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Ecclestone calls for Bahrain GP rethink
Formula One boss urges rethink after controversial decision to reinstate Bahrain Grand Prix to F1 calendar.
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2011 12:56
In a dramatic change of heart, Ecclestone, left, has been trying to change the FIA decision [GALLO/GETTY]

Bernie Ecclestone has signalled a possible u-turn after last week's controversial decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix to the Formula One calendar.

The decision to reinstate the race was reached by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) after a meeting of its World Motorsport Council (WMSC) in Barcelona last Friday. That meeting came on the heels of an FIA delegation's visit to Bahrain to assess the security situation.

Ecclestone raised the issue in an interview with British newspaper the Times on Tuesday, questioning "whether it is safe and good to have a race,'' and pointing out that the WMSC decision can be reversed by another vote.

The race was originally scheduled as the season-opener in March, but was cancelled after violent civil unrest  in the Gulf Kingdom. The race will now be held on October 30 in place of the Indian Grand Prix, which has provisionally been moved to the end of the season.

Unpopular

The decision to race in Bahrain triggered widespread opposition, with human rights campaigners outraged by the move after anti-government protests prompted a bloody crackdown.

Alex Wilks, from the advocacy website Avaaz, slammed the decision by international motorsport's governing body to go ahead with the race.

"Formula 1's decision is a kick in the teeth for the Bahraini people. The race will happen in a country where government troops continue to shoot and arrest peaceful protesters. Money has trumped human rights and good judgement, so now F1, plus Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, and every other team will be directly linked with a bloody crackdown that's ruined the lives of hundreds of innocent people," he said in a statement released shortly after the decision was announced.

Ecclestone told the Times newspaper that it would be better to move Bahrain to the end of the season, and suggested a fax vote could be organised at short notice to overturn the FIA decision.

"The way things are at the moment, we have no idea what is going to happen," Ecclestone said.

"Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go. If they are not, then we don't go and there are no problems."

Bernie Ecclestone

"Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go. If they are not, then we don't go and there are no problems."

Ecclestone took issue with the FIA, who declared Bahrain a safe destination after a fact-finding mission last week by their Spanish vice-president Carlos Gracia.

"We listened to that report from the FIA and that was saying there were no problems at all in Bahrain," said Ecclestone.

"But that is not what I am hearing and I think we can see that we need to be careful."

Mosley agreement

Max Mosley, former head of the FIA and long-time Ecclestone ally, also weighed in on Tuesday by saying the calendar could not be changed without the agreement of all the teams and the race had no chance of going ahead.

"He (Ecclestone) is right. I don't think there is the slightest chance the Grand Prix will actually happen," he told BBC radio.

"Apart from anything else you cannot change the calendar, in the way that is proposed to change, without the unanimous agreement of the teams."

The FIA said in a statement on Friday that the decision had been unanimously 'agreed' by the world motor sport council meeting in Barcelona.

Two team principals, Force India's Vijay Mallya and Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali, attended that meeting.

FIA president Jean Todt could not confirm that there had indeed been unanimous agreement, however.

"I couldn't say precisely," Britain's Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying. "Was it 25 hands? 27? I saw all the hands up and said, 'Ah, unanimous agreement'. I pronounced it. And nobody objected. No one said 'I abstained' or 'I voted no'."

Last week the Reuters news agency reported that 28 out of 108 staff members of the state-owned Bahrain International Circuit, which hosts the Grand Prix, were fired from their work. All those fired were Shia Muslims, according to a colleague.

Source:
Agencies
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