Ecclestone: “I think we will have to cancel…”

The Bahrain GP organisers continue to insist that plans for the race are going ahead and that they are “monitoring the situation” in the country.

Bernie Ecclestone meanwhile has dropped the strongest hint yet that the race is in danger of cancellation, saying that there will have to be a decision by next week – which will be shortly before the teams have to start thinking about shipping their cars to the test on March 3-6.

The bottom line is that delaying what now looks like an inevitable decision will only do harm to the image of F1 around the globe, as once again the sport is seen to believe that it exists in a bubble, free of any interference from the real world.

Many people outside the sport are probably astonished that any attempt is being made to keep the event alive, given the events of the last 24 hours. And many in the sport – those of us still faced with a trip to Bahrain – feel that way too.

The cynical view might be that now it’s a question of who blinks first, the Bahrainis or Bernie, and what commercial impact if any that might have.

Speaking to Reuters tonight, Ecclestone said: “We’ll make a decision by Tuesday or Wednesday. If things stay as they are today, the answer is no. If it’s not quietened down by Wednesday, I think we will have to cancel probably. If you are making travel arrangements, I’d say don’t.”

Meanwhile the Bahrain organisers issued a pointless statement that repeated the sentiments expressed a couple of days ago, and added nothing new.

Bahrain International Circuit CEO, Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa was quoted thus: “The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the Kingdom and, at the Bahrain International Circuit, our focus at the present time remains on delivering another successful event in the form of the 2011 Gulf Air Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, we continue to monitor the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities. Our priority at this time is ensuring the wellbeing of everyone associated with this event, and we will respond appropriately to any further developments.”

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Ecclestone: “I think we will have to cancel…”

  1. Mick

    I’m passionate about F1 but no-one seems to be questioning whether its APPROPRIATE to go to Bahrain, not just safe. The event potentially lends support to a minority dictatorship & Royal ruler which at the moment clearly does not have the support of it’s people. I’m happy for F1 to go anywhere in the world if in doing so it can help spread democracy and human rights but would F1 have raced in China a month after Tianamon Square killings. And how can the BBC as a major world news provider cover the event primarily as a major sporting event to be enjoyed and celebrated? I say cancel now and send a strong message in support of the people and against the state violence of recent days.

  2. I agree with you, ‘appropriate’ is a word I have used a lot today…

  3. Seb

    Does the game of ‘who blinks first’ involve the payment of millions of sterling to whoever refuses to accept the inevitable?

    A question, if I may: although it should be possible to live in total enclosure, a far away hotel and the circuit, would you be confident in your safety, and those around you? Given that Will Buxton has encountered a Canadian national suffering a terrible case of being-shot-in-the -arm disease, how do you think say Frank Williams would feel about sending his team out, a lot of them probably being family orientated people? I mean, there is commitment to your team, to the championship and to your livelihood/hobby, but there must be a limit, especially for you journalists, who effectively work at there own risk (if solely a freelancer)?

  4. Chris

    Bahrain lost the Grand Prix the moment they decided to shoot and club to death peaceful protestors. They did not succeed in quelling the protests, they succeeded only in revealing to the rest of the world the true state of the political situation in Bahrain.

  5. Ben G

    Glad Bernie’s talking sense.
    The only question should be; cancel, or move the race to somehwere else?

    • Don’t understand why people keep asking about moving the race. We never had 20 races before and we don’t need 20 this year. It is virtually impossible to find a spare gap in the calendar and the logistical and commercial hurdles are insurmountable anyway…

      • Bahrain-Abu Dhabi back-to-back. No logistical issues there, surely?

      • Ben G

        See your point, as someone who has to do the schlepping – but to us armchair fans the more races the better! And we’ve been counting down to 13th March for a while now. So going cold turkey for even longer will be painful…

  6. Steve Selasky

    I am in agreement. Twenty races is four too many.

    Adam, do you think this is the sign of more things to come?

  7. RedLineTire

    I for one am emailing Santander and other sponsors to let them know that this event should be canceled. Actually maybe I should make Thomson Reuters the first on that list…

  8. F1 Kitteh

    I am all in support of democracy but a little cautious about all this ‘power to the people’ stuff. The ‘peaceful protests’ might not be as innocent as it looks and the ‘new democratic regimes’ might not be the USA or UK you are thinking of.

    Its simple, if its dangerous to the personnel then it should be cancelled thats all.

    • LAK

      Thank you F1 Kitteh for really understanding the situation. Mr. Cooper you’re a very reputable journalist so please be aware that there are many false media reports. There are many people in the social media who are set out to send a false image about Bahrain and are using the political unrest in the area to voice their opinions.

      Re Mick: Bahrain was never a dictatorship, it’s a constitutional monarchy with an elected Parliament to represent the people. It was HM the King himself who initiated this constitution to ensure that every citizen has his rights and is free to voice his/her opinion. Bahrain provides its citizens with free healthcare, education, unemployment and welfare benefits, and has no taxes or forced military inscription. People support the King and don’t want to change the ruling government, they were just asking for some changes which the government will grant. However some of the protestors specially the ones seeking media attention have changed their “peaceful” motives, but they are a minority. The loss of lives is extremely saddening to everyone, and it could’ve been avoided. They’re a result of the “peaceful” protestors’ refusing to obey the law after being warned. They used swords, knives, and molotov cocktails (which were all shown on Bahrain TV which is being very transparent) against the police (50 reported severely injured but the Western media only seem to focus on the injured protestors). The media coverage is very biased and one sided, while here in Bahrain we have a clearer picture on who are the true culprits, and can clearly see the lies certain anti-government activists are spreading. (Yesterday plenty pro-government peace rallies from different cities weren’t even mentioned in international media.) The Bahrainis are more united than people think, everyone from both sides wants to put an end to this violence asap. Bahrain is a peaceful place and is known as a business friendly hub and I’m sure many from the F1 community have experienced that firsthand.

      Now back to the article’s issue of whether it’s insensitive of us to go ahead with the race or not, Bahrain will only go ahead with the race if the situation is settled and safe. No one is putting the sport ahead of what’s going on which is probably why the BIC has nothing new to say. Every true Bahraini citizen wants this to stop and wants to stand united as one regardless of which side they come from. If the race does go on it will only be a sign that the matters are resolved, and if it doesn’t then it will be unfortunate because it’ll prove otherwise. I am confident that the country will rise above this united with one voice to restore the peace and stability Bahrain always had.

  9. Adam

    Appropriate is definitely the right word. AdamC, you’ve said all that needs to be said here: “The bottom line is that delaying what now looks like an inevitable decision will only do harm to the image of F1 around the globe, as once again the sport is seen to believe that it exists in a bubble, free of any interference from the real world.”

    Collective sigh of relief – it looks like F1 is going to do the right thing from a moral and human perspective, as well as of course from a safety perspective. Don’t know if this is a first, but this can only send the right messages about F1 to the wider world.

  10. And what a slap in the face to the people Bahrain if a few weeks after the brutal suppression a show-piece of ruthless free market capitalism shows up to fraternise with the royal family, lead by a man who once proclaimed “I don’t think democracy is the way to run anything” and described Hitler as a man who was able to “get things done.” As said it is NOT APPROPRIATE to go.

  11. In general, I agree. Bahrain won’t be missed if it’s dropped from the calendar. And it gives Bernie’s other new countries (Russia, etc.) more leeway to get in without dropping our favorite venues.

    That said, if Bernie wants Bahrain to happen, he can easily make it a back-to-back with Abu Dhabi. They’re so near to each other, there should be no logistical concerns there.

  12. Jake

    “Speaking to Reuters tonight, Ecclestone said: “We’ll make a decision by Tuesday or Wednesday. If things stay as they are today, the answer is no. If it’s not quietened down by Wednesday, I think we will have to cancel probably. If you are making travel arrangements, I’d say don’t.””

    Is it just me or does that sound like an invitation to crush any demonstration by the people of Bahrain by next Tuesday?

  13. midbach

    It’s absolutely stunning that there is any talk of the race still taking place. All the more so after the recent events. F1 does itself no good when it continues to exist in a bubble…

  14. posimosh

    so basically Bernie is trying not to offend the royals by taking the PEOPLES’ side…. I always thought he was a sociopath and the fact that this is a simple business calculation to him prooves it… Why isn’t anyone complaining about the Slavery that was used to build the shrine to wealth and power in AbuDahbbi??? why do we go there? are women even allowed at the track? Im glad to see that everyone is having a crisis of convenience right now but formula 1 doesnt need 20 races and it doesnt need to expand if the places they go are…China, Bahrain, Singapore (not so bad but can be quite brutal), Malaysia, and I would say Brazil because of the disparity of wealth there… I just hope that next time someone gets robbed on the way to the track people focus less on who and more on why…

  15. Interesting commentry from LAK.
    Whilst many may be naive to the complexities of the real situation, never the less, the situation has developed to a point where it ‘appears’ out of control. With report from and of journalist being held at the airport and others (western journalists) reporting that medical staff are being forcably and threateningly restricted from helping the injured and dying. In a civilised scociety (forget the ‘democratic’ argument for the time being) riots, let alone protest take place, and such people experiance rough justice. One only need look at the recent poor behaviour of some UK students and their treatment at the hand of the authorities. But if those students had been refused medical treatment because medical staff had been threatend to be killed otherwise, the hue and cry would be loud.

    Whilst these incidents in Bahrain may well be isolated and result of renegade actions, we must think of safteey of those that must attend the GP and consider if it is ‘appropriate’ to attend at this time.

    In 2012, no doubt we will be ‘hypocritical’ and await the GP with eager anticipation, having forgotten much of this years events and been satisfied with the ‘spin doctoring’ from the official side

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