Ecclestone defends dubious Bahrain decision

Paris: Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has defended the highly controversial decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix into the 2011 world championship calendar.

The Grand Prix was initially postponed from its original season-opening date in March due to political turmoil and civil unrest in the Gulf state.

Bahrain had been pushing to have the event reinstated, and the green light was finally given by Formula One`s ruling body the FIA after a visit by a delegation to assess conditions in Bahrain this week.

The 2011 Bahrain GP will now be held on October 30, the original slot for the inaugural Indian GP which has been shifted to a season-closing date on December 11.

While Friday’s announcement was welcomed by officials in Bahrain and India, it was met with anger by top teams and human rights organisations.

Mercedes Grand Prix team chief Ross Brawn said this week that he had told F1 commercial ring-master Ecclestone that a December 11 finale was not an option.

Brawn said: "I think it is unacceptable and we`ve told Bernie that and he knows our opinion.

"If we continue to take those sort of approaches then we will run into problems because our people cannot be expected to work in that environment and situation."

Ecclestone cited "unusual circumstances" as the reason behind the decision. Speaking to Press Association Sport, he said: "The truth of the matter is, this was voted on by the FIA, that was it.

It went through the World Council.

"The FIA sent people out there to check on the situation, they came back and reported everything is fine.

"It`s obvious that everybody feels they need to be safe when we get there.

"In the end we`ll have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain. If there is peace and no problems then I suppose the teams will be all right."

In response to the concerns expressed by Mercedes chief Brawn, Ecclestone added: "Of course they`d rather not be racing in December, but these are unusual circumstances."

Bahraini officials maintain there will be no problems when it comes to staging the grand prix.

Zayed R Alzayani, chairman of the BIC, said: "By the time the grand prix arrives we will be able to remind the world about Bahrain at its best.

"The Bahrain Grand Prix has always been a source of national pride and it is an event that transcends politics.

Its positive effect will be felt throughout the country."

The teams, however, could yet have a say if they opt to make a stand, as is now expected of them.

A McLaren spokesperson said: "All FOTA teams (only Hispania Racing are not represented) acknowledge the decision made by the FIA World Motor Sport Council on Saturday.

"That decision is likely to be discussed internally within FOTA, and a more detailed joint position may be defined after those discussions have taken place."

Alex Wilks, campaign director for international organisation Avaaz which promotes activism on issues such as human rights and religious conflict, said: "Formula One`s decision is a kick in the teeth for the Bahraini people.

"Now F1, plus Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, and every other team will be directly linked with a bloody crackdown that`s ruined the lives of hundreds of innocent people."

The decision also flew in the face of opposition from Red Bull`s Australian driver Mark Webber and former FIA president Max Mosley.

Both were quoted on yesterday protesting at the possibility of a return to Bahrain.

Mosley said: "If I was president today, Formula One would go to Bahrain over my dead body. It cannot happen."

Webber told his Twitter followers: "When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than the sport. Let`s hope the right decision is made."


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