The president of the FIA, Jean Todt, has insisted that it was the right call for the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain to go ahead, despite civil unrest in parts of the country.
Todt had been criticised for not speaking publicly about the decision to go ahead with Sunday's race until just a few days ago, but on Saturday in a meeting with a select group of journalists at the Bahrain International Circuit
in Sakhir, he came out forcefully in favour of the race going ahead despite the protests planned for this weekend.
"Yes, there are certain problems, yes there are some protests - because it is a democratic country and protests are allowed," he said. "It allows people who want to protest to give their voice, and it happens all over the world. There are some protests in our county where we live, and sometimes we don't feel comfortable to go – because there can be some protests.
"If there is a protest, can there be some consequences? We know, if you go to any soccer game anywhere in the world, including Europe, there are some consequences when there is a protest ... And you know, very often, protest does mean damaging and hurting people: it is one possibility of expressing yourself," he said. "It is something that can happen, but it does not mean we have to stop sport moving along."
Of more immediate concern to Todt as FIA president is whether the image and reputation of F1 itself is being undermined by the holding of the Bahrain Grand Prix
in such controversial circumstances.
"I feel F1 is very strong, I think it is a very strong brand," said Todt. "[Although] to say there has not been some controversy around what has happened in Bahrain would be wrong from my side," he conceded.
"Do you think the promoters, if they would have felt it was very bad for their country, they would have encouraged F1 to come here?" he asked. "They would not have asked the commercial rights-holder, Bernie Ecclestone, in the first place to put Bahrain on the calendar."
Todt went on to question the accuracy of the situation of Bahrain painted by the recent news coverage. "I sympathise with people who have some emotions, but we have to deal with facts.
"I am not sure that all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country," stated Todt. "I respect the media, I respect what they write, but it is not what I have seen and what I was told by a lot of people to whom I have been talking."