By Joanne Bladd
Season-opening race was scrapped after pro-reform protests took hold in Gulf kingdom
Bahrain expects to hold its delayed Grand Prix race in “the very near future” after its season-opening event was cancelled after weeks of political unrest in the Gulf island kingdom.
A statement by the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday said the political situation was improving on a daily basis after martial law was imposed in March.
“The situation is evolving all the time; our day-to-day life is gradually improving,” the statement carried by state news agency BNA said. “We look forward to welcoming the teams and drivers and everyone involved in Formula One back to Bahrain in the very near future.”
Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone was quoted as saying that restoring the Bahrain Grand Prix was of “paramount importance”.
“Bahrain’s commitment to Formula one has been clear from the very outset,” he said.
The Bahrain race was scheduled to be the F1 season-opener on March 13, but was cancelled in February by Bahrain's crown prince after widespread political unrest took hold in the kingdom.
Bahrain has since crushed protests by imposing martial law, inviting in troops from neighbours such as Saudi Arabia and arresting activists.
The F1 season began, instead, at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 27.
Ecclestone said Saturday that Bahrain would be granted more time to decide whether its Grand Prix could be rescheduled this year, despite receiving a deadline of May 1 by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
“We need to wait a little bit to see exactly how progress is made," the 80-year-old said, adding that it might be "bye-bye Bahrain" but a decision was not imminent.
"I suppose we'd be safe by early June or something like that," he said.
Pro-democracy activists in Bahrain wrote an open letter to Ecclestone last week asking him not to reinstate the Gulf state’s race until the government ends its crackdown on protesters.