• Bahrain Grand Prix

Ecclestone says Bahrain government 'stupid' to allow race

ESPN Staff
April 22, 2013 « Lloyds sells stake in Marussia | Red Bull still unhappy with Pirelli »
Bernie Ecclestone in and around the ordinary people at the race weekend © Sutton Images
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Bernie Ecclestone told the BBC that holding the Bahrain Grand Prix against a backdrop of widespread opposition within the kingdom was "stupid", referring in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way to the government's decision to stage the race rather than the FIA or Formula One's to allow it to go ahead.

"The government were stupid to put this race on as it's a platform for people to use to protest," he said.

Ecclestone was asked if there were any limits to where Formula One would go, with the question being put to him if Syria paid enough would F1 go there. "They haven't got a circuit," he replied. When pressed, he said: "We'd have to have a look and see.

"We don't go anywhere to judge how a country is run. I keep asking people what human rights are. I don't know what they are. The right to live in a country and abide by the laws, whatever they are.

"If I'm in Africa and do 200kph on the highway I'm OK, if I do the same thing In England I'm in trouble, so it's a case of whatever the laws are in the country you abide by them."

The weekend took place peacefully in and around the circuit although there was increased unrest away from the cosseted world of Formula One. And many of those who came to watch the race found themselves in lengthy queues as they waited to be processed by understandably thorough security before getting into the BIC.

Ecclestone's comment came less than 24 hours after local papers carried a remark from him saying that he was unaware of there being any human rights issues in Bahrain.

"It's Bernie being Bernie," Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the race's founder and heir to the Bahraini throne, said. "We want to celebrate our connection to the international community and it is a force for good. We are not ashamed of people of differing views. What we object to is people who use violence to further their own political goals."

Asked about ongoing protests, the prince said: "I think they were largely peaceful. That is, people expressing their rights to disagree and that is the kind of thing that we want to support. Keeping Bahrain connected to the international community is a very important thing for us because it stops people looking inwards and allows us to look outwards and it gives people connections to the outside world that they wouldn't otherwise have.

"But this weekend, is really about sport and it is about transcending our conflicts and celebrating what is great about humanity in the true spirit of noble competition."