By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One is ready to enter the next phase of an extraordinary season, with the focus on getting absent fans back to the racetrack, after cramming eight grands prix into the space of two months.
Eight is the bare minimum for a valid championship and Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza reached that mark with a bang.
A podium without any of the top three teams, who between them had won every race since early 2013, and a shock triumph for AlphaTauri's Frenchman Pierre Gasly was just what was required after a Spanish snooze and Belgian boredom.
If television viewers, in a season ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, were on the edge of their armchairs then now the sport hopes to get some into the grandstands in the second half of the 17-race championship.
Monza provided plenty of shock and suspense but the atmosphere was lacking without the usual hordes of passionate Ferrari fans, kept out due to virus restrictions.
Mugello, the scenic Ferrari-owned Italian track which hosts the Tuscan Grand Prix next Sunday, will see some 2,880 paying fans per day.
"When this race is done we've got a world championship, eight races," Formula One's managing director Ross Brawn had told Sky Sports F1 on the Monza starting grid on Sunday.
"The next phase is fans. We're going to do that as soon as we can when we can do it safely."
Russia, next up after Mugello, is planning concerts, fanzones and entertainment for the grand prix in Sochi and selling tickets with talk of a crowd of up to 30,000.
Turkish GP organisers, with their race to the east of Istanbul set for Nov. 15, have talked of allowing as many as 100,000 fans -- if conditions allow -- with tickets priced as low as 30 Turkish lira ($4.02).
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)