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Fog ends Mick Schumacher's practice hopes in Germany

NUERBURGRING, Germany (Reuters) - Bad weather denied Mick Schumacher his Formula One practice debut and wiped out track action at the Eifel Grand Prix on Friday, with the medical helicopter grounded by fog and cars unable to run.

Formula One F1 - Eifel Grand Prix - Nurburgring, Nurburg, Germany - October 8, 2020 Alfa Romeo's Mick Schumacher on the circuit wearing a protective face mask with his team ahead of the Grand Prix REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Organisers had set the clock running for the 90-minute opening session at a cold and damp Nuerburgring but kept the pit lane exit closed.

After half-hourly updates, they announced there would be no running. The afternoon session at the German circuit was similarly timed out.

Schumacher, the Formula Two championship leader and son of seven-times world champion and former Ferrari great Michael, had been due to replace Italian Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo for the morning only.

The debut had attracted global interest, with Schumacher stepping onto the Formula One stage at the circuit closest to his father’s childhood home in Kerpen and one where his father won five times.

Britain’s Callum Ilott, second in the F2 championship and also a Ferrari Academy driver, had also been due to take part with the Ferrari-powered Haas team.

Schumacher and Ilott have both driven F1 cars before in test sessions.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said it would be hard to reschedule sessions for the pair, who could both graduate to Formula One next year, before the Abu Dhabi season-ender.

“It’s obviously a shame for them. It would have been a great opportunity for them here to make their debuts in F1,” he told Sky Sports.

“We may try to rearrange at the next races but it will be very difficult. The next one Portimao (Portugal) is a new circuit for everybody in F1 so our top drivers will need to practice as well.

“Then we’ve got Imola which is only a Saturday and Sunday (two day race weekend) and then to Turkey, again new circuit. And then it’s Bahrain where they’ve got their F2 races and they need to be focused.

“Very likely the next opportunity now will be Abu Dhabi and not earlier.”

Schumacher put a brave face on his day, telling reporters he still gained valuable experience from working inside the team.

“Obviously I would have loved to get out and drive,” said the 21-year-old. “Nevertheless I think it’s great to be here, to get the opportunity to work with the engineers and also to see the fans.

“I’m also very sorry for the fans that they don’t get to see us drive... we don’t know what the future holds but hopefully I will get to drive a few laps again.”

Race director Michael Masi explained that the medical helicopter had to be able to fly for safety reasons because the nearest hospital was too far away by road should something occur.

The Nuerburgring is making its return to the calendar for the first time since 2013 after Formula One had to rip up its original schedule and bring in some new venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The circuit situated in the hilly and wooded Eifel region has never before hosted a world championship grand prix this late in the year.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris

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