SAO PAULO (AP) — Organizers at Interlagos are aiming for a triumphant return to the Formula One circuit this weekend, with all 170,000 tickets sold for the three days of action.
Formula One cut Brazil from its 2020 calendar because of restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Race organizers and local authorities on Wednesday said the 2021 edition will be the biggest total attendance for an event in Brazil since the virus hit the nation.
The Sao Paulo Grand Prix, renamed for this year after a company tried to take the race back to Rio de Janeiro, was allowed to open for full capacity only weeks ago when the state government eased restrictions for November.
Brazil has reported more than 610,000 deaths from the coronavirus, but the rate has sharply reduced all over the country. More than 57% of its people aged 12 and over are now fully vaccinated. Those figures are at around 70% in Sao Paulo.
Ticket sales began in June, with every batch sold within minutes. Prices ranged between 650 Brazilian reals ($100) and 12,800 Brazilian reals ($2,300).
“We will have a full home after a difficult year,” race organizer Alan Adler told a news conference. “We didn't know whether we would have a Grand Prix, then whether we would have people attending, and today we are celebrating we will have 100% of our attendance.”
Interlagos will host the 19th of the 22 races of the season.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen, the winner of the latest GP in Mexico, leads Mercedes driver and defending champion Lewis Hamilton in the championship by 19 points with four races left. Verstappen won in Sao Paulo in 2019.
Mercedes now leads Red Bull by just one point in the constructors' championship.
Fans at Interlagos will have to wear masks when they are not eating, show vaccination certificates and bring evidence of a negative test for coronavirus. Many events in Brazil have shown multitudes of fans to largely ignore those protocols as soon as action begins.
“We are ready to take 20% more attendance in comparison with 2019, so we added to our structures," Adler said, crediting the success in attendance to younger fans.
“Previously, parents dragged their children to the race here. Now it is seems to be children taking their parents to Interlagos,” he said.
Many analysts expected Formula One to lose some interest in Brazil due to the absence of local drivers on the grid and a move that took the series off the screen of Brazil's popular TV Globo. But organizers said that did not materialize; there are only a few VIP seats on sale for Sunday's race.
Interlagos will also have the extra ingredient of holding the season's third qualifying sprint race on Saturday. The two previous qualifying sprint races were held at Silverstone and Monza.
The grid for the Sao Paulo GP will be determined by the result of Saturday's race instead of the traditional timed lap qualifying format, which will take place on Friday instead to set the positions for the sprint race.
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