Bahrain: F1 gears up for backlash

Bernie Ecclestone has cited "unusual circumstances" as the reason behind the highly controversial decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix on this year's Formula One calendar.

However, far from it being the end of the matter, with the race due to be staged on 30 October and the Indian Grand Prix now scheduled for 11 December, it is only the beginning.

It is understood that no team is interested in racing in Bahrain this year - not only from a moral standpoint, but also in regard of insurance issues for team employees - while sponsors are expected to show resistance.

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Understandably, there was an immediate backlash to the position of the World Motor Sport Council as human rights groups voiced their opposition, while on various forums fans were left outraged.

Ecclestone said: "The truth of the matter is, this was voted on by the FIA, that was it. It went through the World Council.

"The FIA sent people out there to check on the situation, they came back and reported everything is fine. It's obvious that everybody feels they need to be safe when we get there. In the end we'll have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain. If there is peace and no problems then I suppose the teams will be all right."

The ball is now in the court of the teams, notably as they stated to Ecclestone in a meeting in Monaco nine days ago that racing in December was "totally unacceptable," according to Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn.

It is clear that message was ignored yesterday, with Ecclestone adding: "Of course they'd rather not be racing in December, but these are unusual circumstances."

To assess the situation in Bahrain the FIA embarked on a "fact-finding" mission this week that was conducted in conjunction with the ministry of interior, the ministry of culture and tourism, the Bahrain Motor Federation and Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).

They reported that reinstating the grand prix would be "a means of helping to unite people as the country looks to move forward".

Unsurprisingly, Bahraini officials maintain there will be no problems when it comes to staging the grand prix.

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Zayed R Alzayani, chairman of the BIC, said: "By the time the grand prix arrives we will be able to remind the world about Bahrain at its best.

"The Bahrain Grand Prix has always been a source of national pride and it is an event that transcends politics.Its positive effect will be felt throughout the country."

The teams, however, could yet have a say if they opt to make a stand, as is now expected of them.

A McLaren spokesperson said: "All FOTA teams (only Hispania Racing are not represented by FOTA] acknowledge the decision made by the FIA World Motor Sport Council today.

"That decision is likely to be discussed internally within FOTA, and a more detailed joint position may be defined after those discussions have taken place."

The over-riding feeling is F1 should not return to Bahrain this year, with a stigma attached if it does.

Alex Wilks, campaign director for international organisation Avaaz, said: "F1's decision is a kick in the teeth for the Bahraini people.

"Now F1, plus Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, and every other team will be directly linked with a bloody crackdown that's ruined the lives of hundreds of innocent people."

Troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia have brutally crushed democracy protests in the state, with many people killed and hundreds arrested.

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