FIA backs Bahrain to stage GP
13 April 2012
Motorsport's governing body, the FIA, has said that the Bahrain Grand Prix should go ahead next weekend, despite widespread calls for the event to be cancelled for a second straight season due to ongoing social unrest.
While personally backing the event, F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has said that it was down to the teams to decide whether or not to attend - although he made it quite clear that there would be contractual issues should they decide not to - but FOTA and representatives of teams outside the association insisted that it was down to the governing body to take a decision on the viability of the race going ahead.
Despite discussions being expected to take place in Shanghai this weekend, it now appears that the FIA has decided on an early verdict, announcing from China that it sees no reason to abandon Bahrain.
“The FIA is the governing body of motorsport and therefore of F1," it confirmed in an official statement made ahead of this weekend's third round, "As such, it sets the season's calendars following the proposal of the Commercial Rights Holder (CRH) in accordance with the local national authorities in all matters relating to safety.
“Within that context, the FIA ensures that any event forming part of an FIA World Championship is organised in compliance with the FIA Statutes and the relevant Sporting and Technical Regulations, and that the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during an event.
“The FIA must make rational decisions based on the information provided to us by the Bahraini authorities and by the Commercial Rights Holder. In addition, we have endeavoured to assess the ongoing situation in Bahrain.
“President Jean Todt led a fact-finding mission to the Kingdom in November 2011, meeting a large number of decision-makers and opinion formers, including elected Shia members of parliament, the president of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, ambassadors from the European Union countries, the Crown Prince, the Interior Minister and many members of the business community.
“All expressed their wish for the grand prix to go ahead in 2012, and since then, the FIA has kept in close touch with all these stakeholders. Away from the public eye, the FIA has received regular security briefings from the most senior diplomatic officials based in the Kingdom as well as from other independent experts.
“The 2012 calendar, as presented by the CRH, was ratified by the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) in September 2011. Since then, no request from the F1 Commission or the CRH has been made to the WMSC to either postpone or cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of an F1 World Championship event in Bahrain.
“Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.”
The announcement comes despite increased media interest in Bahrain reporting greater levels of protest in recent days.
A protestor was killed just over a week ago, when security forces, apparently in an unmarked car, opened fire with rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse a crowd. Then, in the past 48 hours, an improvised pipe bomb seriously injured seven policemen close to the capital Manama. Reaction to that incident has since seen groups from the Sunni population attacking Shi'ite villages close to the capital, heightening tensions in the run-up to the race.
The timing of the FIA decision has come as a particular surprise as many believe that Friday could be the most turbulent day of all as, being a part of the Muslim weekend, people congregate after visiting mosques, prompting fears of further street protests.