Season opener will be cancelled if civil unrest continues in Gulf state, says F1 commercial chief
Formula One's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13 may have to be called off due to civil unrest in the country, commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters on Thursday.
"We'll make a decision by Tuesday or Wednesday [next week]," he said.
"If things stay as they are today, the answer is no," he added when asked whether he felt the race at Sakhir circuit would go ahead. "If it's not quietened down by Wednesday, I think we will have to cancel probably.”
Ecclestone said he had spoken to Bahrain's Crown Prince earlier on Thursday for an update on the situation and would speak to him again on Friday.
"If you are making travel arrangements, I'd say don't," added the 80-year-old.
At least four people were killed overnight after Bahraini police stormed a protest camp in a central Manama square.
Thousands of overwhelmingly Shi'ite protesters have taken to Bahrain's streets this week demanding more say in the running of the Gulf Arab kingdom where a Sunni Muslim family rules over a majority Shi'ite population.
Two people died in demonstrations and clashes in Manama earlier in the week.
Arabian Business reported last week that protesters intended to target next month's Grand Prix with fresh demonstrations.
A round of the GP2 Asia series scheduled to be held at the track this weekend was cancelled earlier on Thursday due to the situation with circuit medical staff called to city hospitals.
Formula One teams are also due to test at Sakhir on March 3 after spending this week at Spain's Barcelona circuit.
Most have already sent some of their freight ahead by sea to Bahrain.
Ecclestone said the calendar, with a record 20 races this year, would not be shuffled around if Bahrain was cancelled and the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne would therefore become the opener on its planned date of March 27.
"We may try to put it [Bahrain] on again later in the year," Ecclestone added.
Bahrain circuit authorities issued a statement later on Thursday assuring all potential visitors safety was a priority.
"Our focus at the present time remains on delivering another successful event," said circuit CEO Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa. "We continue to monitor the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities.
"Our priority at this time is ensuring the well-being of everyone associated with this event, and we will respond appropriately to any further developments."For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
How about a little principle here, that the aged Bernie might not want to see his drivers and fans in the streets where blood was spilled just days before this event?
I'm a resident of Bahrain and to be honest with you all......This will settles down and the race will not be effected at all.
. F1 is a world sport and the rest of the world is seeing it very differently to how the Bahrain government says it is.
Would sponsors really want to see their logos going round that track under such conditions? It would be a PR nightmare for any brand involved, to be seen to be supporting such actions.
If I was a major sponsor and Bernie insisted the race would go ahead, I'd call my team and tell them that I wanted nothing to do with it and demand they pull my logo from the car.
Of course, if Bernie had listened to the fans, he'd not have this problem. I mean, what are the chances of such things in Belgium? Japan? UK? Spain?
How about having Doha as a back up They have a great track!
The stadium where Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup final isnâ€™t built yet. Neither is the city.
Getting the Arabian Gulf sheikdom ready for the worldâ€™s most-watched sporting event will cost as much as $65bn, Merrill Lynch estimates. Thatâ€™s about $41,000 per person in Qatar, and only 20 percent of them are citizens.
Dear HE Dr Paul
Wondering why all these sponsors have business outside of UK, Spain, Belgium, Japan??? We found them even in Bahrain doing business and by the way why are you still here and not in a more comfortable country? What are the chances you go back to work there instead of working here? Same goes for the F1. Needs new investors and tracks.
Al, do you mean the Corniche Road in Doha? Lots of Quat bikers there... I suggest Dubai Autodrome instead!
How would like the citizens of your country including you to pay for the bill and host any of these costly events??
I guess Yas Marina Circuit will be good for a change