Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Formula One: Bernie completes Bahrain U-turn

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone

The ill-fated Bahrain Grand Prix has been dealt the final blow after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone admitted it could not go ahead without the support of the teams.

The FIA, the sport's governing body, are now set to perform a dramatic u-turn and at the very least move it from the October 30 slot and reinstate India to that date on the race calendar.

That would leave Bahrain, originally called off because of unrest in the country, scheduled for December, if it goes ahead at all.

Ecclestone had backed moving the race to October after the season opener had originally been postponed.

But now Ecclestone has admitted the race will not go ahead after 11 F1 teams objected.

Ecclestone said: “Hopefully there'll be peace and quiet and we can return in the future, but of course it's not on.

“The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants — they're the facts.”

Ecclestone's comments come after the move to put the Bahrain race on in October — and move the race originally schedule for that date in India back until December — attracted widespread criticism.

That move was condemned by teams and drivers and also by human rights organisations, who were unhappy with claims by the sport's governing body, the FIA, that the situation had returned to normal in Bahrain.

Global campaigning organisation Avaaz criticised the FIA's fact-finding report on Bahrain as like “stepping into the Twilight Zone”, and has yesterday welcomed Ecclestone's latest comment.

Alex Wilks, campaigns director for Avaaz, said: “We welcome the news from Bernie Ecclestone that the Bahrain Grand Prix is no longer on.

“This is a tremendous victory for the brave people of Bahrain and hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members, who together with leading names in Formula One have vehemently opposed it and have forced this much needed u-turn.

“Formula One should only consider a return once it has been independently confirmed that torture and arrests of innocent civilians has ended and all political prisoners are freed.”

Ricken Patel, executive director at Avaaz whose organisation has so far gathered nearly half a million signatures calling for the race to be called off, had earlier said: “Reading the FIA's Bahrain report is like stepping into the Twilight Zone.

“While the FIA's sham report says no human rights have been violated, at least 31 Bahrain citizens have been killed and hundreds more tortured and imprisoned.”

The FIA and president Jean Todt have come in for considerable criticism, not least from former FIA president Max Mosley.

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