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Ecclestone defends F1's global strategy

Bernie Ecclestone was still busy defending the decision to proceed with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend - while also dropping some beloved European races from the schedule.
No one who knows Bernie Ecclestone would expect him to show the slightest sign of retreat or change of direction, despite all the controversy that's surrounded his decision to press ahead with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, while also moving away from traditional F1 venues in Europe.

"The problems that exist in Bahrain have nothing to do with F1," he insisted in an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper on Sunday. "Relevant agencies gave the nod as far as security was concerned, and I think it is clear that they were not wrong."

Ecclestone also brushed aside suggestions that F1 had been sucked in and used as a political tool by the Bahraini government, saying that it was no different from the way that countries also sought to use the staging of the Olympic Games.

"We came to agreements with the promoters of the Grands Prix, and if that is good for the country, fine," he said.

F1 - and Ecclestone - came through the test of nerve with an event that went ahead as clockwork and delivered an exciting and eventful race on the track. But even so, many fans of the sport are unhappy with the way that Ecclestone's determination to press into new markets in the Middle East and beyond are forcing out some of the favourite circuits closer to come.

One example is the new deal struck to alternate the holding of the Spanish Grand Prix between the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo near Barcelona, and the street track at Valencia.

"Under the circumstances, especially the current economic climate, the best solution we could find was that both alternate," insisted Ecclestone, who also told France's L'Equipe newspaper at the weekend that a deal had been verbally agreed to restore the French Grand Prix to the F1 calendar from 2013, but at the cost of alternating it on an annual basis with the Belgium Grand Prix.

"We are a world championship, and that means we have to be all over the planet," he continued. "We are not a European championship. When F1 started it wasn't possible to go and run all the places we visit now. We must be grateful for where we can reach."

The 81-year-old Ecclestone also denied that he had any plans to step aside from running the sport any time soon, and said instead that his main ambition at the moment was to "keep healthy."

"I do not think anyone is thinking of replacing me," he added. "I never imagined I would be in this position, I've been lucky."

In the interview with El Pais, Ecclestone selected Enzo Ferrari as the most most important figure in the history of F1, but was less specific when asked to pick his best and worst personal memories from his own involvement in the sport.

"During all this time has been too many good times to just pick one," he insisted. "Each year there are special things. And the worst of the F1 comes when you lose friends: fortunately, that hasn't happened to me for some time now."



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