Late last night, the Bahrain International Circuit organization, or BIC, after consultation with the Bahraini government, issued a statement that the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix and support races on March 22 will be participants only, due to the global coronavirus issue.
This is the latest in a short but devastating streak of public events being cancelled, including the 2020 Geneva Motor Show.
According to the official statement from the circuit, only teams, accredited media, and track personnel such as marshals, the race stewards, the race director, and the like will be granted access to the circuit.
As Bahrain is a small island kingdom on only 300 square miles in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia, tourism is one of the biggest markets. The Formula 1 race there is always a sold out affair, and brings in millions of dollars for the local economy.
As the second race of the season, it’s also the first race where newly developed parts and such are put on the cars after the first round in Australia, and the reaction from the teams to their data collected from a race weekend.
It is also only one of two night races during the Formula 1 season, the other being the Singapore Grand Prix.
According to the statement, the driving factor for closing the circuit to spectators and going ahead as a televised only event is to promote “aggressive social distancing” to prevent infections.
“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.”
Fortunately, the BIC recognizes the extraordinary circumstances and will be refunding tickets. Formula 1 will also be refunding VIP passes and Hot Lap passes as well.
This comes after the first race of the 2020 MotoGP calendar was cancelled in Qatar due to the mass spread of coronavirus in Italy and the subsequent quarantine not allowing many teams and racers to leave the country.
As well, the 2020 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix is on an indefinite hold and may be cancelled, and the 2020 MotoGP round in Thailand has been similarly suspended.
The full statement from the Bahrain International Circuit is below:
8 March, 2020: Statement from Bahrain International Circuit
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 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.