Russian GP likely to be season’s first racing with fans

Sebastian Vettel
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Updated 11 July 2020

Russian GP likely to be season’s first racing with fans

SPIELBERG, Austria: The first Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello will be held on Sept. 13, and the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi two weeks later could be the first Formula One race this season with fans.

The F1 season started last weekend in Austria with no fans at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said he hopes spectators can attend the race in Sochi later this year.

“Russia is ready to receive the Formula 1 teams and spectators. The government will provide all the assistance required during the preparation and delivery of the competition,” Chernyshenko said Friday. “It will be an important event for Russian sport.”

It was not immediately clear how many fans Russian authorities hope to allow inside the 55,000-capacity Sochi Autodrom.

“This will be an incredible festival for the widest audience possible,” said Alexey Titov, the CEO of state-backed race promoter Rosgonki. “We are confident that the difficulties of this year will not become a special obstacle for motorsport fans. We are meticulously preparing to receive spectators safely and looking forward to seeing everyone.”

Both races were added to the calendar by F1 organizers on Friday, taking the number of scheduled races so far this season to 10 — all of them in Europe.

“Everybody has done an extraordinary job to bring back racing. To hear that more races have been put on the calendar is great news,” Williams team principal Claire Williams said. “Mugello is an unknown. We used to go testing there many, many moons ago. It will give the engineers a test.”

It will be the first time since 2006 that two races will be held in Italy.

F1 still hopes to have 15-18 races and to finish the season in December with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

“We had great start to our season in Austria last weekend and we are increasingly confident in our plans to race throughout the remainder of 2020,” F1 chairman Chase Carey said. “We are equally excited to see Formula 1 race for the first time at Mugello, an occasion that will mark Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix.”

Mugello is about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Florence. It has never staged an F1 race but has hosted F2 and MotoGP races, as well as previously being a Ferrari test track.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel did a test drive there last month.


Guardiola under pressure as City chase elusive crown

Updated 20 October 2020

Guardiola under pressure as City chase elusive crown

  • Despite all their domestic success in recent years, City have never gone beyond the semifinals of the Champions League

LONDON: Pep Guardiola starts his latest bid to lead Manchester City to Champions League glory with the shadows of past failures casting doubt on his ability to secure that elusive title.

City host Porto in their opening Champions League group match on Wednesday with Guardiola's failing in the tournament weighing heavily on both the Spanish boss and his club.

Despite all their domestic success in recent years, City have never gone beyond the semifinals of the Champions League and Guardiola has found the competition equally vexing for much of the last decade.

Since he won the Champions League as Barcelona boss for the second time in 2011, Guardiola has failed to return to the final of Europe's elite club competition.

That nine-year drought includes four years of frustration since he took charge at City in 2016.

In that time, Guardiola has seen City beaten by Monaco in the last 16 and Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon in the quarterfinals.

He also lost in three semifinals during his time as Bayern Munich manager before moving to City.

Last season's shock 3-1 defeat against Lyon in Lisbon was especially galling as City were heavy favorites against the French side.

Guardiola deserved a large portion of the blame for that letdown after his tactical tinkering appeared to unsettle his players and did nothing to tilt the tie in City's favor.

Interpreted by Guardiola's critics as further proof that his Champions League success at Barcelona was due to the presence of the great Lionel Messi's presence, the only bright side of the Lyon loss was that it was not their farewell to Europe for a while.

For several months last season, it appeared City would not even be competing in the Champions League this term after UEFA gave them a two-year ban from European competitions for Financial Fairplay breaches.

City's legal dream team won that battle and the suspension was eventually thrown out on appeal.

Whether Guardiola can be as successful in Europe as City's Abu Dhabi-based owners were in the court room remains far from certain.

Adding to the unease around City ahead of their European campaign is the unresolved issue of Guardiola's future.

Guardiola is out of contract at the end of the season and has yet to agree on a new deal amid speculation that he may decide to leave the Etihad Stadium in 2021.

For now, Guardiola will focus on Porto's visit to Manchester rather than entertaining questions about his long-term plans.

The 49-year-old insists he has to earn a prolonged stay at City by improving on last season's disappointment, which saw them surrender the Premier League to Liverpool and win only the League Cup.

There have been some worrying signs already as Leicester thrashed City 5-2, while Saturday's 1-0 win against Arsenal was far from convincing.

Significantly, Guardiola was able to welcome back Sergio Aguero last weekend as City's record goalscorer made his first appearance for four months after knee surgery.

City have lacked a cutting edge in Aguero's absence and Guardiola's hopes of a serious Champions League challenge hinge on the Argentine striker staying fit.

"The important thing is that Sergio comes back in good physical condition, starts to get his rhythm, doesn't get more injuries and plays good," Guardiola said.

"We know what he means for us, we know how we appreciate him, but now he has to show like every one of us, me first, that we deserve to continue here and playing good and winning games."