The Bahrain GP will be the first Formula 1 race unable to be attended by the public as restrictions have been put in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus
We’ll try and avoid the jokes about the Bahrain GP not having any spectators anyway, but organisers have confirmed that it won’t admit the public to the racetrack when F1 rocks up for the second round of the season in two weeks’ time. A statement reads:
“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.
“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 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.”
It seems like a thoroughly sensible decision, though it’s going to be very weird to see a race held with completely empty grandstands and, presumably, zero atmosphere.
The big concern for F1, however, is the recent tough restrictions the Italian government has placed on its own citizens for travelling. Modena - where the Ferrari factory is located - is one of 14 provinces that have been placed on lockdown until 3 April, with anyone wishing to travel needing special permission. It remains to be seen whether that will include any F1 personnel, but if Ferrari (or indeed any other team) is unable to take part in the Australian GP, Ross Brawn has already stated that it will become a non-championship round.