Bahrain Grand Prix to take place behind closed doors amid coronavirus outbreak

8 March 2020, 15:20

The second round of the Formula One season will take place behind closed doors
The second round of the Formula One season will take place behind closed doors. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Bahrain Grand Prix will take place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, organisers have announced.

The second round of the Formula One season, due to take place from March 20-22, has become the latest sporting event to close to the public because of the virus.

Bahrain has reported over 60 cases of Covid-19 and have taken the measure in a bid to limit its spread.

The decision is the latest setback to the Formula One calendar after the Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Shanghai in April, was postponed indefinitely last month.

A statement from race 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.

The race was set to take place from March 20-22 at the Bahrain International Circuit
The race was set to take place from March 20-22 at the Bahrain International Circuit. Picture: PA

"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."

There had been fears that restrictions to travel to and from Italy could affect both Italian teams, Ferrari and AlphaTauri, and tyre manufacturer Pirelli.

But Ferrari confirmed on Saturday that they were in touch with the authorities and their departure to the first race, taking place in Melbourne next weekend, would go ahead as planned.

The top Italian team are based in Maranello, near Modena, which is one of the provinces under lockdown.

In a statement, the team said: “Following measures announced by the Italian Government last night, we are monitoring and evaluating the situation and are in close contact with the relevant authorities and all organisations involved.

“For Ferrari, compliance with the Government regulations represents the primary guarantee for ensuring the safety of its employees and their families which is our priority.

“Every single decision will be made with respect to this principle.

“Part of the team and equipment have already arrived in Melbourne and the departures for the remaining members of the team are going ahead as programmed unless we receive communications to the contrary.”