• Bahrain Grand Prix

Cancelling race would 'empower extremists' - Crown Prince

ESPNF1 Staff
April 20, 2012 « Schumacher's fast lap ruined by traffic | Tyres a concern for Hamilton »
The Crown Prince has ruled out calling the race off © Sutton Images

Bahrain is not considering cancelling this weekend's grand prix, the country's Crown Prince has told media in the paddock.

After Force India and Sauber staff members reported witnessing violence on their way back from the circuit to their hotels, fresh concerns have been raised over the race. What's more, the leader of Britain's opposition party Ed Miliband said on Friday: "Given the human rights issues in Bahrain, I don't think the grand prix should go ahead."

But Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has ruled out calling the race off.

"I think cancelling just empowers extremists," he was quoted by Autosport. "I think for those of us who are trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, and get people working together.

"It allows us to celebrate our nation as an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive. So I actually think that having the race has prevented extremists from doing what they think they need to do out of the world's attention."

Speaking on Sky Sports, he added: "I think this race should continue because it is indeed a very big event for this country, it is important economically and socially. Political parties across the whole spectrum, both conservatives and opposition, have welcomed the race. As far as I understand it was a few politicians who made those comments and it certainly doesn't represent the entire British political spectrum."

On Friday Force India skipped the second practice session in order to get its staff back to their hotel before dark. Asked whether he could guarantee the safety of F1 personnel in Bahrain, the Crown Prince said: "I absolutely can guarantee that any problems that may or may not happen are not directed at Formula One. It goes to show that there are people who are out to cause chaos.

"You [Britain] had these problems last year in your country and there is a very big difference between protesting for political rights and rioting. The attack that happened around Force India [staff members] was aimed at the police and it was unprovoked and quite dangerous. At no time was anyone from Formula One in danger."

Bernie Ecclestone said Formula One came to the country at the Bahrain sporting authority's request and it was not up to Formula One Management to call the race off.

"We came here because this race was asked for to be put on the calendar," he said. "We're happy and delighted that it was and we've come here and that's it. It's nothing to do with us and what has happened in the country. We have people complain in all sorts of countries."

Asked about F1's association with scenes of tear gas and stun grenades being used on protestors, Ecclestone added: "It's nothing to do with F1. If people have got a complaint about something else, then it's nothing to do with F1."