Fans roar back on day of defiance in Sochi with crowd of 20,000 attending across the weekend


Fans roar back on day of defiance in Sochi with a crowd of 20,000 across the Russian Grand Prix weekend representing the biggest in Europe since coronavirus grabbed sport by the throat

  • A crowd of some 20,000 fans were in attendance across the weekend in Sochi
  • It was the biggest crowd in Europe since coronavirus grabbed sport by the throat
  • There is apprehension but fans should also be allowed to attend in Germany 

The public address system demanded spectators wear face masks or the risk of expulsion from the Sochi Autodrom. This being Russia, the instruction was met with stony defiance.

Covid? What Covid?

A crowd of some 20,000 over the weekend represented the biggest in Europe since the virus grabbed sport by the throat. The cafes and bars that have proliferated since I first came here for the Olympic Games six years ago were teeming with people for whom social distancing is as foreign a concept as moonwalking.

Around 20,000 fans were in attendance across the weekend at the Russian Grand Prix

Around 20,000 fans were in attendance across the weekend at the Russian Grand Prix

Yes, it all felt a bit different after most of the season has run without fans. The first, a smattering, returned for the Tuscan Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

But this was on a different scale, and, putting aside a cavalier approach to precautions, it was warming to hear the cheers and even to see three or four Union Jacks in the stands.

For Formula One bosses, there is slight apprehension, ‘squeaky bum time’ as one insider put it, though their tracking system should ensure the circus can move on to Germany and safer territory on October 11.

It was the biggest crowd in Europe since coronavirus' considerable impact on sport

It was the biggest crowd in Europe since coronavirus’ considerable impact on sport

The season is a miracle of deliverance – a feather in Liberty’s cap – from the abyss Formula One looked into in March. Of all the sports, none presents bigger logistical challenges with vast teams and far-flung destinations.

In all, 47,357 tests over three months have produced just 16 positives. But there was an uptick around this race – seven positives: three caught prior to travel and four locals.

There has been talk of testing at the track has been cursory – a quick prod up the nose rather than the brain-tickling rigour we have grown used to every five days.

Regardless, I am armed with me a form that tells me I am negative, and that’ll get me back home.

Formula One fans watched on as Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas reigned supreme in Sochi

Formula One fans watched on as Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas reigned supreme in Sochi


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