Bernie Ecclestone has given a strong hint that the postponed 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix will
be rescheduled when the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) meets to discuss the beleaguered race's future on Friday – but teams remain unhappy about the potential ramifications of stretching the season out even longer.
After the governing body's initial deadline of 1 May came and went without any kind of resolution, a new date of 3 June was set to determine whether or not the Bahrain Grand Prix – unable to host the F1 2011 curtain-raiser as it should have done on 13 March due to civil unrest and violent political protests that ultimately culminated in martial law being imposed – can be accommodated later on in the year.
At least 29 people have died in three-and-a-half months of rioting in the desert kingdom, but the state-of-emergency declared back in March is set to be lifted today – even though many contend the turmoil is far from over. Bahrain's ruling Crown Prince has vowed to listen to both domestic and international concerns and has insisted that he is committed to reform.
Musing that the catalyst for the troubles was much as it had been in fellow Arabic nations like Egypt and Tunisia – singling out unemployment and a lack of opportunities as the overriding bugbears – Ecclestone suggests a return to the calendar for Bahrain is now on the cards.
“I think it started there for the same reason it did in Tunisia,” F1's influential commercial rights-holder told CNN
, “and it becomes catching – 'why don't we do the same?' The guys go to college, they're there until they're 20 or 23-years-old, spend all their life trying to do something. They achieve and then they can't find a job, so they get a bit upset and I don't blame them.
“If there's peace there and they (race organisers) are happy, we're happy to compromise and make things happen for them. I think the teams are happy. If it's safe and everything is good, then I think the teams will be happy to support it. We've always tried to keep out of politics and religion and things like that.”
Bahraini officials are adamant that they are now ready to welcome F1, with the most likely scenario being a 20 November slot, a week after fellow Middle Eastern race Abu Dhabi. That would necessitate the season finale in Brazil being moved back by a week to 4 December, whilst it has alternately been mooted that the inaugural Indian Grand Prix may need to be delayed until 11 December to allow for Bahrain to be parachuted into its place on 30 October.
“We feel we are in a position to have the event back,” assured Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) chairman Zayed Rashid Al Zayani. “There are many factors involved, [but] we are hoping for the best and would like to have the race back.
“Things have calmed down tremendously in Bahrain. Life is back to normal. We are happy to have the race anytime really. We went through a rough patch, and we need nice moments in our history now for the nation. F1 has always been a time where Bahrain showcases itself to the world not only as a sports arena but as a society, a community that Bahrain as a nation has to offer. F1 can bring back joy to the country.”