Bahrain slams scaremongers amid call for F1 rethink

Bernie Ecclestone says F1 teams will have the final say on whether they compete in Gulf kingdom
By Reuters
Tue 10 Apr 2012 05:36 PM

Bahrain Grand Prix organisers summoned support for their troubled Formula One race on Tuesday and said a campaign for it to be cancelled was being driven by "armchair observers" and "extremist groups".

The Bahrain International Circuit produced witness statements from foreign observers, including two members of the Lotus team, and the British ambassador to the Gulf kingdom in defence of the April 22 race.

It said a briefing by the Lotus representatives had been sent to all 12 team principals on April 5 and ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, where a final decision is expected.

Bahrain, which has endured almost daily protests and unrest since an uprising against the government in February last year was bloodily suppressed, is due to follow on immediately after China.

There have been increasingly vocal calls for it to be cancelled however, with one unnamed team principal telling Britain's Guardian newspaper that all the teams were hoping the governing FIA would call off the race.

"Yes, there is a need to keep the circuit and the teams secure and they are doing this and they feel very comfortable about the arrangements," the Lotus report said in excerpts reproduced in the Bahrain circuit statement.

"If there is going to be protestation then it will be confined to peaceful protests - you will maybe see some banners being waved and maybe some tyres on fire but that is all they expect.

"We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand," it added. "If it wasn't for a few more police you wouldn't know any difference from last year we were there."

Last year's race had to be cancelled due to the unrest after an initial postponement and the last race there was in 2010.

The circuit statement also quoted John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan police who now advises Bahrain's Interior Ministry, as saying policing would be low-key and discreet.

"There is nothing that in any way warrants for the race to be postponed," he added.

Circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani said in a statement that "armchair observers" had been driving the debate at the expense of neutral parties "who have taken the trouble to investigate the situation at first hand.

"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.

He urged all stakeholders in the sport to "listen to those with an informed, educated view of the situation and to form their view on the facts of the situation as presented by neutral first-hand observers."

The governing International Automobile Federation has said it is in daily contact with foreign embassies and authorities in Bahrain while F1's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone is eager for the race to go ahead.

Al Zayani said last month that the race contributes $220m directly to the local economy and $400-500m indirectly.

Earlier, F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he was powerless to force Formula 1 teams to compete in Bahrain and that the final decision was one they would have to make.

Ecclestone was speaking after learning of the latest outbreak of violence in the troubled country in which seven policemen were injured in a bomb attack.

"We've no way we can force people to go there," he said in comments published by the UK's Guardian.

"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'."

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