It might appear a touch incongruous in the light of all of the violence in the country of late, but Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa – CEO of the Bahrain International Circuit – has admitted that he wants the Bahrain Grand Prix 'to continue to be the friendly race' on the F1 calendar, adding that the beleaguered desert nation is 'ready' now to reclaim its place.
Initially slated to lift the curtain on the F1 2011 World Championship campaign back on 13 March, the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled in the wake of rising civil unrest in the Middle Eastern island-state, with more than 30 people reportedly having been killed since the troubles began.
A deadline of 1 May was imposed by the FIA for Bahrain to determine whether or not it would be able to quell its volatile political situation sufficiently in order for the race to be rescheduled at a later date towards the end of the season – but after that deadline came and went with no announcement made, a new cut-off of 3 June was decreed, with F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone telling Swiss newspaper Blick
that there will henceforth be no further extension since 'we need a decision of the FIA World Council to change the calendar'.
Ecclestone – whose Formula One Management (FOM) company, it should be noted, stands to lose some $40 million should the grand prix not be rescheduled after he agreed to waive the race-hosting fee – added that 'first, we need the guarantee from Bahrain that it is now safe to have a grand prix', and all the messages emanating from the Gulf state are that such a scenario is increasingly the case and that preparations are stepping up a gear.
The front page of this week's Gulf Weekly
pleads 'Bernie, come back, we're ready', and the newspaper includes a petition that already boasts more than two thousand signatures and that is to be personally delivered to Ecclestone in London next week.
What's more, after the Sakhir circuit hosted the first-ever 'National Racing Finals' last weekend – uniting two of the kingdom's most popular racing series, the BIC 2,000cc Challenge and the Bahrain National Drag Racing Championship and pulling in thousands of fans – BIC chairman Zayed Rashed Al Zayani confidently declared: “If it was up to us, we are ready. We are ready to host it, but unfortunately, it is not our decision alone.”
“Bahrain has built a brand name for F1 since 2004, [and] we would love to continue to be the friendly race and make you proud,” echoed Al Khalifa, whilst industry and commerce minister Dr. Hassan Fakhro added: “It is vitally important to show the world that Bahrain is back in business and ready to welcome visitors for a grand prix in 2011. We promise to give Mr. Ecclestone and FIA officials, drivers, teams and motorsport fans a traditional warm Bahraini welcome. The businesses of Bahrain and its people are geared up and more than ready to stage this important global showcase event.”
Speaking to the TradeArabia News Service
, Abdulrahman Al Morshed, chief executive of the National Hotels Company, agreed that 'if we get F1 back, it will make a massive difference to the international perception', reasoning that 'even if it isn't as successful as normal, it will go a long way to bring business back to the country'.
editor Stan Szecowka, meanwhile, contended that 'rescheduling the 2011 grand prix would be a tremendous boost to us all' following 'some difficult times recently' – and the latest speculation suggests that should such a move indeed be made, it could be facilitated by shifting the inaugural Indian Grand Prix back a few weeks to become the new season finale in early December.