• GP Week

'We're a sports team and we have a calendar'

GP Week
April 16, 2012

The McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh speaks to online magazine GP Week about this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix

Martin Whitmarsh: "There's a world governing body, they review it, and we have to follow their lead" © Sutton Images
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There were more violent clashes in Bahrain last week. So what confidence does that give you in the FIA's judgment?
We're a sports team and we have a calendar set out in front of us, we don't determine it. I understand that you would like us to be drawn into the debate but just as we sit here in China, it's inappropriate for me to comment on similar issues here. We've had the race reaffirmed now by the FIA and the commercial rights holder, and we're looking forward to going racing.

Looking beyond the morality of holding the race, do you personally feel secure about going there?
We go to Brazil and a variety of places and we're not always as comfortable as we'd like to be at some of the venues we compete.

The issue in Brazil is crime, but in Bahrain it is a specific threat against the grand prix. That's different, isn't it?
Ultimately we're a Formula One team and we enter a world championship. There's a world governing body, they review it, and we have to follow their lead.

Jean Todt was a bit conspicuous by his absence China, or at least didn't speak to the media. But we understand you two talked. How was the issue of Bahrain raised?
I had a conversation with Jean but it was a private discussion and I'm sure he wouldn't expect me to disclose it. You can ask me my opinion, but Jean's opinion is his own.

What extra security measures are you taking for the race?
We haven't taken any special measures. On Monday I'm going to Bahrain, probably ahead of most of the team, and will concentrate on that event when I get there.

Why no special measures? In Brazil a couple of years ago you had police drivers, and one of them may have saved Jenson's life…
Yep, because at the time there was a real and serious threat to individuals and we took measures against that. There are clearly issues in Bahrain, but we don't believe there are individual threats against anyone in the team.

But how can you know that?
I think I used the word 'believe' in there somewhere! None of us know, we don't know what's going to happen to us on the way into Shanghai tonight. I know the way my driver drives!

Have any of your staff expressed any desire not to go to Bahrain, and if they did would you be sympathetic to that view?
No, and yes. Likewise if someone said I don't want to come to China, I'd say if you don't want to come you're best not going. You don't come racing unless you want to come racing. Individuals have to be motivated to be there. If someone doesn't want to go racing with the team any more then they shouldn't be there. What that might mean contractually, well, we'd sit down and talk to them.