FIA leaves door open for Bahrain GP rethink
London: Formula One`s governing body has left the door open to a possible U-turn on holding a Bahrain Grand Prix this year after announcing last Friday that the postponed race was back on the calendar.
"If we have clear evidence that there is a risky situation this will obviously be taken into consideration," International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt told a TV news channel on Monday.
The race at Bahrain`s Sakhir circuit would have been the March 13 season-opener but was called off after civil unrest prompted a bloody crackdown in the Gulf kingdom.
It was reinstated, despite the teams making clear that they would rather not go and opposition from human rights campaigners, for Oct. 30 after a fact-finding mission to Bahrain last week by Spanish FIA vice-president Carlos Gracia.
"Our special envoy had meetings with the human rights people responsible in Bahrain," said Todt. "He met many people before the report was submitted and unanimously agreed."
Red Bull`s Australian driver Mark Webber said on Saturday that the wrong decision had been taken but did not expect the race to happen anyway despite the FIA announcement.
"As a competitor I do not feel at all comfortable going there to compete in an event when, despite reassurances to the contrary, it seems inevitable that it will cause more tension for the people of that country," he added.
Police in Bahrain clashed with Shi`ite marchers in a religious festival on Sunday night.
Residents and leading Shi`ite opposition group Wefaq said police had used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and birdshot to break up marches in villages around the capital Manama.
International campaigning group Avaaz issued a statement responding to Todt`s comments.
"Claims that calm has been restored and life is back to normal in Bahrain are completely untrue," said campaign director Alex Wilks.
"The FIA`s decision to go ahead with the race based on one blinkered account of the situation shows how money has prevailed over morals."
British media also quoted Sports Minister Hugh Robertson warning that the race could become a magnet for protest if it went ahead.
"You cannot have a situation where politics overtakes sport," he said. "If that happens, you have a disaster on your hands. You can understand why opposition groups might want the race to go ahead if they are planning protests around it and this is a danger."
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