MotoGP and F1 could hold races behind closed doors

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit de Spa-Francorchampsbe

While the pressure is mounting on both the MotoGP and Formula 1 organisations, the global travel restrictions are looking to remain in force for the foreseeable future.

The premier classes of both the two- and four-wheeled competition have been hit heavily by the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus.

When it comes to the MotoGP championship, the crisis has caused the cancellation of the Qatar Grand Prix and the postponement of the rounds in Spain, France, Italy, Spain-Catalunya and German. After the race in Sachsenring has been postponed for an indefinite date, the Motul TT Assen is set to kick of the season on June 28, albeit that event looks under immense threat.

Following the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 has been forced to delay its season, calling off the Bahrain, the Vietnamese, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish, Monaco, Azerbaijan and Canadian Grands Prix. The delay left the French Grand Prix to kick off the season, although uncertainty revolves around that race after France has become one of the most-affected countries in Europe.

In an interview with Radio Four’s Today, McLaren CEO Zak Brown hinted that Formula 1 could transform all its European races into ghost races, meaning that the grands prix take place behind closed doors.

"Everything is very tentative but [the British GP] would go on its scheduled date but closed to fans. In fact, it looks like possibly all the European rounds will most likely be in that scenario. With now our condensed schedule, what's the best way to get as much racing done as possible, and one of those ideas are potentially multiple events at the same location, Silverstone being one of those.”

The American acknowledges that while safety should be a priority, pressuring is mounting on the shoulders of F1 outfits with the lack of income which could urge them to return to the race tracks. "It's extremely tough. There's little to no revenue coming in. You know, we're not racing. The contributions that the promoters make, sponsor partners have been great, but they're under an immense amount of pressure themselves,” he said.

Although MotoGP boss, Carmelo Ezpeleta indicated earlier that MotoGP will only return to racing when the coronavirus is over, it now seems that the premier class of motor racing is preparing for closed-doors races. The Dorna Sports boss suggested that the company has already busy, working on a possible protocol if ghost races happen indeed.

"We are preparing a protocol together with the relevant authorities, for example the Sports Council in Spain and Italian Olympic Committee, in addition to different laboratories with which to control the entire grand prix paddock,” he is quoted as saying by
"We have already commissioned through a company that is owned by Bridgepoint the possibility of having 10,000 coronavirus tests, to test the entire MotoGP family before and after each day.”

If MotoGP makes the decision to hold races behind closed doors, it will introduce strict measures for teams, asking them to travel to the events with a reduces the number of personnel. MotoGP factory teams will be allowed to travel with up to 40 people while satellite outfits will need to adhere to a limit of 25 people. Hospitality, sponsors, PR and media would not be present, even TV companies will need to work in a studio.

"In the scenario that we now contemplate, there would be closed-door races with the least possible personnel at the circuits for everyone, teams and organisation,” Expeleta concluded.