Bernie Ecclestone has played down the latest reports about violence in Bahrain, insisting April’s 2012 race is still scheduled to go ahead.
On the one-year anniversary of the ‘Day of Rage’ unrest, international media agencies claimed violent clashes took place, with youths throwing rocks and petrol bombs and police hitting back with tear-gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
“The only message I got was that there were some kids in trouble with the police,” F1 chief executive Ecclestone told the Telegraph. “We are planning to go. People there seem confident that a race two months away will be alright.”
At the Jerez test last week, it was suggested teams were expressing concerns about Bahrain. But Ecclestone insists: “The teams are not the slightest bit concerned. They seem happy that things will go ahead without problems.
“Last year was a more clear-cut decision not to go but things have changed a lot since then.”
In recent days, however, F1 has been the subject of a high profile row about the event, with influential figures and political parties publicly debating whether the sport is right or wrong to return to Bahrain.
“We’ve always been non-political,” said Ecclestone, 81. “Any decision will be made on grounds of safety.”
But an FIA spokesman said the “staging of a grand prix would be beneficial in bridging some of the difficulties Bahrain is experiencing”. And a spokesman for the Bahrain International Circuit told CNN: “We are entirely confident that the race can be and will be an excellent event.
“The FIA has said that there is no reason why the grand prix should not go ahead.”
The unnamed spokesman also compared Bahrain’s problems of the last twelve months with London’s riots last August.
“There’s no doubt that (in Bahrain) there have been some small riots, nothing like on the scale that we saw in London,” he insisted. “When it comes to being in and around the track, the drivers and the teams will be extremely safe. Absolutely, totally confident about that.”