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Tue 7 Jun 2011 01:55 PM

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Ecclestone calls for fresh vote on Bahrain Grand Prix

Ex-FIA boss Max Mosley says race has ‘no chance’ of race going ahead in protest-hit Gulf state

Ecclestone calls for fresh vote on Bahrain Grand Prix
Bernie Ecclestone, Formula 1 commercial chief

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has called for a rethink, and a fresh vote, on last week's controversial decision to hold the postponed Bahrain Grand Prix in October.

Max Mosley, former head of the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) and a long-time Ecclestone ally, also weighed in on Tuesday by saying the calendar could not be changed without the agreement of all the teams and the race had no chance of going ahead.

The FIA announced on Friday that Bahrain, first scheduled as the season-opener in March but postponed due to civil unrest, would be held on October 30 in place of the Indian Grand Prix.

The inaugural New Delhi event was moved to a date yet to be agreed as the last race of the season in December.

Ecclestone told the Times newspaper that it would be better to move Bahrain to the end of the season, and suggested a fax vote could be organised at short notice to overturn the International Automobile Federation (FIA) decision.

"The way things are at the moment, we have no idea what is going to happen," Ecclestone said of the situation in Bahrain, where police continue to arrest Shi'ite protestors.

"Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go. If they are not, then we don't go and there are no problems."

Ecclestone took issue with the FIA, who declared Bahrain a safe destination after a fact-finding mission last week by their Spanish vice-president Carlos Gracia.

"We listened to that report from the FIA and that was saying there were no problems at all in Bahrain," said Ecclestone. "But that is not what I am hearing and I think we can see that we need to be careful."

The decision to race in Bahrain has triggered widespread opposition, with human rights campaigners outraged by the move after anti-government protests prompted a bloody crackdown in the Gulf kingdom.

Formula One teams are also against extending the championship into December, while fans who had booked non-refundable flights and holidays to India for that grand prix stand to lose money.

Ecclestone said money, with the Bahrainis paying an estimated $40m to host the race this year, was not the issue.

"It is whether it is safe and good to have a race, that is the issue," said the 80-year-old. "We can change this by October 30 date by having a vote by fax if necessary. It can be done, and fast."

Mosley, who left office in 2009 but remains influential within the FIA, agreed.

"He [Ecclestone] is right. I don't think there is the slightest chance the grand prix will actually happen," he told BBC radio.

"Apart from anything else you cannot change the calendar, in the way that is proposed to change, without the unanimous agreement of the teams."

The FIA said in a statement on Friday that the decision had been unanimously 'agreed' by the world motor sport council meeting in Barcelona.

Two team principals, Force India's Vijay Mallya and Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali, attended that meeting.

FIA president Jean Todt could not confirm that there had indeed been unanimous agreement, however.

"I couldn't say precisely," Tuesday's Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying. "Was it 25 hands? 27? I saw all the hands up and said, 'Ah, unanimous agreement'. I pronounced it. And nobody objected. No one said 'I abstained' or 'I voted no'."

Todt had previously blamed the media for exaggerating the extend of the unrest in Bahrain, which left at least 29 people dead.

“The information we have is that at this moment the situation is very peaceful in Bahrain. You should go there and have a look,” he told the Guardian on Monday.

Mosley, who fought regular battles with the teams over the years and knows the intricacies of the rulebook as well as anyone, said it would be up to them to decide.

"Until the written agreement of the teams is forthcoming, you can't actually change the date. It can't be done," he said.


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Resident 8 years ago

This whole saga reflects the sorry damage that has been aflicted by both 'sides' in the 'conflict', as well as the appauling mis-reporting by most of the international media that, at best, failed to really research their stories. Bahrain (as a whole) needs to get with it; Those in power and with influence need to develope a sense of urgency while those who have and continue to demonstrate need to grow up (rather quickly) and accept that there is inevitably a price for acting illegally as one might expect in any society. If the GP is not run in Bahrain, it will have huge economic and negative PR repercussions in the short and medium term, maybe in the long term as well (possibly the Gulf region as well). Everyone will suffer in Bahrain, not least the demonstrators themselves. However, I do think that the GP teams should investigate the issue more thoroughly and not rely on commercially inspired headers from the press and TV - this seems to be common sense.

Dan 8 years ago

I fully agree that folk need to get up off their rear ends & do a factual recce. But its a small island & easier to get 2nd hand info with an agenda. Even AVAAZ does it (for those who don't know it's a web based organisation fighting causes - kinda 'bleeding heart'. The Shia majority understandably want an end to discrimination, which is surely there as evidenced by the non-Bahraini Sunni military who then become eligible for passports. But the majority of Shia are against the small extremist band that turned things violent & have sent the tiny economy into negative, from which it will battle to recover, if ever

Maitham 8 years ago

"prompted a bloody crackdown in the Gulf kindgom"?! What crackdown? I for one -and many other shias and sunnis- had our freedom hijacked by a bunch of thugs running around with knives and hand-made molotoff bombs calling for a change of regime by radical islamist influences (look no further than Iran & Hezbullah). No country in the world would tolerate such violent behaviour. We are all for more reform, more participation in political and economic decisions and the national dialague that has been called for by the crown prince during the crisis, and now again by the kind himself should be the first step forward. The shias are not a majority, nor are the sunnis. It doesn't matter what percentage it is as all are citizens of Bahrain. For the past couple of months, we've law & order in place which brought peace and security, which the true majority of Bahraini people want.

Red Snappa 8 years ago

They've read the first-hand report from the Spanish vice-president of the FIA, which led them to approve the reinstatement of the race but nobody stooped to gauge the opinion of the teams themselves. Their representative letter signed by all but one minnow team say they do not want to extend the season with a Bahrain event for team fatigue reasons, with some allegedly voicing their moral stance distaste for reinstating the event as an aside.

Simple really without the teams agreement to participate there is no Grand Prix, Berni Ecclestone knows that.

Therefore for those who feel strongly enough about the matter, I suppose that they could always boycott the purchase of the F1 representative automotive brands in Bahrain. Apart from that the rhetoric appears to be redundant.

His Excellency Dr Paul 8 years ago

I am rather tired of hearing various people claim to know what 'the people' in Bahrain want.

There is a simple tried-and-tested way to find out. It's called 'an election'. It can be conducted with foreign observers, the UN, etc. to ensure fairness, and everyone agrees to accept the result.

Will the government accept that?

Why not?

Mohammed Al Mahmood 8 years ago

Dear Mr. Resident,

Thank you very much for your post,
I support all what is written.

Mystic Meg 8 years ago

Let's wait and see what the second half of this year brings, I reckon we'll be having an Arab Autumn as well