The opening round of the 2011 Formula 1 season in Bahrain has been officially cancelled as a result of the ongoing political unrest in the Gulf state.
After days of speculation and uncertainty, event organisers confirmed the cancellation on Monday afternoon following discussions between the Crown Prince of Bahrain and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Ecclestone was informed of the decision by telephone as Bahrain now focuses its attention on trying to resolve the current problems it faces, with violent clashes between protestors and the police leaving a number of people dead and large numbers injured during the past week.
“At the present time the country's entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,” Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa said. “Although Bernie Ecclestone had graciously made clear that a decision on the race was entirely Bahrain's to make and was not yet required, we felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting of Bahrain's Formula 1 race to a later date.
“I would like to extend my personal gratitude to Bernie Ecclestone for his support and understanding.
“After the events of the past week, our nation's priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.
Ecclestone himself expressed sadness that the race will not go ahead as planned.
“It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country,” he said. “The hospitality and warmth of the people of Bahrain is a hallmark of the race there, as anyone who has been at a Bahrain Grand Prix will testify. We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon.”
No decision has been taken on a new date for the event if it can be rescheduled later in the year, although the test session planned for Bahrain from 3 March onwards will now take place in Barcelona from 8-11 March.
The F1 season will now start in Australia on 27 March.