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F1 racers should appear before spectators at Sochi Grand Prix — Russia's first F1 driver

Administration of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced earlier in the year that the Russian F1 race would be organized with spectators in attendance

MOSCOW, September 8. /TASS/. Formula One racers should greet spectators during the 2020 FIA F1 World Championship’s Russia Grand Prix in Sochi this month, Russia’s F1 ex-racer Vitaly Petrov told TASS on Tuesday.

The Russian city of Sochi is hosting the Formula One Russia Grand Prix for the seventh time in the event's history. The race is scheduled to be held on September 25-27. Administration of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced earlier in the year that the Russian F1 race would be organized with spectators in attendance.

"I believe that due to the coronavirus situation a traditional autograph session of the racers will be cancelled this year, however, I am not sure as it is not in my authority to make decisions on such issues," Petrov said in an interview with TASS.

"I would suggest that the drivers approach the spectators stands and communicate with their fans since the race was allowed to be organized with spectators in attendance," he continued. "Of course I will be in Sochi and will be commenting during the racing weekend on air of Match TV [television sports channel]. We have scheduled on-air broadcasts three times a day."

Petrov, 36, is the first Russian racer to enter the prestigious racing world of Formula One. He made his debut in 2010 and retired after the 2012 season.

This year’s FIA F1 World Championship was intended to be the first in the history of Formula One to run in 22 Grands Prix around the globe, opening with the race in Australia on March 15 and closing with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The championship was set to see a debut of the Grand Prix in Vietnam’s Hanoi and the return of the Dutch Grand Prix, which had been absent from the race calendar since 1985.

However, the F1 racing calendar for this year had been readjusted due to the global spread of the novel coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the organizers earlier in the year to cancel the legendary Monaco GP, as well as the Grands Prix in Australia and France.

The F1 press service stated on June 2 that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) approved a calendar of eight Grands Prix to start the 2020 Formula One World Championship. The list of the eight approved Grands Prix included the racing weekends in Austria on July 3-5 and July 10-12; in Hungary on July 17-19; in the UK on July 31-August 2 and on August 7-9; in Spain on August 14-16; in Belgium on August 28-30; in Italy on September 4-6.

Later it confirmed that Russia’s Grand Prix would be held in Sochi on September 25-27.

On August 25, Formula One authorities presented an extended calendar of Grands Prix for this year’s prestigious auto racing championship stating that the list of the Grands Prix this season was upped to 17. According to the official statement of the Formula One racing series four more races were added for this year - namely one race in Turkey on November 13-15; two races in Bahrain (on November 27-29 and December 4-6) and one race in Abu Dhabi on December 11-13.

F1 Russia GP in Sochi

Sochi Autodrom track is the only racing circuit in Russia hosting a FIA Formula One Grand Prix. Located in the Olympic Park, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the 5,848-meter long racing circuit in the Black Sea coastal area has already successfully hosted six F1 Grand Prix races.

In late 2014, the Sochi Autodrom was awarded the trophy of Formula One’s best racing track of the year. The Race Promoters' Trophy is a rotating award, engraved with the names of other top F1 tracks dating from 1975.

The contract to include Russia in the calendar of F1 racing for the 2014-2020 period was signed in 2010 in Sochi by then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone. In early 2017, the contract to hold F1 racing in Russia’s Sochi was extended until 2025.