• Bahrain Grand Prix

No winners in Bahrain debacle - Whitmarsh

ESPNF1 Staff
June 10, 2011 « Schumacher seeks Mercedes patience | »

FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh believes no-one has benefitted from the last week of toing and froing over the Bahrain Grand Prix, but has defended FIA president Jean Todt who has taken the brunt of the criticism in the media.

Last Friday the FIA World Motor Sport Council announced the Bahrain Grand Prix would be rescheduled for October 30, only to be met by opposition from the teams, a u-turn from Bernie Ecclestone and finally the Bahrain authorities calling the race off on Thursday night.

Ultimately the main sticking points were the change of date for the Indian Grand Prix and the extension of the calendar to mid-December. FOTA wrote a letter to the FIA expressing its concerns which led Bernie Ecclestone to announce on Wednesday that "of course it's not on".

Whitmarsh, who signed off the letter from FOTA to the FIA, admitted the saga had been bad for everyone in the sport.

"I think it's very unfortunate, and there aren't any winners," he told Speed.com. "Hopefully no one's looking for winners. It's a great event, it's a fantastic paddock. The way it's panned out this year, I don't think we should be looking for winners. Ultimately we want F1 to be the winner.

"One of the problems of this sport is that there are egos who want to be personally winners, and that's not what we should be about. We should be about sport and the fans winning. And I think that's what FOTA is trying to do, really just trying to take a view and express a view on what is the right thing for the sport."

Under its own sporting codes the FIA needed the agreement of the teams to change the calendar and FOTA's letter made it quite clear that that was not forthcoming. However, Whitmarsh does not blame Todt.

"I spoke to Jean quite a bit over the last few days," he said. "You can get into the legal interpretation of Concorde and the International Sporting Code - and bear in mind the letter we sent had to satisfy 11 teams - the lawyers can argue it each way. I think we're missing the point if we get into a discussion about the legality or the interpretation of the regulations.

"I think there are more fundamental issues that need to be discussed than interpretation of the regulations. I've heard what happened in the World Motor Sport Council - I don't know whether he's released the transcript of that yet but I have had the transcript - and in fairness to Jean, he, in an orderly and disciplined manner, chaired a meeting, sought views and opinion around the table, and did get a unanimous decision."

Asked if he thought Todt had acted correctly, Whitmarsh said: "In fairness I think he did."

The FOTA boss also revealed that the transcript from the WMSC meeting did not show Ferrari - the only team with a position on the council - leaning either way.

"In fairness, I think Ferrari didn't express a view one way or the other in the meeting, in the transcript I've read."

Asked if that meant the WMSC decision was not unanimous, Whitmarsh told Speed.com: "It was a show of hands, which doesn't come across well on a transcript! But a show of hands for and against was requested, and after an apparent verbal silence. Jean says, 'So it's unanimous then?' and no one said, 'No it isn't.' I don't have a video, I only have a transcript. In fairness to Jean on that one he asked and he got a unanimous judgement."