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F1 teams have been busy preparing for Azerbaijan by using simulators

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While they’ll finally get a chance at the real deal this weekend, numerous F1 drivers have been preparing for the Grand Prix of Europe by running countless laps on computerized simulators.

Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez are among those who have been using simulators to try and get a leg up on the actual Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan before reality sets in and they’re driving on the actual circuit in their cars on Thursday.

“We had a (Baku) session on the simulator, and that’s about everything you can do,” Grosjean said in a media release. “The simulators are getting better year after year, but it’s still not a real race car.”

But using a simulator also provides teams with a few additional options to establish setup baselines and the like.

“There’s a lot you can do with a simulator, which is great, but nothing is as good as being in the car out on track,” Grosjean said. “On the simulator, you can try a few different set-up ideas for direction. You can also try different philosophies and updates you’d like to try on the car later in the year and before you prepare them for actual racing.

“The more experience you have as a team, the better prepared you are for new tracks and different layouts. On the other hand, no one knows what to expect from Baku, so that’s going to be interesting for us.

“It’s certainly a circuit that’s very different from everything we’ve been used to. We’ll have to see how it goes in real life. There are very long, straight lines and a lot of 90 degree corners with low curves. There’s a very high section up to the castle and down again to the last corner, which will be quite interesting.”

Gutierrez agrees with his teammate.

“The simulator has been very important [in preparing],” Gutierrez said. “It’s been quite an experience. Baku is a very challenging track and I really enjoyed it (his time on the simulator). I’m looking forward to getting there in person.

“I feel that it will be a bit more [of a level playing field], but that doesn’t clear the fact that as a team we have a bit less experience overall. That makes it complicated to predict things, because when you have more information and more experience, you can make better predictions.

“It will be interesting to get to know Baku and its characteristics and see where we stand. No matter what, we’ll approach it in a positive way and try to extract the maximum amount from our car at this new circuit.”

Baku is unlike anything Gutierrez has ever seen.

“I cannot compare it to anything,” he said. “From what I saw on the simulator, it’s a completely different racetrack. It’s really going to be quite a challenge, and I think that’s going to make things interesting for everybody. I liked it in the simulator, so I hope it’s going to be like that in reality.

“I didn’t know anything of Azerbaijan before the race was announced, but then I did a little bit of research to try and learn about the country and Baku. I’m looking forward to seeing it and enjoying the area.”

Although this is a new track, and all teams should theoretically be on the same page, Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner says some teams will have an advantage regardless.

“The big teams have more information because they go and get more information,” Steiner said. “Normally, they are better off because they’ve got more people to get prepared. They will always have an advantage, but at a new venue like Baku, sometimes you can get lucky.

“You take the corners and the grip level and you just pick pieces of other circuits, but there isn’t one specific area where you could say, ‘We can do the same thing here that we do there.’ Baku will be a learning experience for everyone.”

And finally, the simulator can be put aside for the real deal.

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.