saturday before qualifying, with the race itself set to start at 13:10 local time (12:10 GMT) on Sunday.

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  • F1 2020: Starting grid and race preview for Sakhir Grand Prix F1 2020: Starting grid and race preview for Sakhir Grand Prix

    The absence of Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and a rapid circuit makes the Sakhir Grand Prix one of the most intriguing races of the season.

    Hamilton has already wrapped up a seventh drivers' title and Mercedes were crowned constructors' champions even earlier, but the Briton's positive coronavirus test and the Outer Track at the Bahrain International Circuit offering sub-one-minute lap times means the stage is set for an enthralling event.

    Valtteri Bottas was understandably touted as the favourite and he lived up to his billing by qualifying on pole on Saturday, but with the top 10 in Q3 separated by less than a second there is little room for error.

    Lights out is scheduled for 20:10 local time (17:10 GMT) on Sunday.


    Bottas avoided the ignominy of being outshone by temporary team-mate George Russell - standing in for Hamilton at Mercedes - with the fastest pole lap in F1 history, though there was just two 0.026 seconds between the pair.

    Max Verstappen again took the title of the best of the rest to start from P3, while Charles Leclerc was an impressive fourth for Ferrari.

    Alex Albon is running out of time to save his Red Bull seat and could only manage a disappointing 12th, while Russell's absence at Williams means Nicholas Latifi (17th) out-qualified his team-mate for the first time in his F1 career – debutant Jack Aitken (18th) was a tenth slower than the Canadian.


    1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), 2. George Russell (Mercedes)
    3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
    5. Sergio Perez (Racing Point), 6. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)
    7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault), 8. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
    9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), 10. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
    11. Esteban Ocon (Renault), 12. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
    13. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), 14. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
    15. Lando Norris (McLaren), 16. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
    17. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 18. Jack Aitken (Williams)
    19. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), 20. Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas)


    Mercedes development driver Russell has impressed so far this weekend and will be eager to score his first F1 win with the team he will be hoping to drive for permanently in the future.

    The fact Bottas is on pole will not necessarily hamper him either; on the 15 previous occasions the Finn has started from the front of the grid he has triumphed just five times, failing at the three most recent attempts.

    While the Mercedes duo will start on the medium compound, Verstappen will get away on softs as the teams head into the unknown in terms of tyre management, with the 3.5-kilometre track meaning the drivers will have to complete 87 laps.

    Prior to that, though, Mick Schumacher - the son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher who will join Haas next season - will aim to sign off from Formula Two by securing the drivers' championship in the sprint race.


    Valtteri Bottas (pole): "It didn't feel that easy to follow or pass so I'm really glad to be on the pole side and go from there. But hopefully we will see a fun race. It feels like a bit of a Mickey Mouse circuit, it's quite bumpy and twisty. Let's see. On a track like this you can't really make a difference, so the gaps are really small as you can see. I have to say George did a really good job. He was really building up to it and you could see the progress in qualifying. Really happy for us as a team that we can be one-two on the grid and it's another big achievement for us."

    George Russell (2nd): "Obviously I've got nobody in front of me, which I've not experienced for a long, long time. It's going to be tricky. It's going to be really tricky. Qualifying is what I feel most comfortable with, it's balls out, everything you've got, and tomorrow you need a bit more control, a bit more finesse, and I just haven't had the experience yet. I'll give it my all and I'll see what I can do.

    Max Verstappen (3rd): "Pole was on. After that first run I was two tenths behind so I knew it was going to be difficult but you always try to be as close as you can. At the end, to be within a tenth wasn't bad – but of course Valtteri didn't have a tow and didn't improve on his final lap. To be P3 is good for us I think on a track like this. I'm used to sitting in this chair. It might actually have my prints! I think at the end of this season, I'm going to take this seat home. It's very comfortable."

    Charles Leclerc (4th): "I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do in the car, and I managed to do everything on my lap, so I'm extremely happy to be starting P4. Unfortunately by missing out FP2 I didn't do any race runs, so I'm going a bit into the unknown. But I'll give everything and see where we end up."

    Alex Albon (12th): "It's all to play for though and we know overtaking is possible here plus we're running slightly more downforce than the others so hopefully we're better on our tyres. Our race pace looked pretty strong on Friday and we also have a free tyre choice so we'll have a long look at that and see what we can do. We just need to keep out of trouble at the start and then the plan is to fight through the field."

    Sebastian Vettel (13th): "I generally had a good feeling driving the car so I don't really know what went wrong. Maybe on the straights I was losing a bit as well as in the middle sector. I was confident after Q1 but then we didn't make it. I don't know if this could be related to the power unit change. For sure my mechanics did everything well as the car was fine to drive. Taking care of the tyres will be difficult tomorrow but it could be the key to a good race. We will have a free choice of tyre for the start and we will see what we can do."


    1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 332
    2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 201
    3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 189
    4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) – 102
    5. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) – 100

    1. Mercedes – 533
    2. Red Bull – 274
    3. McLaren – 171
    4. Racing Point – 154 (after 15-point deduction)
    5. Renault – 144

  • Russell 'gutted' but proud to qualify second after 'intense' Mercedes switch Russell 'gutted' but proud to qualify second after 'intense' Mercedes switch

    George Russell was "gutted" to miss out on pole position at the Sakhir Grand Prix by such a small margin but proud of his efforts after an "incredibly intense" two days.

    The Williams driver is replacing world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has tested positive for coronavirus, this weekend.

    Russell finished just 0.026 seconds behind Valtteri Bottas in qualifying on Saturday as Mercedes impressively locked out the front row with Max Verstappen just behind in third for Red Bull.

    The 22-year-old expects to find it more difficult in Sunday's race as he adapts to making a frantic change of teams after the withdrawal of Hamilton, who has won the last five Formula One races.

    "It has been incredibly intense," said Russell. "There has been so much to learn and get used to with the car, the seat – everything is so different. 

    "The car felt alien to begin with. It is a really different way of driving. I had to unlearn what I learned at Williams and relearn how to drive this car fast.

    "I tried a lot of things in FP3 and it didn't go well at all, so to be honest would have been happy with just making Q3 after final practice.

    "So I am really pleased – pretty much got it all together on the final lap in Q3. Obviously gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds but If you told me last week I would get P2 I wouldn't have believed you.

    "Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years and we all know how great Lewis is. Statistically there has only been one tenth between them.

    "To be right behind Valtteri, coming in last minute, two days of preparation, I am pleased. 

    "I will have nobody in front of me [on my side of the grid] which I have not experienced for a long, long time. It is going to be really tricky. I feel most comfortable with qualifying, giving it everything you've got. 

    "Sunday you need more control and finesse but I haven't had that experience yet, so we will see what I can do."

    Bottas revealed he had tried to avoid distractions on a dramatic week in the Mercedes camp, with much talk about the pressure he is under to beat the team's developmental driver Russell, who is expected to secure a permanent drive in the future.

    "It was a different situation to have a new team-mate, but I just wanted to focus [all my preparation] on my own doing, ot to waste energy anywhere else and I think I managed to do that," said the Finn.

    "Strategy-wise we are in a great place as a team, it's good see George locking out the front row as well. 

    "It is good to be on pole and I'm happy with that. Not one of my best qualifying sessions but happy it was enough. Now it is a bit of an unknown how the racing is going to be." 

    Verstappen was himself just 0.056s behind Bottas in an incredibly close Q3 on a race weekend which is being held on a different, shorter track configuration to the one used for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the same venue last week.

    "From our side we had a good qualifying," said the Dutchman. "It's a very short lap, not many corners. I always try and be as close as I can [to Mercedes] and it was a bit closer than normal.

    "Sunday we are starting on different tyres [softs], it's gonna be quite interesting how it's gonna play out for us. We have nothing to lose."

  • F1 2020: Bottas and Russell share front row in Hamilton's absence F1 2020: Bottas and Russell share front row in Hamilton's absence

    Valtteri Bottas edged out new temporary team-mate George Russell as Mercedes impressively locked out the front row at the Sakhir Grand Prix despite the absence of Lewis Hamilton.

    Williams driver Russell is standing in for seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has tested positive for coronavirus.

    And after impressing in Friday's practice, Russell was strong again in qualifying on Saturday, pushing Bottas to the limit as the Finn claimed pole by a margin of just 0.026 seconds.

    Max Verstappen was close behind in third, with Charles Leclerc taking a strong fourth place for Ferrari.

    Racing Point's Sergio Perez will start fifth on the grid, while the second Red Bull of Alex Albon qualified down in 12th after missing out on a place in Q3.

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