The Bahrain Grand Prix will be the first Formula 1 race to be run behind closed doors as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak.
Just days after the Gulf kingdom stated that it was halting ticket sales as it moved to evaluate its response to the escalating situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus, it has now announced that spectators will not be allowed at the March 22 event.
In a statement issued on Sunday morning, Bahrain said that the second round of the 2020 F1 season would be a televised event only.
“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,” it said.
“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 said that the strict measures it had made to limit the spread of the virus over recent weeks would have been scuppered if thousands of fans had visited the race.
It added: “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.”
The move by Bahrain comes just hours after Italy announced that several of its northern regions were being put under quarantine – including Modena, where Ferrari is based.
Next weekend’s season-opening Australian GP is still due to take place, however.