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.


Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

Updated 44 min 20 sec ago

Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

  • Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media
  • Valcke was the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter,

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Former FIFA No. 2  Jerome Valcke and Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi will discover Friday if their roles in the “Fifagate” scandal, regarding alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights, are damning enough to land them a stretch behind bars.

That is when the Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, which conducted 10 days of hearings in September, will announce the verdict on the two men, along with Greek businessman Dinos Deris.

Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media, and 30 months for Deris — with partial suspension in all three cases.

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA. Two former Latin American football leaders have been jailed in the US.

Valcke, the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter, was on trial on two charges related to his quest for money to maintain what Federal Prosecutor Joel Pahud called a “spendthrift” lifestyle.

Al-Khelaifi is included in the first charge.

BACKGROUND

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA.

The public prosecutor’s office said Valcke sought the Qatari’s help in the summer of 2003 to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia, at a time when beIN, a Qatari-owned broadcaster, was negotiating the extension of its media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

The prosecutor said Al-Khelaifi acquired the house for five million euros ($5.85 million), via a company that was transferred almost immediately to the brother of one of his close collaborators, before it was made available to Valcke.

The two men denied a “corrupt agreement” and said the deal was a “private” arrangement, unrelated to the contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.

The prosecution said Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would win the contract and should have declared the Villa Bianca deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khaleifa to damage FIFA’s interests illegally.

The defense argued that the trial was “muddied” by the revelation of informal meetings between former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Lauber resigned from his post in July and both men are under investigation for suspected collusion.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers have told AFP that the charges against their client are “clearly artificial.” 

The Swiss prosecutors had to drop a charge of corruption because of an out-of-court settlement in January between Al-Khelaifi and FIFA, which then withdrew its complaint against him.