• Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain official slams Ecclestone's u-turn

ESPNF1 Staff
June 9, 2011 « Todt forgives Hamilton for outburst | »
Bahrain is still keen to hold the race © Getty Images

The head of Bahrain's tourism committee has labelled Bernie Ecclestone's recent u-turn over the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix "a shameful decision" and one that "smacks of hypocrisy".

Despite being a member of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council that voted last Friday to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix on October 30, Ecclestone said on Wednesday that he thinks the race is "not on". The comments come after the Formula One Teams Association wrote to the FIA opposing the date change, which would have seen the Indian Grand Prix shifted to December.

"We were really optimistic after the event had been re-scheduled to take place in October," Bahrain chamber of commerce tourism chief Nabeel Kanoo told Gulf Daily News. "Now that it might not be happening, it's a real blow. It is a shameful decision and smacks of hypocrisy. There was no reason to consider cancelling it."

He added: "Mr Ecclestone, of course, has the final say but in spite of him, we will move on. Whatever happens, we will not be discouraged with this and reiterate that we are solidly behind our leadership and support its call for a national dialogue."

However, Alex Wilks, campaigns director for human rights group Avaaz, praised Ecclestone.

"We welcome the news from Bernie Ecclestone that the Bahrain Grand Prix is no longer on," he said. "This is a tremendous victory for the brave people of Bahrain and hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members, who together with leading names in Formula One have vehemently opposed it and have forced this much needed u-turn.

"Formula One should only consider a return once it has been independently confirmed that torture and arrests of innocent civilians has ended and all political prisoners are freed. Avaaz will continue to watch what the FIA does next around this race."

F1 teams have been reluctant to wade into the political debate, arguing instead that their stance is due to having to postpone the December holidays of staff. And Williams' chief executive Adam Parr told Reuters: "How do you say to people who have booked a two-week holiday in India to take in the grand prix, 'sorry you'll be in India but we won't'. We've explained our position and there's nothing more to talk about. It's just too late to change it."

Indian motor racing official Vicky Chandhok said the latest developments will not affect Delhi's preparations to be ready for October as originally planned.

"We were working towards meeting the earlier deadline, and even when it was pushed back to December we didn't relax, so the return to its original date will pose no extra challenge," he told the Hindustan Times.