x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ecclestone backs Bahrain in 'unusual circumstances'

But Webber speaks out against decision, saying now is not the right time to return to kingdom.

Bernie Ecclestone, left, believes the teams will be fine to travel to Bahrain despite the civil unrest.
Bernie Ecclestone, left, believes the teams will be fine to travel to Bahrain despite the civil unrest.

Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One rights owner, has defended the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix into the 2011 world championship calendar.

The grand prix was initially postponed from its original season-opening date in March due to unrest in the Gulf state.

Bahrain had been pushing to have the event reinstated, and the green light was given by the FIA, Formula One's ruling body, after a visit by a delegation to assess conditions in the kingdom last week.

The 2011 Bahrain GP will now be held on October 30, the original slot for the inaugural Indian GP which has been shifted to a season-closing date on December 11.

While Friday's announcement was welcomed by officials in Bahrain and India, it was met with anger by some teams.

Ross Brawn, the Mercedes GP team principle, said last week that he had told Ecclestone that a December 11 finale was not an option.

Brawn said: "I think it is unacceptable and we've told Bernie that and he knows our opinion.

"If we continue to take those sort of approaches then we will run into problems because our people cannot be expected to work in that environment and situation."

Ecclestone cited "unusual circumstances" as the reason behind the decision. Speaking to Press Association Sport, he said: "The truth of the matter is, this was voted on by the FIA, that was it. It went through the World Council.

"The FIA sent people out there to check on the situation, they came back and reported everything is fine.

"It's obvious that everybody feels they need to be safe when we get there.

"In the end we'll have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain. If there is peace and no problems then I suppose the teams will be all right."

In response to the concerns expressed by Brawn, Ecclestone said: "Of course they'd rather not be racing in December, but these are unusual circumstances."

Bahraini officials maintain there will be no problems when it comes to staging the grand prix.

Zayed R Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said: "By the time the grand prix arrives we will be able to remind the world about Bahrain at its best.

"The Bahrain Grand Prix has always been a source of national pride and it is an event than transcends politics. Its positive effect will be felt throughout the country."

The teams, however, could yet have a say if they opt to make a stand.

A McLaren-Mercedes spokesperson said: "All Fota [Formula One Teams Association] teams [only Hispania Racing are not represented] acknowledge the decision made by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

"That decision is likely to be discussed internally within Fota, and a more detailed joint position may be defined after those discussions have taken place."

However, Mark Webber, the Red Bull Racing driver, has spoken out against the FIA's decision and the Australian said he remained unconvinced the event will take place.

"Even though a decision has been made, I'll be highly surprised if the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead this year," said Webber, who remains the only driver to speak publicly on the situation.

"The sport should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year rather than constantly delaying its decision in the hope of being able to reschedule it in 2011."

He added: "I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually, but now isn't the right time."