- Bahrain Grand Prix
We cannot force teams to go to Bahrain - Ecclestone
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he cannot stop the teams from backing out of the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix if they feel uncomfortable about visiting the country.
On Monday one team principal admitted to the Guardian that the teams are hoping the FIA calls the race off as they fear for the safety of their staff in the Gulf state. Protests continue to flare up in villages around the capital of Manama and on Monday seven policeman were injured by a home-made bomb as a protest calling for the release of an activist on a two-month hunger strike turned violent.
Although the team principal spoke out about his concerns on Monday he asked to remain anonymous with the teams, officially at least, waiting on a decision from the FIA. One team source told the Daily Telegraph on Monday: "I know we keep saying it but we really are in the hands of the FIA, the commercial rights holder and race organisers here to make the right decision. And of course they must be made for the right reasons; commercial and political factors must not be allowed to compromise anyone's safety."
Ecclestone said the teams are free to make their own decision, but in the same sentence added that they are contractually obliged to race. "We've no way we can force people to go there," he told PA Sport on Tuesday. "We can't say 'you've got to go' - although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn't go - but it doesn't help. Commercially they have to go, but whether they decide to or not is up to them."
He added: "I've had no one say anything other than 'we're going to be racing in Bahrain'."
Ecclestone told the Times, which also reported that Ecclestone had met with protest leaders and offered them the opportunity to hold a press conference to air their grievances over the grand prix weekend.
Meanwhile, John Yates, a former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner who is acting as an advisor to Bahrain's security services told the Telegraph that the problems are limited to "pockets of violence" and that 95% of Bahrain is safe.
"If there are problems, they ... must be able to escalate their response," Yates added. "You saw what happened in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race over the weekend. That man is lucky to get away with his life. Anyone who invades the circuit is putting themselves in danger, putting the drivers in danger, putting potentially other spectators in danger. That will be clamped down on and properly so."