Formula One: Fog wipes out Eifel Grand Prix practice sessions

A general view as the weather on Oct 9, 2020, at the Nurburgring circuit. PHOTO: REUTERS

NURBURGRING, GERMANY (AFP) - Both practice sessions at the Eifel Grand Prix were cancelled on Friday (Oct 9) when thick fog prevented the use of a medical helicopter at the Nurburgring circuit.

Consistent rain and low temperatures combined with a thick low mist to prevent any on-circuit action at the track in the Eifel mountains, delivering the first complete washout of a single day since the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix.

Race Director Michael Masi said: "Dampness is fine, it's just that the medical helicopter is not able to fly to the receiving hospitals due to fog.

"Even though we have the broadcast helicopter - that's flying only around the circuit - to go from here to any of the hospitals, should something happen, is not possible and therefore, from a safety perspective, we can't start the sessions."

According to the regulations of the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), the nearest hospital to a venue hosting a Grand Prix should be within a 20-minute drive of the circuit or, if not, within a similar time by helicopter.

At the Nurburgring, the nearest hospital is at Koblenz, which is 45 minutes' drive from the track and, therefore, requires the event only to take place when conditions allow for the medical helicopter to fly.

Masi said the FIA and F1 were working on continency plans for the weekend in case the weather persisted or worsened.

"The forecast looks better," he said.

"But we are also working on some back-up plans should there be a similar situation to be able to try and work around. So, we are developing those."

In Japan last year, Saturday's scheduled morning practice session and the afternoon's scheduled qualifying were washed out by the impact of a typhoon. As a result, qualifying was shifted to Sunday morning.

Weather permitting, this weekend's action could be squeezed into two days, thus giving the F1 circus a rehearsal for the scheduled two-day Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Oct 31 and Nov 1.

That tight schedule was forced upon this year's calendar by the introduction into the calendar of the previous weekend's event in Portugal, at Portimao on the Algarve.

A sparse crowd that had been allowed to buy tickets in family bubbles was scattered in the grandstands without any on-track action to enjoy - and driving rain forcing them to huddle under wet weather clothing.

Many Formula One observers had warned of the prospect of poor weather wrecking the sport's return to the Nurburgring for the first time since 2013.

The Oct 11 date for Sunday's race is the latest in the calendar year for an F1 race to take place at the Nurburgring.

The cancellation meant that Mick Schumacher, the 21-year-old son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, was unable to make his debut in opening practice with the Alfa Romeo team.

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