x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

World Motor Sport Council meeting key for Bahrain Grand Prix

A swap with the Indian Grand Prix is posed, but teams are not keen on extending season into December.

Sebastian Vettel at the Bahrain circuit in March 2010. Organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix are hoping to reschedule their race for October 11, which has already been designated as the date of the inaugural Indian GP, with the India event moved back to December.
Sebastian Vettel at the Bahrain circuit in March 2010. Organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix are hoping to reschedule their race for October 11, which has already been designated as the date of the inaugural Indian GP, with the India event moved back to December.

The fate of the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix will be decided at the World Motor Sport Council summit in Barcelona on Friday, a meeting that will shape "the future of all motorsports", according to Mohammed bin Sulayem.

The Emirati, the vice president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), will join 25 council members, including Jean Todt, the FIA president, and Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One rights owner, to discuss key issues relating to the sport.

It is at Friday's assembly that a decision will be made whether to reinstate the Bahrain GP on to the F1 calendar this year.

The proposal of Formula One's new engine regulations will also be discussed, as will Rally Abu Dhabi's place on the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.

"With everything that is going on in the sport, this will be a one of the most important meetings I have attended," said ben Sulayem.

"We are talking about the future of all motorsports.

"We have to discuss Bahrain, we have to confirm the WRC calendar, the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme will present, for the first time, to the FIA, and also we have to discuss the new 1.6-litre engines.

"As I said, this is the future of motorsport. When we talk about the future of engines, we are talking about big teams and commercial implications these decisions will have on them."

The Bahrain Grand Prix was postponed by Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Khalifa, the Kingdom's Crown Prince, earlier this year following political unrest in the country.

However, martial law will be lifted today and the organisers at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir have requested that the race be reinstated.

Few F1 teams are willing to speak publicly about the Bahrain situation, but Ecclestone's recent revelation that he is contemplating extending the calendar into December to accommodate Bahrain's annual race has been met with widespread disapproval.

Ross Brawn, the team principal of Mercedes GP, said at last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix that replacing the Indian Grand Prix on October 30 with Bahrain and then shifting India's inaugural race to December 11 was "totally unacceptable", and several other team principals have made their feelings clear that they have no issue taking Formula One back to Bahrain, but are concerned that this season is too soon.

"It is maybe too early to go there after the dramas," said Eric Boullier, the team principal at Renault.

Ben Sulayem has not turned a deaf ear to their comments.

"On Friday, we will need to determine whether teams are against [going to Bahrain this year], who is against it, why they are against it - we have some very strong decisions to make," he said.

While the World Motor Sport Council decision regarding Bahrain will undoubtedly dominate the headlines, the president of the Automobile and Touring Club said the decision is no more important than any other to be discussed in Spain.

"Bahrain is not the only issue; all the issues are important to me," he said.

"I do not only focus on Formula One or only focus on WRC.

"I look at all motorsports in general. The sport needs support and that is a challenge we face."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae