Start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Bahrain Grand Prix to be held behind closed doors due to Coronavirus

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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The Bahrain Grand Prix promoters have escalated their response to the Coronavirus, announcing they will not admit spectators to the race in two weeks’ time.

A statement issued by the circuit confirmed that “in consultation with our international partners and the Kingdom’s national health task force, Bahrain has made the decision to hold this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix as a participants-only event.”

The world championship is due to begin in Australia next week. Bahrain, which is due to hold the second round of the championship one week later announced new restrictions on ticket sales three days ago due to the Coronavirus.

More stringent measures have now been agreed to help contain the spread of the virus. “As an F1 host nation, balancing the welfare of supporters and race goers is a tremendous responsibility,” the statement continued.

“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.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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60 comments on “Bahrain Grand Prix to be held behind closed doors due to Coronavirus”

  1. Wow! Very responsible approach. I wonder how many other Grand Prix will follow suit.

    1. Well.. it depends on how long this virus continues… I am happy I did not buy tickets to Hanoi….

      1. I have tickets to Hanoi and will be travelling from Canada.. least case scenario I listen from the streets.. 🤣😂

        1. Listen to what? You can’t hear these vacuum cleaner engines from a distance greater than 10 metres.

        2. @bwells88 will you be hoping to see the sights around other parts of Vietnam too in addition to the race? Hopefully that would soften the blow if you weren’t able to attend the race?

          @krichelle a large chunk of the F1 calendar looks under threat atm, I’m starting to get worried that my wife and I won’t be able to take our kids to Silverstone for their first ever GP. At least the worst case for us would be losing out on fee for the B&B that we’re staying at, rather than flights, currency etc involved with travel to another country.

    2. More the half million people died of flu around the world every year; and now every one going bananas because a few hundred are dead? How we became to be so stupid?

      1. If the educated and science literate people are telling you to beware, perhaps you need to reconsider who the “stupid” one is.

        1. @medman

          They tell you to WASH YOUR HANDS and DON’T CANCEL PLANS unless you are elderly or have immunodeficiency.

          COVID-19 is airborne. COVID-19 has infected thousands and killed some 300+, all of whom had prior health conditions.

          So yeah, the stupid is the people who look at a disease that kills hundreds of thousands but refuses to take the yearly vaccine on account of puffed pride but freak out over COVID-19, with its 2% rate of death in the elderly and weak.

          1. As someone with a medical background, I can tell you this….the flu is a mitigable virus. Vaccines can be produced. There is no vaccine for covid-19 currently, and the troubling part that you seem to miss is that it is a nascent process, and it can and may mutate. So while it is killing the old and those with prior medical issues now, there is every possibility it could mutate and start impacting the young, or the middle aged. Precaution is prudent. For everybody.

  2. Supposedly they’re going to compensate this for everyone who’d bought a ticket for the event by giving back the money spent on the tickets. Flights and accommodation are an entirely different matter, though. Nevertheless, it’s going to be weird not seeing a single person on the grandstands through the TV-footage.

    1. It’s certainly going to be weird when a driver gets out to celebrate pole position, race win and the podium ceremony

    2. You couldn’t see any people in the grandstands anywhere except the start finish anyway, it was so poorly attended.

      1. @falken That’s got more to do with the number of grandstands and the isolation of the surrounding area, though.

        1. Well, I think the race was actually pretty decently visited before the crackdown on shia muslims and others not too supportive of the regime @jerejj. Since then there has been a significant downturn in (paying) viewers.

          Although to be honest, I haven’t watched this race after then – partly by design, but also somehow in the last 3 years something came between me and viewing the race (business trips, family meetings etc) so I saw only highlights of those last years.

          1. From the limited information I can find, attendance at Bahrain has been increasing and especially since 2014. Being a Muslim country, the weekend is Friday & Saturday so a race on Sunday lunchtime is actually a problem being on the 1st day of the working week – that’s why the race permanently became a night race, so that the local population could attend after work as the 2014 attendance figures were far better than they had been previously.

          2. to further add to my comment, found some better numbers from the Bahrain GP website

            They’re claiming a 33% increase in attendance since 2013 (the last daytime race).

    3. it’s going to be weird not seeing a single person on the grandstands through the TV-footage.

      Don’t worry, FOM got that covered… they’ll just linger on some advertising boards for a bit longer!

      1. They’ll probably just CGI in a crowd just like a video game.

    4. So, no media? no press conferences. no interviews. I admit to skimming the article but dont recall any reference to media.
      Kimi will be in heaven :)

      1. No, the media will still be there.

        1. @glennb No, the media will still be there.

  3. At least it still gets to go ahead. It would have been even worse for us fans if it didn’t happen at all. I don’t expect it will make much difference to the TV feed, they rarely pan across the spectators during the race, before and after night look a bit weird though.

    1. Yes. At least the director wont be able to cut to the reactions of the crowd whenever there is something interesting happening on track! :-)

      Like Vettel’s spin in Monza. He spins and they cut immediately to the crowd. I was shouting at the screen. They missed how he rejoined and all that followed. We had to see everything in replays. Thats just one example of many. But i think they will cut to reactions of family members or team principals, if we have no crowds in Bahrain.

      Maybe in the future, for those that want to watch reactions of people, they could have a separate feed on Sky. Like they have with onboards or radio. You would be able to switch between watching Toto Wolf, or the crowd, or whoever you want. Let the rest of us watch the racing please!

  4. Well i fully expected this to happen. Bit of a biatch for those who will miss out but better than no race. Well done Bahrein.

  5. Sensible though it really will be wierd to watch the GP.

    1. it was always one of the less attended races on the calendar. Not a big problem if you ask me, but yeah it might look a bit cringy, just like football matches where the home team is sanctioned for something and there’s no crowd. Watchable, but not the complete package.

  6. Sounds sensible. I do wonder what happens to journos and commentators now though. Are they prohibited to attend the GP as well?

  7. How can the financial side of it work out in this situation?

    Circuits pay hosting fees and make, or try to make, their money back on ticket sales and ancillary products but without spectators this equation doesn’t work out. Maybe that is not a problem for Bahrain but surely this can’t work out for most other circuits. Or will Liberty exempt hosting fees in these occasions?

    1. @paulk Bahrain doesn’t rely on the ticket-money, so this scenario probably won’t be a problem them, but for some other circuits, this same scenario more likely could be problematic.

  8. What is Hamilton going to say after his race win? ‘You are the best crowd. I love racing here’

  9. Wondering if Lewis is gonna come up wit a new victory speech as there won’t be any crowd to thank for being amazing.

    1. Hilarious if he tries to crowd surf.

    2. “you’re the best fans in the world … anyone, Beuller, anyone …”

    3. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      8th March 2020, 12:45

      Haha good one @d0senbrot

    4. @d0senbrot You actually think there’s something wrong with the most frequent winner, showing appreciation for everyone attending?

      1. Come on @psynrg, speaking as a Hamilton supporter here, he’s well known for saying the fans at each circuit are the best in the world, which kind of cheapens the whole thing. I think we can have a joke about it surely!

        1. @john-h In this context I can see the funny side, but he’s only doing what every pop, rock or sports star does wherever they travel.

  10. Possibly could be a hasty decision…could they have not kept the pit/paddock out of bounds?? Anyone connected with F1 who could be carrying the virus..would not be in direct contact with spectators…but at least Bahrain can afford to stage the race in any format…

    1. @jop452

      This allows them to limit the weekend to a few thousand travelers. Interaction can largely be limited to other teams a support staff.

      If they allowed fans there would be many thousands of travelers in the airport, roads, and tourist spots.

      Plus they probablyy already know attendance will be poor and this helps the save face.

  11. just picked up some low price tickets for the Bahrain Grand Prix – prime grandstand seating, £10.00 each for some reason.
    anyone interested?

  12. It’s a sensible compromise but I suspect it’s one that very few other circuits will be able to afford.

    The other issue is that unlike closed door football matches F1 races will still have thousands of people present. It will also be interesting to see what happens in regards to the media.

    1. @glynh The media is still going to be there, this only applies to people attending, not those working in the paddock.

  13. RocketTankski
    8th March 2020, 10:57

    If a car races in Bahrain and noone is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

    1. Nice one :)) and at the same time, nice rhetorical question to F1 circus itself.

    2. Probably not the V6s ;)

  14. If this is the case, how can someone expect Vietnam to go ahead just in a month’s time?

    1. @pironitheprovocateur I wouldn’t be surprised now if this scenario were to be the case there as well.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur Seems like Vietnam is a bit of a different story.

      Only 20 total “confirmed” cases, with the first 16 having been “cured” and the most recent 4 all coming after trips to China and Europe (likely Italy, given the fact one of them was a particularly rich woman who attended the fashion show). Some were quarantined at the airport and another had several streets near her house blocked off and entirely swept with disinfectants.

      And this, a border nation to China, while countries like South Korea, Japan & Iran face heavy setbacks.

      @jerejj we have more deaths in the United States than Vietnam has had people diagnosed with the virus at all. Keep in mind, Vietnam borders China and the United States requires a significant bit of travel. Sometimes all those “freedoms” come at a cost, and that cost is allowing people to be ignorant, foolish and stupid.

  15. The Bahrain government showing more prudence than the Australian government

  16. Without the need to pass every grandstand they could give the outer circuit a go.

  17. Being a night race the embarrassment of empty stands is limited somewhat.

  18. pastaman (@)
    8th March 2020, 13:27

    I wonder how many protestors will be “quarantined”

  19. Responsible action, glad to see they are not willing to compromise the safety of the paddock nor the fans

  20. Easy decision for the organizers/government to make since to them the race is all about PR more than paid attendance.

    The last thing they wanted said on the news was “first Bahrain GP cancelled since the civil uprising and protests of 2011”.

  21. I think the circuit only holds around 40,000 anyway. It’s one of the lowest capacities and most poorly attended races of the season. The “fans” that were in the grandstands were mostly corporates and not real race fans like you would find at Silverstone or Monza. The lack of fans in Bahrain won’t affect the racing at all

  22. MorAns.

    My god, how many stupid people the world has.

    *facepalm*

    1. The point is to slow the spread so that healthcare systems are not overwhelmed. I’m not sure what’s so controversial about that, just see what’s happening at the hospitals in Northern Italy and then come back to us.

      It’s past containment now, but perfectly sensible to slow things down by avoiding large gatherings.

    2. There’s loads of them – you’re in good company.

  23. Er just cancel it.
    For once I agree with what this chap had to say.
    LeBron James:
    “We play games without the fans?” James asked incredulously. “Nah, it’s impossible.”

    “I ain’t playing,” James continued. “I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates. I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”

    @Great Moto2 race today, we have a Roberts in the mix!

    1. @budchekov I suppose it depends on if you’re in it for the fame (“for the fans”) or for being the best you can. When someone says they won’t play without people to watch, it’s really just saying, “if nobody can see how awesome I am, does anybody know how awesome I am?”

      There are plenty of top tier drivers who love getting back in the mud once in awhile, even if there are only 100 people to see it. Why? Because they are racers first, and entertainers second. As it should be.

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