x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bahrain Grand Prix is not assured yet as F1 boss rethinks

Ecclestone says FIA members could vote to push it to the end of the season to be on safer side after hearing safety concerns.

Bahrainis take to the streets in Manama after a protester died this week from rubber bullet injuries suffered earlier.
Bahrainis take to the streets in Manama after a protester died this week from rubber bullet injuries suffered earlier.

Bernie Ecclestone said Formula One should overturn the decision to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix in October and instead consider running the race at the end of the season, an idea that reportedly has support from the F1 teams.

The race, originally scheduled as the F1 season opener in March, was postponed because of political unrest in Bahrain. Last week the FIA voted to move the event to October 30, the date originally reserved for the Indian Grand Prix.

“The way things are at the moment, we have no idea what is going to happen,” Ecclestone told The Times of London. “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."

 

Ecclestone suggested that a fax vote could be organised at short notice to overturn the FIA decision.

The Formula One Team Association (Fota) has also called for India being reinstated to the October 30 slot and have submitted a letter to racing officials, according to the Press Association Sport.

“The teams ... have expressed their views privately in a letter to the FIA, FOM [Formula One Management] and the Bahrain International Circuit,” a spokesman for the group said.

Max Mosley, the former head of the FIA, said there was “not the slightest chance” the Bahrain race would be held this year because the teams would not agree to it.

Ecclestone took issue with the fact the FIA’s decision to reschedule the race was based in part on an internal report that declared Bahrain a safe destination. Carlos Gracia, a FIA vice-president from Spain, wrote the report after a fact-finding mission last week – a period when martial law was still in place, giving a false picture of the scene in Bahrain, according to some human rights groups.

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

A human rights group also said Gracia consulted only with people and organisations sympathetic to the Bahrain government during his two-day visit to the country.

Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, said the race could be called off again if there is “clear evidence” the situation in Bahrain becomes risky.

Mosley, a supporter of Ecclestone who left office in 2009 but remains influential within the FIA, said that the Formula One teams may have the final say on whether the race is held. “He [Ecclestone] is right. I don’t think there is the slightest chance the grand prix will actually happen,” Mosley told BBC radio.

“Apart from anything else you cannot change the calendar, in the way it has been proposed, without the unanimous agreement of the teams. The council organises the event, but if there is going to be a change, for example moving the Indian event, there has to be unanimous agreement. It’s absolutely part of the rules. So until written agreement of the teams is forthcoming, you can’t actually change the date. It can’t be done.”

Separately, Bahrain announced it will host the Gulf Cooperation Council Games in October. The event was originally scheduled for April.

* With agencies