• There will be no cancellation or problems, says F1 supremo
• Race called off last year on safety grounds due to civil unrest
The Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone promised on Thursday “there will be no problem with the Bahrain Grand Prix” even though petrol bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades were used in last week’s clash between police and demonstrators in the Gulf kingdom.
Contractually, the teams will have to go if asked to do so by Ecclestone and the FIA. But even though some individuals and sponsors have private misgivings, Ecclestone said: “Nobody is saying we’re not going or we don’t want to go or anything. Everybody is quite positive. I’ve told all the teams there’s no problem at all. I’m absolutely 100% sure we’ll go there and there will be no problem.”
But Ecclestone did say officials in Bahrain would take extra precautions to ensure the safety of everyone involved with the Formula One circus, which arrives in two months. “I am sure the people there will make sure, just in case there’s a problem. I am sure there won’t be a problem,” he said.
The Bahrain issue will dominate the agenda at the start of the season, which will open in Melbourne on 18 March. But there is a mounting confidence, however fragile, that the race will now take place unless there are further flashpoints between now and then.
Last year the race, which was scheduled to open the season, was called off on safety grounds. Tickets for this year’s race, which is scheduled to take place on 22 April, went on sale last week.
The violence last week marked the anniversary of the "Day of Rage" pro-democracy demonstrations. Since then, however, the pro-race lobby has received important support from the war crimes expert Cherif Bassiouni, who chaired the independent commission that has examined the protests that have taken place in the country.
In a letter to Zayed Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, Bassiouni said the revival of the race is “an important point of departure for the people of Bahrain to forge ahead in their national efforts towards reconciliation”.
Ecclestone has announced a new technology supplier to the sport. Tata Communications has signed a multi-year technology service and marketing agreement with Formula One Management. It means the Mumbai-based company will now become the official web hosting and content delivery network provider to F1, which for many years has resisted the advance of the digital age.
“We’ve been a little asleep with this type of communications, so we decided we ought to wake up,” said Ecclestone, who also admitted: “I’m getting old.”
from Paul Weaver