Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa met the media in the paddock this afternoon, accompanied by Bernie Ecclestone.
Not surprisingly he presented a strong case for the Bahrain GP to go ahead as a unifying force for the country.
“I would first like to start by saying that I hope by coming here you understand that unlike what was been reported we are not trying to say we are perfect,” he said. “We are a real country with real issues, and we hope that you get a chance to see us for all our complexities and all our shades.
“I genuinely believe that this race is a force for good, it unites many different people from different religious backgrounds, sects and ethnicities, under the roof of F1, and all of them are excited that you are here, and I hope that you get the chance to interview some of these fans and see what they really think.”
The Crown Prince was dismissive of suggestions by UK politicians that the race should not happen.
“I think this race should continue because it is indeed a very big event for this country, it is importantly economically and socially. Political parties across the whole spectrum, both conservative and opposition, have welcomed the race.
“As I understand it was a few politicians who made those comments and it doesn’t certainly represent the entire British political spectrum.”
Regarding the Force India petrol bomb incident, he said: “I can absolutely guarantee that any problems that may or may not happen are not directed at F1. It goes to show that there are people out there who are out to cause chaos. You had these problems last year in your country [the UK].
“There’s a big difference between protesting for political rights, and rioting. The attack that happened around Force India was aimed at the police, it was unprovoked, and it was quite dangerous. But at no time was anyone from F1 in danger.”
The Crown Prince was asked about the message that a cancellation might send out.
“I think cancelling the race just empowers extremists. For those of us who are trying to navigate a way out of this political problem having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, get people working together.
“It allows us to celebrate our nation as an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive. I actually think that having the race has prevented extremists from doing what they think they need to do out of the world’s attention.
Regarding the possibility of an extremist getting into the track he said: “I guarantee that any protests are not against F1.”
He insisted that he would not come to regret the decision to push ahead.
“No. I am very confident that protests, which will happen at some point – there is a demonstration today – are part of the political protests are part of the political process in any country. So why should we be any different? Why should our openness, relative to our neighbours, be used against us? I think it’s part of the political fabric of this country. And the race is the race. We are here to celebrate that, and frankly I’m here to go racing.”