This year’s re-scheduled Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix cannot go ahead because of the situation in the country and opposition from teams, commercial maestro Bernie Ecclestone said on Wednesday.
“Hopefully there’ll be peace and quiet and we can return in the future, but of course it’s not on,” the 80-year-old Mr. Ecclestone told the BBC. “The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants... they’re the facts.”
There was no immediate comment from the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA); many team staff members were travelling to Canada for Sunday’s race in Montreal.
The teams have already made clear that they do not want to go to Bahrain on October 30 or extend the season into December for logistical reasons. Not holding the Formula One in Bahrain would potentially mean the loss of millions of dollars in ad and TV revenues for Bahrain.
The race in the Gulf kingdom was originally scheduled as a March season-opener but had to be postponed due to bloody civil unrest and a crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The FIA said on Friday that Bahrain would be reinstated for October 30, a date originally assigned to India’s inaugural race, which would be shifted to a December date as the last race of the season.
Mr. Ecclestone was quoted as saying that the $40 million fee that F1 collects from Bahrain for having the race “makes no difference” to the decision.
“If there is no race, we will return it, but money is not the issue here,” Mr. Ecclestone said. “It is whether it is safe and good to have a race, that is the issue. We can change this October 30 date by having a vote by fax if necessary. It can be done, and fast.”
Race organizers, though, insisted that the situation in Bahrain “is markedly different from earlier in the year.” Martial law was imposed on March 15 and only lifted last week.
“We maintain that we will be ready to host in October,” the Bahrain International Circuit said in a statement. “Travel restrictions have been lifted to Bahrain and there is widespread support in the country for the event, including from the main political groups across the spectrum.”
The teams have said they do not want to be racing in December, since that would put an intolerable burden on their staff, and are in a strong position to prevent that from happening.
“Until the written agreement of the teams is forthcoming, you can’t actually change the date. It can’t be done,” former FIA president Max Mosley said, pointing out a detail in the statutes that his successor Jean Todt appeared to have overlooked.
The teams’ body FOTA, which represents all those on the starting grid except tail-enders Hispania, said on Tuesday they had written to all parties concerned.
“The teams have discussed the 2011 calendar within FOTA and have expressed their considered views privately in a letter to the FIA, FOM (Ecclestone) and BIC (Bahrain Circuit),” said a FOTA spokesperson. “It would be inappropriate therefore to comment further at this stage.”
A team source who declined to be identified told Reuters that the teams wanted India restored to its October 30 date and were against rescheduling Bahrain.
Others described the letter as “polite but firm” and made clear the teams did not want to go to Bahrain.
The decision to move India to a December date was also opposed because teams have already booked flights while sponsors have arranged high-profile events around the October race in New Delhi.
(Sara Ghasemilee, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)