Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Autodromo do Algarve, 2020

Portuguese and Spanish grands prix expected to be open to fans

2021 F1 season

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The Portuguese Grand Prix is expected to be the first European round of the world championship which fans will be allowed to attend.

Around 4,500 spectators attended last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, which was open only to those who have been vaccinated against or had recovered from Covid-19. But with the virus still surging in Europe, the next round of the world championship at Imola in Italy on April 18th will not be open to fans.

The next race after that, at Autodromo do Algarve on May 2nd, is expected to be open to spectators, as it was last year. RaceFans understands arrangements will be put in place to perform rapid testing on all attendees, who will have to provide personal details for ‘test and trace’ purposes.

The promoters of the Spanish Grand Prix are understood to be hopeful the government will confirm fans can attend their race at the Circuit de Catalunya one week later. Last year’s Spanish round was postponed from its usual May slot to August and held behind closed doors.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix promoters have already confirmed this year’s race in Baku on June 6th will be closed to fans. Other events on the 2021 F1 calendar are expected to confirm plans for spectator attendance later in the year.

Pre-Covid, the Bahrain Grand Prix typically saw a race day attendance of over 30,000. The chief executive of Bahrain International Circuit, Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, told RaceFans they were pleased with their attendance figure given the restrictions which were imposed on attendance, which also included a minimum age limit of 18 years.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Bahrain welcomed fans for last weekend’s season-opener
“We were trying something new,” he explained. “Everyone’s talking about ‘how are we going to get back to the new normal’. There are no answers to that.

“Last year, we wanted to have fans, but the government said let’s open it up to the front-line workers and our heroes that were busy during that time. This year or this time around they said we will allow vaccinated and recovered patients and only residents of Bahrain.

“So it limited the number, obviously. The market shrunk to a very small number of who was vaccinated and who had recovered. Plus, [among] the vaccinated it was eighteen and above [only].

“The years that we did this, we built a family event with the entertainment behind the main grandstand and the games and all of that. So we knew we had a limited number. However, we continued with the full show, all the activities there. Nothing was indoor, everything was outdoor.

“The numbers that I saw was, I think, about 4,500. Obviously the main grandstand is 10,000, with the distancing and all that it’s about half of that. So it was a good number for us.”

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16 comments on “Portuguese and Spanish grands prix expected to be open to fans”

  1. As for Portugal, it looked like that some two weeks ago, the news was precisely that there would be rapid testing for all attendees – among other plans for social distancing in the event, plans that I fear were too ambitious for the organisers, having been at the GP at Portimão last year and witnessed a worsening event with each passing day.
    Not long after news came out that the Government would bar fans from attending both the F1 and MotoGP events at Portimão.
    So… We’re still waiting for that decision to be made final and officially announced, but it doesn’t seem likely that we’re gonna be able to attend the Portuguese GP.

    1. Thanks for that info from “the ground” there @joao-pedro-cq, although it is not a very pleasant one.

      I do hope they manage to get at least something going, I think it would be good if the FIA/F1 crew helped organise things, since it is surely in their own best interest to expand on the successful way they got the teams, officials and media to travel already to get back to at least some level of fan attendance.

      Seems quite a stretch though to expect anything close to, or even over, 10.000 people attending to me.

      1. The problem of the organisers might be that the government has no faith in them after last year’s GP. Basically none of the announced social distancing and safety measures were in place on the grandstands, bar from masks and some space between occupied seats (and even that didn’t really work, I always had people directly behind me).

        On Saturday it became clear there was not a good distribution of fans around grandstands; some (like the one I was in) had barely a few seats free during the F1 sessions.

        On Sunday it all became a nightmare. There were supposed to be a maximum of 27.000 people there, but it was clear to everybody that too many tickets had been sold. There were a lot more people at the circuit. A problem on my car (plus the immense traffic) meant I only got to my grandstand 40 minutes before the start of the race, and at the gate I was among the first to be told the grandstand was full and we had to wait for further information. Nobody for the organisation was there, we were told this by the police and security at the gate. A question everyone was asking was ‘I have an assigned seat at that grandstand, how can it be full?’. Some 15/20 minutes later we were packed inside a bus and taken to the main grandstand, where we (and a lot more people) were, quite literally, dumped, and told to sit anywhere where there was free space.

        So, all that might be a problem, but part of me still thinks that the government doesn’t want to lose this opportunity to increase economic activity in the south of the country, given we are just starting to exit another lockdown.

  2. For the Portuguese GP and Spanish GP, maybe it would be a feasible idea to sell tickets for vaccinated or recovered people like the Bahrain GP; instead of selling tickets for everybody without requiring mandatory COVID tests.

    I am still in doubt about the possibility of organizing Canadian GP this year, is it possible to enter Canada now without requiring any quarantine for 14 days? And, the organizers have not any made announcement about the certainty of GP like the Azerbaijan GP organizers. If there are any quarantine regulations still put in place in Canada, maybe it should be better to postpone this GP to 2022.

    1. Thing is though @bengibaris, how would they prove that to the ticketing office? It would have to be in the form of ticking a box and then showing it at the gates. Which then turns into quite a complicated process, even more so because so far it has not been cleared whether it is legal to limit access only for vaccinated/recovered people.

      1. Yes, good doubts. The GP organizers have to contact with the Bahrain GP organizers and also the public health authorities; and not sure about its viability. It could not be possible for organizers to take the vaccination data of people to approve their tickets. But in my opinion, it seems the most safe way for allowing spectators in these races.

    2. Cucamest (@kevincucamest)
      30th March 2021, 13:56

      As a Canadian, I also have my doubts about Montreal happening this year. Not only is it mandatory for everyone entering the country to quarantine for 14 days, you now have to spend the first three of those in a government approved hotel (at your own expenses). The numbers in Ontario and Quebec (where Montreal is) are on the rise again and new variants are out of control. Vaccines are not expected to be available to the general population outside per-determined groups until July. I would be very surprised if the Canadian GP were to happen this year.

      1. Can confirm. Canadian and I’m very doubtful for all of those reasons

      2. Thank you for explaining the situation in Canada right now. It seems that F1 is trying to get quarantine exemption from Canada; but in my opinion, it should not be fair to get quarantine exemption for this event, and F1 should go to the places in which they do not have any mandatory quarantine restrictions (maybe there may be specific quarantine restrictions just for the GP venue like the Abu Dhabi GP last year for only few days, but it could not be possible on the most of the venues). Montreal is great venue for F1; but it is more better to postpone the GP directly to 2022 June and make it double-header with Austin or Mexico City due to the ongoing situation this year and the logistics.

        1. @bengibaris A double-header with Austin or Mexico City isn’t really viable for climatic reasons, but other than this, I thoroughly agree with you. F1 didn’t get a quarantine exemption from Australia, so neither should they get one from Canada.

          1. Maybe you can be right about Austin for climate situation, but I think the climate would not be such a big problem in Mexico City due to its high elevation. And Mexico GP was held in May-June between 1988 and 1991, if it was held on those times, why will it not be held on these times again, so it would not be a big problem for there. Maybe it would be a better idea to go Mexico first, and Canada later.

          2. @bengibaris Yes, Mexico City in June would be okay ‘temperature-wise as in this regard, it’s pretty much okay all-year-round, but June is part of the rainy season, hence, why Canadian GP month wouldn’t be perfectly ideal for F1. Montreal is definitely unideal for October and November, while Austin is unideal for the Northern Hemisphere summer, but Mexico City has more flexibility.

  3. Main thing is that they dispose their sandwich trash properly this time.

  4. 4,500, but seemed more like 50 or 100 on the world feed footage.
    Imola, the same as last year, although this time informed further in advance.
    Re Portugal and Spain: Hopefully, they’d avoid unnecessary risks, especially the former, also considering track accessibility.

  5. What I know for a fact is that a 4th wave of covid is already coming to some parts of Spain, including Catalonia and the only instructions that we received from the Circuit de Catalunya is just to have one empty seat in the grandstands, temperature checks at the entry and were a mask at all times, so no eating allowed.
    I’m a member since 2001 of the Circuit de Catalunya and for obvious reasons I only missed last year’s Spanish GP, but taking into account that we’re just about to have here the 4th wave, that I wont be vaccinated by the time the race will take place, the little measures that they seem that they’ll apply, it makes me think that if they finally allow spectators in their grandstands, I will prefer to lose my money instead of risking my dad’s life and mine as well.

  6. The more that people continue to gather in crowds before the pandemic is under control, the longer the pandemic will last. Selfish stuff.

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