8 Jun 2011

Bahrain Grand Prix will not go ahead, says Ecclestone

This season’s grand prix in Bahrain, where there has been political unrest since February, will not go ahead after Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone admitted it could not be rescheduled.

Mr Ecclestone told BBC Sport: “Hopefully there’ll be peace and quiet and we can return in the future, but of course it’s not on.

“The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants. They’re the facts.”

Eleven of the marques, under the umbrella of the Formula One Teams’ Association, had previously written to the FIA, as well as Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management and the Bahrain International Circuit, claiming they do not want to race in Bahrain this year.

The Bahrain race, originally scheduled to open the 2011 season, was postponed because of political unrest in the island state on the Persian Gulf.

The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants. Bernie Ecclestone

A subsequent move to push back the Indian Grand Prix until December and to run the Bahrain event in its place on 30 October attracted widespread criticism from teams, drivers and human rights groups.

On 3 June the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) announced the Bahrain Grand Prix had been rescheduled for the autumn

But former FIA President Max Mosley said yesterday there was not “the slightest chance” of the race proceeding in October, noting that FIA Vice-President Carlos Gracia, who wrote a positive report on the situation in Bahrain, “had no knowledge of what was really going on”.

Mr Mosley also highlighted the fact that no decision on moving a grand prix can be made law unless there is unanimous approval from all the racing teams involved.

Last week 1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill called on motor racing to take a moral stance in response to the situation in Bahrain, saying: “It is important that Formula One is not seen to be only interested in putting on the show, whatever the circumstances.

“You can’t just base your decision to hold a race in a country on that country’s ability to pay.”

The human rights organisation Avaaz has gathered nearly half a million signatures calling for the Bahrain race to be called off. Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel described reading the FIA’s Bahrain report as “like stepping into the Twilight Zone” and called the report itself “dangerously irresponsible”.

Formula One must pull out of Bahrain immediately or have their reputation forever tarnished. Ricken Patel, Director, Avaaz

“Formula One must pull out of Bahrain immediately or have their reputation forever tarnished,” he concluded.

In the political sphere, US President Barack Obama pressed Bahrain’s royal family on Tuesday to investigate alleged human rights abuses by security forces during a meeting in Washington, according to senior US officials.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa also met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after which he committed Bahrain to pushing reform “in both the political and economic spheres”.

The Gulf state ended a three-month period of emergency rule two weeks early, on 1 June, prompting activists to claim the move was to increase chances of hosting a grand prix event this year.

An assessment in April by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said 31 protesters had been killed in Bahrain since protests began on 14 February. Protests are continuing, with reports of demonstrators being dispersed by tear gas in the capital at the end of last week.