Start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

‘It’ll cost us £2,000’ – Bahrain GP fans on missing the race due to Coronavirus

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Formula 1 fans who had bought tickets to next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix have reacted with dismay to news the race will be held behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus.

The promoters of the second round 20 the 2020 F1 calendar announced yesterday the race will be “a participants-only event”, meaning only the competitors, championship officials and accredited media will be permitted to attend.

Yousif Al Askari of A’ali, 20 kilometres north of the track, was among those who had bought tickets to the race. He describes himself as “a big fan of Ferrari and Kimi [Raikkonen],” and next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be the first he hasn’t seen at the track.

“The Bahrain Grand Prix is one of the most exciting experiences to me as it is a race in my home country and most of the time there is always drama in the races, especially last season with [Charles] Leclerc,” he said. “The atmosphere here is just amazing and is getting better and better every year.”

He was disappointed, but not surprised, to hear this year’s race will be held behind closed doors. “As a local resident living in Bahrain I was hearing rumours about the possibility of cancellation,” he said. “As much as I hoped for it to not be true, it was. As a long-time fan of the Formula 1 sport, I was deeply saddened by the news. But at least the race will still happen and we can watch it from the television.”

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He added he hopes to visit another round of the championship in future, “hopefully Belgium’s at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.”

Drivers, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Yousif and Stephanie were in the crowd last year
“As a Bahraini resident, the only thing that will affect me is the F1 ticket cost but other than that there are not much losses as Bahrain is a relatively small island and as residents, the circuit is just an hour away by car,” he added. “But I feel really bad for all the fans coming from abroad as they have a lot to lose such as flight tickets, accommodation, and all of the planning ahead.”

Among those who were planning to travel from abroad to watch the race is Stephanie Gerken, an F1 fan since the eighties who saw her first of more than 70 races in person at Donington Park in 1993. She booked her Bahrain Grand Prix trip with husband Paul in October last year, and while the circuit has promised to refund the cost of their tickets, she fears they will be unable to reclaim the majority of the £2,500 they have spent arranging the trip.

“We will get a refund on our race tickets and we have already had an email from the circuit confirming that,” she said. “We will lose our money on the airport, hotel and train down to London as both were non-refundable, though admittedly they are small costs in the grand scheme of things.

“The Bahrain flights and the hotel are the problem. As of now, there is nothing to prevent us travelling to Bahrain which means we are unlikely to be able to claim on our travel insurance. I have contacted our travel company who are going to look into what, if anything, they are able to do for us. I have asked them to explore the bookings being honoured for next year’s race dates or anything they may be able to do as a gesture as we use them fairly frequently and they may place some value on our future business.

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“But the harsh reality is we are most likely to be around £2,000 out of pocket. I know we could still choose to travel to Bahrain but in reality what F1 fan wants to travel to be a few miles away from a race taking place but unable to attend?”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monza, 2019
Bahrain may not be the last race Coronavirus affects
With the Coronavirus continuing to spread worldwide, Stephanie is concerned this won’t be the end of the disruption to their race-going plans.

“I hope those making the decisions really think through the impact of those decisions,” she told RaceFans. “Many fans will be seriously out of pocket, even if they have taken all sensible steps to cover themselves with comprehensive travel insurance.

“Those like us will potentially have this happen to them multiple times – we have already booked for Monaco and Monza, And it’s having an impact on future plans too: We were about to book Silverstone, Mexico and Abu Dhabi but now have serious reservations.”

If you’re a fan who’s been affected by the disruption to the Bahrain and would like to share your experience with us, please leave a comment before. Alternatively if you’d prefer to get in touch privately, please use the contact form.

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Author information

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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45 comments on “‘It’ll cost us £2,000’ – Bahrain GP fans on missing the race due to Coronavirus”

  1. I can imagine what the atmosphere will be like there.
    The track venue is already lifeless when there is no activity around the venue. I went there once on a none race day and it feels like a giant haunted complex. Imagine how it will feel when there is no race crowd just the cars driving around like on a test day closed to the public. Will the driver parade still take place, who will they wave to.

    1. One must hope FOM are working on a few extra broadcast-friendly fixtures to occupy all the newfound free time the “participants” will have without all their fan engagements. Otherwise even onscreen it will be a very eerie affair…

    2. It will most likely feel exactly like a test yeah.

      1. Lots of the TV coverage of the test drew from the fans that were in attendance!!

  2. No issues whatsoever. Cars and drivers don’t need anyone outside the track to race, the fans can stop waving their stupid flags, launching flares and wear merchendise and for once pay attention to whats really hapening in the race. Not to mention it absolutely is the time to clean up the atmosphere too.

    1. weird flex. if sporting events were to become TV-only affairs, it would be a very sad thing. the atmosphere you get at places like silverstone, spa or monza is just brilliant, life affirming stuff. F1 races are excellent because the crowds are there for the love of the sport, for the spectacle of seeing these amazing cars. people are generally not very partisan and when they are, it is quite friendly. i’ve been to countless sporting events over the years and it always beats watching it on TV hands down. even if you’re annoyed by the flags and the flares and the merch, there’s so much else that is positive to enjoy.

      unless you are a terminal misanthrope, I can’t understand why you would prefer a crowdless GP. it almost removes the whole ‘sport’ element to the whole affair.

    2. What a bizarre outlook!

    3. So on that basis why even have races ? Let’s just make the series an eSport and televise it like they do with eSport on twitch tv.

      1. Just cancel the damn thing already, nobody cares about watching kids play vidya, OTHER THAN OTHER KIDS…

    4. Methinks a troll has emerged from beneath a bridge.

    5. Methinks a troll has emerged from beneath a bridge. I haven’t seen such oustanding trolling since “prisonermonkeys” was a regular.

  3. I understand the financial impact, however this disease is threatening to disrupt everything around the world. The race organizers should close them off to fans if they deem necessary, andpeople should really re-think their travel plans.

    It’s a serious bug, and people who are compremised stand to lose in the worst way. “I hope those making the decisions really think through the impact of those decisions”

    1. @deryne The world has a value system that is mostly based around an individual, self-interest, greed, career. You cannot expect those in charge to all of a sudden become empathetic to strangers.

      1. Except it doesn’t. Capitalism doesn’t just mean self-interest Gekko. Division of labour and all that jazz.

      2. I understand that in our society that people have mostly self-interest; however, I want to believe that people will understand that there are times and issues that supercede their own selves, and must start to look after the greater good.

        Not going to a race will not kill you or someone you know; getting this virus will continue to kill thousands, maybe more. We need to contain it.

        It does say a lot that China, a country that wants to overtake the US as the lead global superpower, basically shutdown their economy and people movement to control this disease. Missing a race, even losing some money, does not mean much in the greater scheme of things. Personally, I will stand to lose around 9K USD due to a cruise in May I’m deciding to not go on, too risky since I live with older people – their lives mean so much more than that.

        1. Can I have your cruise tickets please?@deryne

  4. Yousif Al Askari of A’ali. He seems an eminently articulate and knowledgable gent. Just what Sky need for their coverage, and they really should take him on in place of Di Resta.

    1. @Islander ”eminently articulate and knowledgable gent”
      – These words apply to me as well, so I could take his place as well, LOL.

  5. The Brit who flies out to multiple races. It’s a shame for her and her husband but It seems like 2000 pounds is small change to them, to be able to afford to have been to 70 races is quite something

    1. @broke84 also, companies almost always offer cancellation insurances, not taking it is exposing one’s trip to this kind of misfortune.

      1. But the trip (airlines and hotels) aren’t cancelled, just admission to the race so I think you’ll find insurance companies won’t be paying out.

      2. The problem is the advice is that you can still travel to Bahrain so even if we had insurance they aren’t going to pay out as the flights and hotels aren’t cancelled.
        Luckily we booked through “Booking.com” and had free cancellation on our hotel and will get our race ticket money back but plenty of others won’t and I feel their pain F1 is expensive enough to go to without this

    2. Stephanie Gerken
      9th March 2020, 20:25

      Actually it’s not small change at all. It’s a significant amount of money to us. We work extremely hard for our money and our F1 travels are really the only thing we spend on outside of the usual household bills. The majority of races we do on a tight budget – camping at Silverstone, staying in very simple accommodation, using public transport, self catering and take aways rather than meals out. You might like to consider there are many details sitting behind the headlines you read

      1. Good on you Stephanie.

      2. Yes, I feel the comment was based in prejudice – though it is true not everyone can afford 2500 and more every year, others can when it is a priority for them, and thus they safe on other hobby/food/outings to get there: doable, but does not mean it is then just a lark. Hope you manage to somehow recuperate some of it Stephanie Gerken

        One of the things the article illustrates, and as was already talked about here in Germany, and in the Netherlands, about for example, going to Northern Italy last week – the 1st of March the official advice was to ‘reconsider’ but if you had already booked a trip there, will that get you a refund? Not really. Though of course, few days later you would, and now for possibly for the whole of Italy, but that is depending on what your government says of the situation. That might be a lot of money you stand to lose, and leaving it to your own feeling seems a bit of a cop-out.

        In NL there was a lot of hubbub about a group of ~900 students who were in Tirol the first week of March (some history, hence part of the bias against them I think) – lots of criticism, but the trip was booked many months ago – they came home day early, in the end none of them seem to have covid-19 (four were tested after checkup: negative). So, should they have cancelled? Not so easy to know in advance, I’d say, as even afterwards it isn’t so clear-cut.

        I don’t think there are easy answers here, so maybe we shouldn’t be demanding those – science, and trying to do the best with the information we have, listening to medical advisors, as F1 are doing is probably the best. Let’s hope it can be contained/slowed down enough that not every country is overwhelmed (Italy is worrisome bc. it is close, let’s hope the quarantine helps; Iran, well, little numbers to go by, but those that are there only make sense if they are severely under-reporting, and the US isn’t quite looking in control atm either …).

  6. Hope they sue Liberty, FIA and all hysterical morAns!

    1. Maybe, instead of constantly complaining about the efforts of others either being too little or too much in your opinion, why don’t you instead have the courage to put on record a serious explanation for how you would address this outbreak? What would you do if you were being directed to co-ordinate a medical response team?

      It is very easy to stand back and criticise others, whilst offering nothing constructive in return – maybe, instead, you might want to come up with something constructive and outline how you would address this if you had to put your own reputation on the line and come up with a response?

      1. @anon, your 2nd paragraph is rather hypocritical considering that @DAllein has made an account – that makes previous posts searchable and therefore they absolutely are putting his/her reputation on the line as we can see what they have previously said. I can therefore make a judgement as to how to interpret their comments. Likewise, you can search my post history and do the same.

        You have, on the other hand, hidden behind literally posting anonymously, which makes it impossible to know if the same person is posting multiple times or multiple people are posting once. Because of your decision to not create an account, I also can’t search your previous post history and have to guess as to whether it’s the same person or not whenever I see a post by “anon”. While there is a consistent writing style from posts by “anon” over the last few years, only those who run the website can actually tell if you are the same person or not (as members can’t see the email address used to post the comment) and I can’t be certain those posts are by the same person or not.

        I wouldn’t have an issue even if you created an account using @anon, which appears to be an available username. It’s the inability to see your previous comments that makes the judgement call on how to interpret your comments impossible. I can therefore safely say that you are refusing to put your reputation on the line.

        Think this is one for @keithcollantine to consider as to whether allowing people to post without creating an account or not should continue – it’s something I’ve been thinking about mentioning over the last few months on the forums but this post has convinced me that it’s something the community should think about as anecdotally speaking, comments from non-account holders tend to be of lower quality including more trolling while most usually don’t add to the quality of the discussion.

  7. The one good thing is that at least the TV Director won’t be able to pan away from the action on the track to show the crowd, and then miss something exciting that’s just happened!

    1. @t1redmonkey True. There’s almost always something positive in any given decision or action.

    2. That never happened in Bahrain anyway – there was never a crowd. More likely to pan away to some celebrity in a garage.

      1. I guess that will be limited this year as well though, won’t it @dbradock

  8. It sucks that people won’t be able to see the race there, but it is what it is.
    Everyone that is losing money should have paid the on avg $200 to insure their trip.
    Regardless on where I go on vacation, I always pay for the extra insurance.

    One thing that I am curious about, does that mean there won’t be any wealthy people in the pit during the race either (usually they are guests of the Teams).

    1. The problem is that insurance won’t pay for this.

      It’s only admission to the race that is not going ahead. Flights can still go to the country concerned and hotel accommodations are still there, so on what basis could they claim. You can’t claim back your air travel just be cause you don’t want to go any more.

      1. You can’t claim back your air travel just be cause you don’t want to go any more.

        @dbradock have you ever actually taken out travel insurance or are you just speculating on something you clearly don’t know very much about? Most travel insurance is taken out as a precaution against passenger liabilities such as sickness, redundancy, death in the family and personal reasons not to travel. In other words, you can absolutely claim a PORTION of your money back because you don’t want to go anymore.

        1. Actually I have yes and it varies from country to country. I’ve also worked in the insurance industry for a lot if years so I do actually know a heap about claims. Sickness, Death in family are pretty standard – redundancy and personal reasons – not so much.
          Yes there are some ( there’s one here in AUS that we bought last week) that will allow a claim for simply deciding not to go but you can bet they’ll be looking at their fine print with their legal teams to see if they really defined “reasons not to travel” as Corona Virus will see an exponential and unforeseen rise in claims for them.

          1. @drbadock and I suppose too that those that do also have to be more expensive because the insurer, obviously, is taking on more risk, so it might be a substantial increase in expenses on top of several thousand euros/pounds/dollars for the trip.

  9. The middling estimate for the UK is one hundred thousand dead; worst case scenario is half a milion. The elderly are far more at rsik than the young. We need to protect Bernie, Martin, Chase et al…

  10. It’s unfortunate for fans, but that’s just bad luck.

    That’s the chance you take when you book non-refundable flights, non-refundable accommodation.

  11. I’ve got my fingers crossed for Zandvoort. Will it go ahead??? If not, they’ll be a stack of travelling Brits disappointed.

  12. I can guarantee you that if the virus were to spread among the race fan attendees and they return to their countries, the promoters and F1 will be vilified by every nation in the world for being greedy.
    Lots of public sporting events are being cancelled or participants only, it’s the only prudent thing to do right now to help prevent the spread of the virus.

  13. Mohamed AlAmmari
    9th March 2020, 22:24

    As a Bahraini citizen, I believe this is the most sensible & wise decision, not taking risk with the health of the locals and F1 community and at the same time track organizers keeping their promise to host a race.

    A race with closed doors is always better than a cancelled race.

  14. Debi Lawrence
    9th March 2020, 22:47

    Like so many I was deeply saddened by this decision to have a closed door race in Bahrain.
    I have to say Emirates airline, Bookin.com, Bookf1, budget car hire , Aph airline car park Manchester. Everyone mentioned have been great . I have contacted each one and all are refunding our money. They have been more than understanding.
    Good Luck everyone else.

  15. Q: What should I do if I have a trip booked to a sports event and the event has been postponed or cancelled?
    A: If you have booked your tickets as part of a package holiday and the cancellation of the event means a significant change to your holiday overall then you will be entitled to a refund. If the event has been postponed, you should speak to your travel company about rearranging your trip once the new date has been confirmed.

    That is a copy and paste from Grandstand Motorsports. Probably the UK’s main Motor Sport travel company. So a full refund is possible even if the country is deemed safe by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It just depends how people have booked. Sadly for Stephanie, it appears that she has put together her own package.

  16. I had to ring my travel insurance company up this week on updating my policy…while on hold, a msg said ..if your ringing to make a claim because of corona virus…they would not entertain any claims unless the foreign office told you not to travel to this country…and am sure no such advice as has been given..

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