x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bahrain Formula One race 'in near future'

Majority of teams believe season will have to be extended if race is reinstated.

Bahrain Formula One organisers should inform the FIA today if they believe scenes like this can return to the country this season. Damien Meyer / AFP
Bahrain Formula One organisers should inform the FIA today if they believe scenes like this can return to the country this season. Damien Meyer / AFP

The organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix are expected to advise the FIA today whether they feel capable of hosting a rescheduled Formula One race this season.

Yesterday, they released a non-committal statement that said the race could return "in the very near future".

The race was originally scheduled for March 13 but was postponed following unrest in the country. The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the world motorsports governing body, issued a deadline of May 1 for the country's crown prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, to decide whether he wanted to request that the race be reinstated to the calendar.

In a written statement released yesterday, Zayed Rashid al Zayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, stopped short of requesting the race take place this season.

"We gratefully acknowledge the understanding of Formula One Management and the FIA in what have been difficult times," he said. "We also thank the continued support of the international motorsport community and Formula One fans around the world.

"Clearly our national priority is to find a resolution to the difficulties that the kingdom of Bahrain has experienced. The national situation has moved on in a positive manner, the situation is evolving all the time …

"Bahrain's grand prix is a time of celebration and hosting the race is a source of great pride for Bahrain and Bahrainis. It is a showcase to the world and we look forward to welcoming the teams and drivers and everyone involved in Formula One back to Bahrain in the very near future."

Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, had indicated last week that the deadline could be extended. He was quoted in yesterday's statement as saying that "Bahrain's commitment to Formula One has been clear from the very outset".

Ecclestone added: "While obviously the kingdom has had to put its national affairs first, I have never been in any doubt that restoring the … Bahrain Grand Prix has been of paramount importance.

"In eight years with my relationship with Bahrain I have always been confident that they will produce something special."

Most Formula One teams believe that if Bahrain is to rejoin the calendar, it would involve extending the season. As it stands, the 19-race championship is due to end on November 27 in Brazil and with all remaining races already selling tickets, the room for movement is limited.

There are free weekends either side of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 17, with India due to host its inaugural race on October 30 and Brazil's race at Interlagos a month later, but racing three consecutive weekends would be unprecedented.

Mohammed bin Sulayem, the Emirati vice president of the FIA's World Motor Sports Council, earlier this year told The National that while in previous years the two Middle East grands prix have deliberately been at either ends of the calendar to maximise exposure, organisers of the UAE race at Yas Marina Circuit would not object to Bahrain being held at the end of the season this year.

"This is an emergency and in an emergency we need to work together," he said.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae