The Bahrain Grand Prix on March 22 will be held behind closed doors, with the grandstands empty of spectators due to the global spread of the coronavirus.
Ticket sales for the event has already been suspended on Friday, but after further meetings it was decided that fans will be locked out of the event. Only team and FIA personnel together with accredited media will be able to attend.
It’s the first time in Formula 1’s history that a race will be held with no spectators present.
An official press release from the organisers of the event at the Bahrain International Circuit stated: “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.
“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 travellers 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.”
The news came just hours after Italy’s national government imposed a strict travel ban on the northern Lombardy region and 14 neighbouring provinces. No one will be allowed in our out of the affected area without permission.
Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters is right in the middle of the affected area. However, it’s hoped that all key personnel had already departed for Melbourne in advance of the first race of the F1 season.
Italy has been one of the nations worst-hit by the spread of the coronavirus, but there have also been cases reported in Bahrain.
Even so, the Kingdom’s rules hopes to keep the number of new cases under control by measures including banning events with large attendance figures, such as the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Bahrain’s own early actions to prevent, identify and isolate cases of individuals with Covid-19 has been extremely successful to date,” the official statement noted.
“The approach has involved rapid, proactive measures, identifying those affected by the virus, of which the overwhelming majority of cases relate to those travelling 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.”
Bahrain immigration and health authorities have sought names and flight details of all F1 personnel who work for teams, administrators, broadcasters or media who passed through, China, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Lebanon and Thailand in the 14 days before their arrival in the country.
In addition, passengers arriving via the United Arab Emirates are also expected to be screened at Manama airport on arrival. They will be allowed into the country if they do test negative for coronavirus.
The Chinese Grand Prix has already been indefinitely posponed from April 19 due to fears about the virus which was first detected in the nearby Wuhan province.
Formula 1 still hopes to hold the first Vietnam Grand Prix on April 5 as planned, but it monitoring the global situation for developments.