• Bahrain Grand Prix

Ecclestone says Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead

ESPNF1 Staff
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Bernie Ecclestone: "The only message I got was that there were some kids in trouble with the police" © Sutton Images

Bernie Ecclestone is confident this year's Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead on April 22 despite reports of fresh violence in the country this week.

February 14 marked the one-year anniversary of the 'day of rage' when protests escalated into violent conflicts last year, and international media agencies claimed smaller clashes with security forces took place again on this year. According to the BBC a heavy police presence meant the centre of Manama remained quiet, but youths throwing rocks and petrol bombs were met by police hitting back with tear-gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades outside the capital.

"The only message I got was that there were some kids in trouble with the police," Ecclestone told the Daily Telegraph. "We are planning to go. I've always said that if there was going to be any drama it would be on the 'day of rage'. They would have to do something then. People there seem confident that a race two months away will be alright."

He added: "The teams are not the slightest bit concerned. They seem happy that things will go ahead without problems. Last year was a more clear-cut decision not to go but things have changed a lot since then."

In the past week members of the UK parliament have written open letters in the Times newspaper both for and against the grand prix going ahead. Although a decision either way will be seen to have some political connotations, Ecclestone said safety is his only consideration.

"We've always been non-political," he said. "Any decision will be made on grounds of safety."

But an FIA spokesman said the "staging of a grand prix would be beneficial in bridging some of the difficulties Bahrain is experiencing".

A spokesman for the Bahrain International Circuit told CNN: "We are entirely confident that the race can be and will be an excellent event. The FIA has said that there is no reason why the grand prix should not go ahead. Jean Todt [FIA president] has been visiting Bahrain himself, keeping in constant contact. The FIA has said that there is no reason why the grand prix should not go ahead."

The unnamed spokesman also compared Bahrain's problems of the last twelve months with London's riots last August.

"There's no doubt that [in Bahrain] there have been some small riots, nothing like on the scale that we saw in London," he insisted. "There have been some public order disturbances, but on the kind of scale that Britain has endured many times."

He added: "When it comes to being in and around the track, the drivers and the teams will be extremely safe. Absolutely, totally confident about that."