16 April 2013
Ecclestone ready to talk to Bahrain GP opposition
Bernie Ecclestone insists that he is ready to meet with opposition groups in an effort to head off threats to this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said that would be happy to speak with both sides in the ongoing political row in Bahrain in an effort to ensure that this weekend's grand prix passes off peacefully.
Ecclestone insisted that, rather than wholeheartedly backing the ruling family, as is widely suspected, he is also sympathetic to the cause of the protestors who threaten to ramp up their activity to coincide with the grand prix, which is viewed as status symbol of those in power and is the biggest international event taking place within Bahraini borders.
"We don't want to see trouble,” Ecclestone told reporters in the UK, “We don't want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don't understand - because we really don't understand... Some people feel it's our fault there are problems, so I'm happy to talk to anybody about this, as I did before."
Ecclestone met representatives of main opposition group al-Wefaq in both London and Bahrain ahead of the 2012 race, and continues to claim that there is no reason for F1 not to return to Sakhir, despite reports of flaring unrest. The 82-year old insisted that F1 was 'extremely sympathetic' to the opposition, even as reports of four explosions filtered through on the Monday of grand prix week, amid threats of further disruption – both physical and virtual - around the race.
Encouraged by the fact that the two sides in the dispute – the Sunni-led government and Shi-ite majority – restarted peace talks a couple of months ago, and no doubt aware that the majority of protests pass off peacefully, with reports of violence only returning to the news at grand prix time, Ecclestone conceded that the F1 fraternity was naturally 'selfish' in its ambitions.
"We are terribly selfish because we want to go there, have good racing and leave," he noted, "I wish they could sort things out.
"I don't think the people who are arguing about their position are bad people, and I don't think they're trying to hurt people to make their point. People use these things when there is an opportunity - you are always going to get people who are going to try and take advantage of any situation and, if you are going to do something, you might as well do it when there is a lot of worldwide TV there.”
An all-party parliamentary group in the UK still calling for the 2013 race to be cancelled. Led by MP Andy Slaughter and Lord Avebury, the group will hold a press conference today (Tuesday 16 April) to express concerns about the grand prix going ahead.
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