‘We’ll be back in Bahrain,’ says F1’s Ecclestone

Torture report won’t deter F1 from pressing ahead with Grand Prix in Gulf kingdom
Bahrain scrapped its Grand Prix this year following widespread civil unrest
By Staff writer
Sun 27 Nov 2011 10:29 AM

The Bahrain Grand Prix will take place in April 2012 as scheduled, unless “something terrible happens to stop us,” said Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

The F1 boss spoke out days after an independent report into a crackdown on protests in the Gulf kingdom found authorities used “excessive force” and listed the systematic torture of detainees.

“It's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us,” he told British media, adding it was unlikely the race would become a focus for protesters.

“They have internal politics and I doubt very much whether they'd use international matters to sort out internal politics.”

Bahrain’s season-opening race at Sakhir circuit was postponed in March after widespread political unrest in the country and the deaths of a number of pro-reform demonstrators.

Efforts were made to reschedule the race, but Bahrain was eventually dropped from the 2011 calendar in June after protests from Formula One teams and drivers.

The Gulf state reportedly paid an estimated £25m ($39.2m) in hosting fees for the scrapped three-day race, after refusing an offer of a refund from F1’s Jersey-based parent company, Delta Topco.

The Bahrain Grand Prix returned to F1’s 20-race 2012 calendar in September, in a show of confidence that civil unrest in the Gulf state won’t stop the event a second time.

Asked what he would do if fresh protests erupted ahead of the April 22 race, Ecclestone said he would: “wait and see what happened and then decide.

“Up to now they've done everything they said they were going to do.”

Bahrain said Saturday it planned to open discussions on political reforms and overhaul its security policies in line with the findings of last week’s hardhitting report into the protests.

Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said the Gulf state still blamed Iran for instigating part of the unrest, but said the country planned to address complains from Shi’ite citizens.

Shi'ites complain of discrimination in jobs, housing, education and some government departments including the security forces and army.

The ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family dominates Bahrain's government. King Hamad's uncle Khalifa bin Salman is the world's longest serving prime minister and the elected lower chamber of parliament does not form cabinets or have full legislative powers.

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