F1’s Ecclestone In Bahrain Warning

By iSportconnect | April 11, 2012

Formula One Chief Bernie Ecclestone has claimed the sport’s teams will have the final say over whether they compete in the Bahrain Grand Prix after local organisers hit out at “scaremongering” surrounding the race.

Following the latest outbreak of violence in Bahrain in which seven policemen were injured in a bomb attack, Ecclestone has offered his opinion on the matter. An unnamed ‘leading’ member of F1’s 12 team principals on Monday claimed the teams want the sport’s stakeholders to cancel, or at least postpone, the event amid continuing concerns over security in the country. Ecclestone said there are commercial reasons why teams should take part but admitted he could not force individuals to participate.

“We’ve no way we can force people to go there,” he said, according to Press Association Sport. “We can’t say ‘you’ve got to go’ – although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn’t go – but it doesn’t help. Commercially they have to go, but whether they decide to or not is up to them. I’ve had no one say anything other than ‘we’re going to be racing in Bahrain’.” The F1 supremo maintains that the race, to be staged on April 22, is still on. “Yes, if the people in Bahrain are happy that they can run the event. We’re not involved in any of the politics in Bahrain, over who is right or wrong. When you go to somebody’s country you have to respect exactly how they run their country and the laws of that country.”

The International Motorsport Federation (FIA) and Ecclestone have continually maintained that the sport is committed to returning to Bahrain this year, despite continued violence in the Gulf Kingdom a year on from its suppressed uprising. The 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled after months of controversy following civil unrest in February 2011 – a move that cost organisers a reported £300 million. Ecclestone, speaking to BBC Sport, added that the ongoing problems could see the event’s race contract renegotiated. He said: “Maybe we wouldn’t renew it. We’ll have to look and see.”

The case of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, an imprisoned anti-government activist who has been on hunger strike for more than 60 days, is also causing international concern. However, Bahrain Grand Prix chairman Zayed Al Zayani has rounded on the event’s critics stating the race will definitely go ahead. “What has been happening is that armchair observers – who have not been sufficiently interested or committed to investigate the situation for themselves – have been driving this debate, at the expense of those neutral parties who have taken the trouble to investigate the situation at first hand,” said Al Zayani in a statement.”

“This, combined with the scaremongering tactics of certain small extremist groups on social networking sites, has created huge misconceptions about the current situation,” he added. “We have welcomed a number of people to Bahrain over the last few weeks, who have all been able to find out for themselves that the Kingdom is ready to host Formula One… I therefore urge all stakeholders in the sport to listen to those with an informed, educated view of the situation and to form their views on the facts of the situation, as presented by neutral first-hand observers.”