2020 Bahrain Grand Prix to take place behind closed doors

UPDATE: The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix has now been postponed due to the global COVID-19 outbreak and will not take place on March 20-22. Ticket refunds are being offered. Learn more HERE.

The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix will be a “participants-only” event, with the Bahrain International Circuit closing its doors to spectators due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The second race of the 2020 Formula 1 season will be contested with no spectators in the grandstands as a precaution over fears of the spread of coronavirus. The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix will therefore be the first ever World Championship F1 race to take place without a crowd in attendance. The Kingdom of Bahrain has had almost 80 cases of the virus so far, and has closed schools and imposed a travel ban from Iran as a precautionary measure. In a statement, Bahrain Grand Prix organisers said: “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.” Organisers had previously halted the sale of tickets for the event, and had planned to introduce a number of public health measures, including a screening procedure on entry, to maintain safety for spectators.
The news comes as a blow to the circuit, who celebrated their best ever attendance figures last season. 97,000 fans visited the Bahrain International Circuit over the race weekend in 2019, with 34,000 in attendance on race day. The race day attendance increased by 2,000 from 2018 and by 5,000 from 2017. Though the race is generally one of the least attended of the season, it ranks well in terms of the population to spectator ratio. The financial impact on the circuit should not be too great, as the event is largely funded by the government. While this is a solution which works for Bahrain, it may not be a sustainable option for other circuits on the calendar. In addition to Formula 1, the Formula 2 and Formula 3 seasons are scheduled to get underway at the Bahrain International Circuit over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. ART Grand Prix driver Christian Lundgaard had previously been forced to miss the F2 test in Bahrain due to being stranded in a Tenerife hotel where guests had contracted the virus. Refunds are to be offered to fans who have purchased tickets for the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix from official outlets, though flights and hotels may not be refunded as the event is still going ahead.

Australian Grand Prix to go ahead as planned

The Bahrain Grand Prix is to take place one week after the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Organisers of the Albert Park race have insisted that the race will go ahead as planned, with CEO Andrew Westacott saying that it is “all systems go” as the event gears up for its 25th anniversary race: “The health and safety of everyone at the Australian Grand Prix is paramount. The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has robust health, safety and emergency management arrangements in place at each event and we are working collaboratively with health agencies and related government and emergency services organisations in addressing this matter.” The media will be able to attend the Bahrain Grand Prix, but German broadcaster RTL has already opted not to send staff to the opening races of the year. The free-to-air station will instead present their coverage of the opening three races of the season from Cologne. It is not yet known how many other broadcasters will take a similar approach. With travel restrictions and quarantines in place – most notably in northern regions of Italy, where Ferrari are based – and the situation developing on a daily basis, it is difficult to predict how much further the Formula 1 calendar will be impacted by coronavirus.

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