Bernie Ecclestone has admitted F1 teams will breach their contracts if they do not race in Bahrain next weekend.
Earlier, as the controversy surrounding the sport’s continued plans to travel to the troubled island Kingdom deepens, an unnamed team boss admitted his peers would prefer if the event was called off. The Times newspaper then quoted F1 chief executive Ecclestone as saying that “If the teams don’t want to go, then we cannot make them”.
“We’ve no way we can force people to go there,” he also told the PA Sport news agency on Tuesday.
But in actual fact, teams are contractually bound to race at each event on the F1 calendar, with breaches punishable by exclusion from the sport.
“We can’t say ‘you’ve got to go’ – although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn’t go – but it doesn’t help,” the 81-year-old clarified.
“Commercially they have to go, but whether they decide to or not is up to them,” said Ecclestone. “I’ve had no one say anything other than ‘we’re going to be racing in Bahrain’.”
He said the local race organisers, and the national sanctioning body, are the ones that could cancel the race. F1’s governing body, meanwhile, is the FIA.
“I’ve spoken to (FIA president) Mr (Jean) Todt,” Ecclestone revealed, “we keep in close contact, and he’s going out there (to China), so we’ll have a chat then, and we always meet with the teams.”
It also emerged on Tuesday that Ecclestone has phoned Dr Ala’a Shehabi, a prominent Bahraini journalist and activist.
She revealed that Ecclestone wants Bahrain’s government opposition to “have a press conference” at the grand prix “in which opposition can get their message across”.
Shehabi said Ecclestone is “very concerned” about the situation in Bahrain, including the fate of human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who amid his hunger strike in jail is said to be close to death.