F1 chiefs give green light to Bahrain GP
Shanghai, April 13, 2012
Formula One will race in Bahrain as scheduled next week despite security concerns and calls from anti-government activists for the grand prix to be cancelled, the sport's decision makers said on Friday.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) declared in a statement that the race, cancelled last year after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protestors and in doubt again due to ongoing violence, was on.
It said it had made the decision after regular briefings from senior diplomatic officials and 'independent experts' in the Gulf kingdom.
Formula One's commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone, mobbed by reporters after a meeting with representatives of the 12 teams at the Chinese Grand Prix, declared the race '200 per cent' certain to go ahead.
'All the teams are happy to be there,' added the 81-year-old. 'There's nothing happening. I know people who live there and it's all very quiet and peaceful.'
He was speaking only hours after an explosion damaged two cars in Manama. Al Arabiya television said the blast was caused by a gas container thrown among vehicles on a street.
A home-made bomb wounded seven Bahraini policemen, three seriously, during a protest near the capital on Monday.
Christian Horner, principal of world champions Red Bull, said he respected the FIA position.
'I think it's clear. The confusing thing has been uncertainty so I think for everybody here in the paddock now it's clear that there will be a race in Bahrain next week,' he told reporters.
The timing of the FIA statement, released a day before its French president Jean Todt is due to arrive at the Shanghai circuit, was seen as a clear sign of the governing body's determination to set the agenda.
'Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain,' the statement said.
'Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.'
The race at Sakhir, which brought in more than 100,000 visitors and half a billion dollars in spending when last held in 2010, will be the fourth round of the 20-race season.
The race also contributes some $40 million in hosting fees to Formula One's coffers and Ecclestone told Reuters last month that the sport would be there 'for as long as they want us.'
The first country in the Middle East to host a grand prix, making its debut on the calendar in 2004, Bahrain has considerable influence in Formula One with a representative on the FIA's decision-making World Motor Sport Council.
The country's sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat also owns a significant percentage of McLaren Group, whose team are currently leading the Formula One championship.-Reuters