This year’s Bahrain Grand Prix will take place without spectators as the race organizers opted to make it a “participants-only event” in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The race had already suspended ticket sales while looking into how it was going to handle the situation, with travel restrictions in place against people who had visited a number of affected countries in the past 14 days. Now, organizers have confirmed that no spectators will be allowed at the event — with refunds being issued to those who have already purchased tickets — as only teams and accredited media can attend.
“In consultation with our international partners and the Kingdom’s national health taskforce, Bahrain has made the decision to hold this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix as a participants-only event,” a statement from the Bahrain International Circuit read.
“As an F1 host nation, balancing the welfare of supporters and race goers is a tremendous responsibility. Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travelers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time. But to ensure that neither the sport, nor its global supporter base, is unduly impacted, the race weekend itself will still go ahead as a televised event.
“Bahrain’s own early actions to prevent, identify and isolate cases of individuals with Covid-19 has been extremely successful to date. The approach has involved rapid, proactive measures, identifying those affected by the virus, of which the overwhelming majority of cases relate to those traveling into the country by air. Aggressive social distancing measures have further increased the effectiveness of preventing the virus’ spread, something that would clearly be near impossible to maintain were the race to have proceeded as originally planned.
“We know how disappointed many will be by this news, especially for those planning to travel to the event, which has become a cornerstone event of the international F1 calendar, but safety has to remain our utmost priority.”
Developments in Italy are also casting further doubt on races, with the Italian government quarantining 16 million people. Currently, 15 central and northern provinces are in lockdown and requiring special permission to travel.
Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters is located in the province of Modena, one of those affected, but at present it is unclear how the restrictions impact the race team, some of who will already have already departed for next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.