Bernie Ecclestone has come out strongly against destabilising rumours that the Bahrain Grand Prix will be cancelled – calling the rumours nonsense and stating that it will take place on April 20-22 ‘without a doubt.’
The rumours that were circulating the F1 paddock in Sepang have caused much angst to Bahrain International Circuit organisers – whose Government is using the Grand Prix as an opportunity to unify the country after the difficulties of the last 12 months.
“It’s business as usual,” Ecclestone said at a media lunch in London yesterday. “Of course the (Bahrain) race is going to happen, no worries at all.
“What I don’t understand are the negative statements being made, people catching them and continuing them. They’re saying things they don’t understand. People say to me ‘There’s not going to be a race.’ I say ‘Well how do you know?’ And they tell me they saw or read something, but it’s all nonsense.”
Much of the negativity is seemingly being fanned by members of the British press corps, with local officials in downtown Manama adamant that life in most parts of Bahrain is back to normal and the Kingdom is safe to travel to once more.
The day prior to Ecclestone’s comments, the FIA’s Communications Director, Norman Howell, quashed a rumour that a statement would be made in China cancelling the race.
“There is no truth whatsoever to the rumours indicating the FIA will be issuing a statement regarding F1 not going to Bahrain,” Howell said.
The Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix indirectly generates over US$600m for the Kingdom annually and employs in excess of 3000 people. Advance ticket sales – which BIC officials state are the highest ever – would indicate that the vast majority of Bahrainis see the benefit of Formula 1 coming to their country and are behind the Grand Prix returning to their shores.
The President of the Bahrain Motor Federation (and President of the world karting authority – the CIK-FIA) – Sheikh Abdulla bin Isa Al-Khalifa – says that Bahrain is excited about hosting Formula 1 again and that he holds no fears for the safety of Formula 1 personnel and tourists.
“Bahrain has always been known for its hospitality among the Formula 1 community and we look forward to everyone coming to enjoy our country and the race as they always did before. We want to have a fantastic, unified celebration for the Grand Prix and the return of Formula 1 to Bahrain,” Sheikh Abdulla said.
“Bahrain is moving on and is welcoming to everyone. It is a safe place to visit, to do business and to attend events such as the Grand Prix. Life is normal. People are out and about, going about their daily business enjoying the restaurants, out with friends and flocking to the shopping malls as they did before.”
The Bahrain Grand Prix is the fourth round of the 2012 FIA Formula 1 World Championship and will be supported by the second round of GP2 Series.