The Bahrain Grand Prix will return to the F1 2011 calendar, it has been confirmed following today's reunion of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), with the postponed race being parachuted back into the schedule in the slot originally slated for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

Having originally been due to host the 2011 curtain-raiser on 13 March, Bahrain was unable to welcome F1 following the outbreak of civil unrest and violent political protests in the desert kingdom a month earlier. The fate of the race has hung in the balance ever since, as the troubles have persisted and the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone have weighed up the potential benefits and pitfalls of going back there before the season is out.

The sport's teams and drivers have made little secret of their misgivings about returning to a nation blighted by oppression and where at least 30 people have been killed since the anti-government, pro-democracy uprising began. Shortly prior to the announcement that the grand prix will go ahead, Amnesty International UK had issued a media briefing condemning what it describes as a brutal crackdown on dissidents and reporting that 'serious human rights violations continue to be committed in Bahrain'.

Those have included hundreds of arrests - adding that 'in April, at least four detainees died in custody in suspicious circumstances' - 'unprovoked assaults', 'torture', trials resulting in prison sentences for those convicted of 'participating in illegal demonstrations' and 'inciting hatred' against the government, 'excessive use of force and unlawful killings' and more than two thousand job dismissals or suspensions for taking part in the protests.

The human rights organisation adds that 'the [Bahraini] government has failed to conduct independent investigations into alleged abuses by Bahraini security forces in response to peaceful and other public protests in February and March...these include the use of lethal and other excessive force against protestors, and assaults on medical workers seeking to help the wounded'.

A Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) employee, meanwhile, has told Reuters that some 28 of the 108 local staff at the track were arrested, detained for 20 days, insulted, mistreated and sacked - with five still remaining in prison, the chief financial officer Jaafar Almansoor amongst them, and those released warned against speaking to the media.

"They made us beat and kick each other," revealed the unnamed employee. "They said they'd rape us. They tried to touch you in various places to make you think it's going to happen."

Former FIA President Max Mosley had asserted that to return to Bahrain this year would almost be tantamount to 'using F1 as an instrument of repression' and that 'to go will be a public relations disaster' [see separate story - click here], whilst Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber had tweeted that 'when people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than sport'.

Speaking personally rather than as the President of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), meanwhile, former world champion Damon Hill had similarly opined that F1 'will forever have the blight of association with repressive methods to achieve order' should it return in 2011.

Despite the ending of the three-month state-of-emergency in Bahrain on Wednesday and repeated assurances from the country's government that peace is now almost restored, there have been reports of ongoing violence in the capital of Manama, with police allegedly using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters today (Friday).

The FIA, however, has decided to press ahead with the race nonetheless, and following a resolution reached by the governing body's World Motor Sport Council in Barcelona, the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix will consequently be held on 30 October, meaning the Indian Grand Prix will shift back to either 4 or 11 December - what would mark the latest finish to an F1 campaign since 1963 and a scenario that is immensely unpopular with the teams, who are concerned by the logistical element and have been petitioned by more than 300,000 people to boycott the event.

"This is welcome news for all of Bahrain," affirmed BIC chairman Zayed R Alzayani, after Bahraini information affairs authority president Fawaz Al Khalifa had earlier tweeted: 'Mabrook, Bahrain will host f1. Fia finalizing date now.' "As a country, we have faced a difficult time, but stability has returned, with businesses operating close to normal, the State of National Safety lifted and countries removing travel restrictions.

"Importantly, it will also offer a significant boost to the economy. The grand prix attracts 100,000 visitors, supports 3,000 jobs and generates around $500 million of economic benefit. Its positive effect will be felt throughout the country."

Meanwhile, speaking ahead of the WMSC reunion, F1 commercial rights-holder Ecclestone had sought to stress that financial motives - with his Formula One Management (FOM) company set to lose some $40 million in race-hosting fees were the Bahrain Grand Prix not to go ahead - would play no part in the decision, but that it would rather be based purely upon a safety evaluation.

"Nothing to do with money at all, nothing, in any shape or form," the 80-year-old - an advocate for the race being rescheduled right from the start - is quoted as having said by British newspaper The Guardian. "This has to do with whether people...I don't know, to be honest, with this occasion whether people are concerned with their safety if they go or whether people are concerned with what has happened in the past. What has happened in that whole area, in all those countries, is not good in any way, so we will have to wait and see."


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