x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bahrain Grand Prix awaits the green light

Bahrain hopes to get the OK to reschedule its grand prix this season and is ready to "hold the race today", according to an official.

A model of a Formula One car, displayed in front of the Bahrain International Circuit tower, while the  World Motor Sport Council is meeting in Barcelona to decide on the fate of the Kingdom’s grand prix.
A model of a Formula One car, displayed in front of the Bahrain International Circuit tower, while the World Motor Sport Council is meeting in Barcelona to decide on the fate of the Kingdom’s grand prix.

Bahrain hopes to get the OK to reschedule its grand prix this season and is ready to "hold the race today", an official said.

Formula One's governing body is set to decide today whether to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix for later this season, with some drivers and team officials saying the 2011 race should be scrapped.

"We feel we are in position to have that event back," said Zayed Rashid Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit. "Things have calmed down tremendously in Bahrain. Life is back to normal. We are happy to have the race anytime, really."

The race was meant to open the season but was postponed following anti-government protests in February. The Bahrain government lifted emergency rule earlier this week, and the FIA's World Motor Sport Council will decide on a rescheduling when it gathers in Barcelona today.

Local organisers are hoping for a date around the November 13 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which could affect the Indian Grand Prix on October 30, and could also push the season into December.

Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 rights owner, said the decision will have nothing to do with money and is about satisfying safety concerns.

"Nothing to do with money at all," Ecclestone said. "Nothing, in any shape or form. This has to do with whether people... I don't know, to be honest, with this occasion whether people are concerned with their safety if they go or whether people are concerned with what has happened in the past.

"What has happened in that whole area, in all those countries, is not good in any way, so we will have to wait and see."

Ecclestone is in favour of that proposal, but some F1 teams are resisting calls to stretch the season further.

"I'm always in favour of racing more but I think we lost the moment," said Rubens Barrichello, the Williams driver. "It had to be when we were there, during the Asian leg of touring.

"It's too tiring, too much to do now."

Ecclestone said he felt reassured that the protests that led to the March 13 opener being postponed would not be repeated.

"We would not have any problem, but if someone wants to get attention that would be a good way to do it," Ecclestone said. "From a safety point of view I don't think there is anything to worry about."

Heikki Kovalainen, the Lotus driver, said he trusted the FIA to make the right decision.

"If people decide to go, if it is OK to go there with F1, then I guess there will be good reason for that," Kovalainen said. "If we don't go, fine. But I haven't followed it, I'm not a politician."

Meanwhile, the Virgin Racing team said yesterday it has severed ties with the technical director Nick Wirth and his design company after a disappointing start to the Formula One season.

Andy Webb, the team's chief executive, said that the Russian sports-car maker, Marussia Motors, which bought a significant stake in the team in November, and the board had carried out a comprehensive review of the team.

Virgin Racing have not scored a point since making their F1 debut last season and have moved no closer to the midfield teams.

Germany's Timo Glock did not finish last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, and his Belgian teammate, Jerome d'Ambrosio, was classified 15th, three laps behind Red Bull Racing's race-winner Sebastian Vettel.

"Marussia's goal remains to be in a position to be able to challenge for a podium finish at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, in Sochi 2014," Webb said in a statement.

"With this in mind, it is readily apparent that the team must take major steps in order to accelerate its rate of improvement. Consequently, the decision has been taken that the team will take greater control of its own destiny," Webb said.

"Accordingly, having consulted fully with our existing technical partner during the course of the past few weeks, we have been obliged to terminate our relationship with them."

The car has been designed by Wirth Research and is the only one on the starting grid to have been designed entirely by computer and without the use of a wind tunnel.

However, the team did put the car in a wind tunnel late last year to try to resolve problems with the design.

John Booth, the team principal, told Reuters last month that there was a possibility the team could consider a wind-tunnel programme now, although always within a tightly controlled budget, estimated at around US$50 million (Dh183m). "What has been disappointing has been our pace," Booth said. "It's aero efficiency. We're nowhere with it."

Last year's car started the team's debut season embarrassingly with a fuel tank too small to be sure of finishing all races.

"Looking ahead, we will now be pursuing an alternative technical path and look forward to announcing our plans in more detail over the coming weeks," Webb added.