Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead without F1 fans amid coronavirus spread

Getty Images

Formula One's Bahrain Grand Prix will be raced behind closed doors because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

Track officials said it "would not be the right thing to do" to allow spectators from around the world to gather for the March 22 race.

Next week's season-opening Australian Grand Prix is due to go ahead without such restrictions.

The Bahrain International Circuit issued a statement that made its stance on the issue starkly clear, stressing it has taken the responsible choice.

The statement read: "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 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."