The Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in a week-and-a-half's time could be Formula 1's first-ever spectator-less event, it has been mused – after it was revealed that the region surrounding the track is the most infected in Europe from the new swine flu panic.
Though the outbreak – rapidly developing into a global pandemic – has thus far been felt most keenly in Mexico, where more than 150 people have died from it, repercussions are also now being experienced in Europe, with confirmed cases in England, Scotland and, most prominently of all it has been claimed, Catalunya.
German health minister Ulla Schmidt has warned that events where thousands of people mix are the easiest way for the virus to accelerate out of hand, and she has suggested a fan-free Spanish Grand Prix around the Circuit de Catalunya on 10 May could be the only sensible way to go.
“Everyone understands that there cannot be a major gathering of 70,000 people, if thousands of them could become infected,” Frau Schmidt told Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell
Schools, universities, museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres and churches in Mexico are all facing closure, and a major football game at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City took place this week in front of deserted grandstands after fans were banned from attending. The A1GP outing due to take place there this weekend has been canned over the risk [see separate story – click here
], so that the crisis will similarly affect Formula 1's Spanish date is far from out of the question.
The first death from swine flu outside of Mexico was confirmed today, with a 23-month old boy in Texas falling victim to the dangerous H1N1 strain.