• Bahrain Grand Prix

Ecclestone makes Bahrain U-turn

ESPNF1 Staff
June 7, 2011 « Canada updates for Williams | »

Confusion over the situation regarding the Bahrain Grand Prix increased last night with reports that Bernie Ecclestone was engaged in urgent discussions aimed at reassessing the rescheduled race.

Key to this was Ecclestone dismissing reports submitted to the FIA last week that normality had returned to Bahrain following months of unrest despite widespread media coverage suggesting quite the opposite.

Faced with a possible rebellion by teams who did not want to go to the troubled kingdom or want to extend the season into the second week of December to do so, Ecclestone appeared to suggest another vote could be taken, possibly by fax or email.

It emerged the FIA decision was based on the evidence of Carlos Gracia, one of its vice-presidents, who spent a day in Bahrain where he met with officials from the government and the Bahrain International Circuit. He also spoke to shoppers, businessmen and a representative of a human rights group believed to be backed by the Bahraini government.

His report, which did not mention any dissent or reports of repression widely cited in the media, concluded there was no sign "of any problems or any reason why Bahrain's grand prix should not return to the 2011 calendar". In the light of that, the decision was made.

"We listened to that report from the FIA and that was saying there were no problems at all in Bahrain," Ecclestone told the Times. "But that is not what I am hearing and I think we can see that we need to be careful."

At the same time FIA president Jean Todt finally broke cover to try to manage the situation, claiming the only opposition to the race was coming from Britain, Ecclestone was trying to broker a solution with the teams. One he seemed to favour was retaining the Indian Grand Prix on October 30 and pencilling in Bahrain for the end of the season.

"The way things are at the moment, we have no idea what is going to happen," he told the Times. "Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go. If they are not, then we don't go and there are no problems."

Again dismissing suggestions the decision had been reached for financial reasons, Ecclestone said: "The money makes no difference. Money is not the issue here. It is whether it is safe and good to have a race, that is the issue. We can change this October 30 date by having a vote by fax if necessary. It can be done, and fast."

Within 24 hours of Ecclestone's comments, Autosport.com reported that the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) had sent a letter to the FIA, Formula One Management and the race organisers saying they want the Indian Grand Prix to be reinstated on October 30. The report added that FOTA is willing to discuss a different date for the race, possibly in December.

A FOTA spokesperson told the Press Association: "The teams have discussed the 2011 calendar within FOTA. They have expressed their views privately in a letter to the FIA, FOM and the Bahrain International Circuit."