FORMULA One boss Bernie Eccelstone has attempted to brush aside growing concerns that this month’s Bahrain Grand Prix will have to be cancelled for a second consecutive year because of security fears.
Ecclestone’s remarks came after further political unrest in the troubled Arab state, where a home-made bomb injured seven policemen during a protest near the capital, Manama, on Monday.
It has been suggested that teams do not want to take part in the race on 22 April, while activists have called on Formula One chiefs to abandon their contract with Bahrain over human rights matters.
But Ecclestone said yesterday: “At this time now, there are no indications it won’t go ahead. None of the teams have expressed any concern to me – quite the opposite.
“It’s really not up to me to decide whether it should go ahead or not. It’s up to the people in Bahrain to decide. At this time, they are not cancelling the event, so presumably they are happy.
“One of the teams sent a person over there recently, and they said everything’s perfect, there’s no problem. They’ve been to the circuit, they’ve been everywhere in Bahrain and they are very happy.
“We can’t force teams to take part. They would be in breach of contracts with us if they didn’t, but we would deal with that matter as a separate issue.”
Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was initially postponed and later cancelled altogether amid civil unrest, and Ecclestone conceded to reservations over extending the venue’s contract.
“We have an agreement with the people in Bahrain,” he added. “Maybe we wouldn’t renew it. We’ll have to look and see.”
Former world champion Damon Hill last week urged motorsport chiefs to reconsider ditching this year’s race in Bahrain, insisting it risked “creating more problems than it’s solving”.
Unrest and pomegranate: A history of the Bahrain GP
■ The inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix – the first in the MIddle East – took place on 4 April 2004, and was won by Michael Schumacher
■ Held seven times in total, last year’s race was cancelled amid civil unrest and, despite ongoing concerns, was reinstated to the 2012 calendar and scheduled for 22 April
■ Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is the race’s most successful driver, having triumphed three times, while Jenson Button is the only Briton to have tasted victory after his 2009 win
■ Instead of the customary champagne, non-alcoholic rosewater and pomegranate drink Waard is sprayed during the prize-giving