23 February 2011
Bahrain won't have to pay fees, says Ecclestone
The beleagured Bahrain GP will not have to pay its licensing fee, despite the race being cancelled at short notice.
Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he does not intend to pursue the licensing fee payable by the Bahraini authorities for the opening grand prix of the 2011 F1 season, following the event's postponement earlier this week.
The tide of civil unrest sweeping Africa and the Middle East caught up with the island kingdom ten days ago, and has resulted in several deaths and hundreds of injuries following clashes between security forces and protestors calling for the end to governmental control by the royal family. With no sign of an end to the disturbances, Ecclestone accepted Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa's request to suspend the event and the group test that was scheduled to precede it, but has now confirmed that he will not enforce the $40m licensing fee which remains payable despite the cancellation.
"Nobody gains from this," Ecclestone told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, "I want to be loyal to the King because he is doing everything he can to put things right with his people. He doesn't need people like me stabbing him in the back.
"Right from the start, we talked about the problems there, and he was straight with me. I am not there and I do not know properly what problems they are having, but the King was concerned about F1 and our safety, which is why he took the decision to call off the race."
The last time a grand prix was cancelled was due to an act of God rather than an act of war, with the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix at Aida having to be switched from April to October following an earthquake, and Ecclestone compared the two situations after the Bahrain race was officially canned due to force majeure, insisting that no fee would be required unless the race was rescheduled.
"It is similar to if an earthquake had struck," he said, "No one could have foreseen that a month ago. If and when it is rescheduled they will pay their usual fee."
He was also quick to deny that the organisers owed him additional amounts for the right to stage the first race of the season.
"There's never been an extra fee to stage the first race - or the last race for that matter. We put the calendar together to suit the sport.
"What has happened in Bahrain is desperately sad but, one month ago, everyone was looking forward to the race. No one had a problem with it then and, if everything is peaceful, which we hope it will be, then we will try our best to fit it in."
Whether the Bahrain race can be rescheduled remains unclear, not least because the 2011 season was already poised to be the busiest in F1 history. Regardless of whether the uprising reaches a conclusion, the only available slots for relocating the race would appear to be during the now-traditional summer break - which is unlikely - or at the very end of the season, although the calendar would probably need rejigging to accommodate the rescheduling, with Brazil having assumed the final date in place of Abu Dhabi, which would provide a convenient double-header partner for Bahrain.
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