Bahrain Formula One grand prix organisers have announced that the season-opening race has been called off because of the civil unrest sweeping the country with regards to human rights protesters.
The race was due to kick of the 2011 season and be held on 13 March, had been in doubt for more than a week after violent anti-government demonstrations in the country’s capital, Manama, with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone admitting concerns over the safety and security at the event.
Ecclestone yesterday stated that it would be down to Bahrain Crown Prince Salman to make the decision upon whether the race could go ahead, by today, February 22.
The decision means the Australian grand prix in Melbourne on 27 March will play host to the first round of the 2011 season. The final testing session that had been scheduled for Bahrain from 3-6 March has also been cancelled.
A statement read: “The Bahrain International Circuit today announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain would withdraw from hosting this year’s F1 grand prix race so that the country can focus on its process of national dialogue.”
Several people have been killed and hundreds injured in a crackdown against protesters demanding more say in the running of the Gulf kingdom.
Prince Salman announced his decision to Ecclestone yesterday, February 21, and stated: “At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain. Although Bernie Ecclestone had graciously made clear a decision on the race was entirely Bahrain’s to make and was not yet required, we felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting of Bahrain’s Formula One race to a later date.
“I would like to extend my personal gratitude to Bernie Ecclestone for his support and understanding. After the events of the past week, our nation’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together, reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.”
It is still believed to possible that the Bahrain grand prix could be rescheduled for later in the year as opposed to being scrapped from the calendar entirely, having been a fixture of the F1 season since 2004.
Ecclestone added: “It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country. The hospitality and warmth of the people of Bahrain is a hallmark of the race there, as anyone who has been at a Bahrain grand prix will testify. We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon.”