The Force India team is determined to give television viewers a reason to see them on Sunday after a top ten qualifying performance at the Bahrain Grand Prix was apparently shunned by the world feed in protest at its absence from second free practice.
The British-based team opted to skip the Friday afternoon session amid security concerns after four of its engineers were inadvertently caught up in a firebomb incident on their way home from the Bahrain International Circuit on Wednesday night. It was a move that would normally have escaped sanction, but it was noticeable that neither Nico Hulkenberg or, more importantly, top ten qualifier Paul di Resta received any coverage for their Saturday efforts.
The team's post-qualifying release tactfully made no mention of the fact that it, and its sponsors, received no television exposure at a time when more countries would have been showing the action, but British broadcasters BBC
and Sky Sports
were apparently inundated with complaints that di Resta's late lap in Q2 - which put him into the pole position shoot-out - was not shown, even in replay. The Scot then opted not to post a flying lap in the final session, but still ventured out of the pits.
“I'm very happy with our qualifying performance today - with our reduced programme yesterday it wasn't easy getting all the work done, but the team did a good job to get the car dialled into the track before qualifying," di Resta commented, "I had a great lap in Q2, just three-tenths away from the quickest time, but, in Q3, we all took the decision from a strategic point of view to save tyres. I think this will put us in the best shape for tomorrow and I hope we can deliver a strong race.”
While the majority of companies covering F1 have their own crews at races, they mainly cover pit-lane and paddock content, with the on-track footage coming from the Bernie Ecclestone-controlled Formula One Management 'world feed'. Ecclestone was clearly irked when Force India opted not to contest FP2, pointing out that no other team had taken the same precaution of leaving the circuit before darkness fell, and even offering to ride shotgun with anyone who wanted to leave later.
Ecclestone insisted that he had not been aware of Force India's absence from the coverage, and insisted that he would 'investigate' the matter - before suggesting that the problem may have been that various sponsors on the white, orange and green machines contravened Bahraini laws.
"I was busy and didn't notice Force India were not on," he told Britain's Guardian
newspaper, "I will look into it. It could be technical, but I suspect it was more to do with the Bahrain laws on no alcohol advertising. They have a whisky company prominently on the car. They should have taken it off. TV could not show that."
Ecclestone's comments appear contradictory when it was pointed out that both Force India cars had featured in Friday's early practice coverage, and are not the only ones to carry alcohol brands. Teams are required to submit their liveries for approval before races with stricter controls on advertising, and Force India would not have run the logos they did with having received approval.
Ecclestone, however, wasn't done, choosing to denigrate di Resta's effort by claiming that no-one would have been interested in Force India's effort in making the top ten.