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Brazil ‘far along’ for Formula One return

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RIO DE JANEIRO — President Jair Bolsonaro says there is a “99% chance” that Rio de Janeiro will host Formula One’s Brazilian Grand Prix starting in 2021 — the latest in a battle with Sao Paulo, the current host city.

Bolsonaro made the announcement at a news conference alongside Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Wilson Witzel and F1 CEO Chase Carey. Bolsonaro said plans are “already very far along,” although Carey said only that they are negotiating.

“We will not lose Formula One. Sao Paulo’s contract ends next year and they’ve decided Formula 1 will come back to Rio de Janeiro,” Bolsonaro said.

Carey said his goal is to continue Grand Prix racing in Brazil.

“We are focused on finding the best opportunity for everybody for 2021 forward,” he said. “… I’ve talked about every race being a Super Bowl. We want to make our races events that captivate the entire city and region’s imagination when we’re here, and we want to be in a destination city that really captures the world’s imagination.”

When asked if Rio de Janeiro’s violence could be a problem for hosting the event, Witzel responded that homicide rates have gone down since he became governor in January and he expects to add 10,000 new police officers through 2021 while spending more on surveillance equipment.

Rio de Janeiro has not hosted Formula One since 1989 and does not currently have a racetrack.

Bolsonaro previously said a new track could be ready in six to seven months. However, Rio Motorsports, the consortium that is leading the effort to bring the race to Rio, told The Associated Press that a track would take 16 to 17 months to complete.

In neighboring Sao Paulo state, Gov. Joao Doria called his own news conference for Tuesday with representatives from Formula One.

After Bolsonaro’s comments, Doria told the G1 news portal that keeping the F1 race in Sao Paulo “is not a personal desire” but instead is “an economic issue.” He has previously said that Sao Paulo, the country’s biggest city, “won’t give up” its status as the Grand Prix host.

“How can you imagine that an investment that does not yet exist, is not projected or planned … will get an international racetrack approved to organize the (Grand) Prix of Formula One in 2020?” Doria asked last month.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).