Teams ready for last-minute Bahrain axe

UPDATE #2 Formula 1 teams are putting together their own contingency plans in the event the Bahrain Grand Prix doesn't go ahead on April 22nd as is currently planned.

The race is shrouded in controversy as anti-government protests continue, with reports of further deaths in the country and fears that protesters may use the islands largest sporting event to voice their opinions.

The government has attempted to calm such fears with various statements claiming that things are returning to normal, but promises that safety can't be guaranteed, haven't done much to alleviate such concerns.

A report claims the teams have issued their employees with two sets of tickets; one to fly straight from China to Bahrain, the other to return to their respective countries of residence.

Team principals from all 12 teams are to meet with the FIA during the Chinese GP weekend to discuss the matter further.

With the teams now doubting that the race will go ahead, and fresh warnings that safety cannot be guaranteed – the latest coming from the February 14th Youth Coalition which organizes protests – pressure is growing on the governing body to cancel the event.

However the FIA says it has been assured by the relevant authorities that safety isn't a concern, but they would continue to monitor the situation before making a final decision.

"The FIA is constantly monitoring and evaluating the situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain," an FIA spokesman was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"We are in daily touch with the highest authorities, the main European embassies and of course the local promoters at BIC (Bahrain International Circuit) as well as the international promoter.

"The FIA is the guarantor of the safety at the race event and relies, as it does in every other country, on the local authorities to guarantee security. In this respect we have been repeatedly assured by the highest authorities in Bahrain that all security matters are under control." Total F1

Bahrain anti-government protesters wave a national flag and gesture toward riot police Friday, March 30, 2012, in Sitra, Bahrain, where widespread demonstrations remembering those who've died in the past year's unrest were broken up by police firing tear gas and clashes erupted. Amnesty International on Friday urged Bahrain to free a leading human rights activist who is on a hunger strike and reminded the Gulf kingdom's rulers to fulfill promises to release all those jailed for speaking out during the country's uprising. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Bahrain anti-government protesters wave a national flag and gesture toward riot police Friday, March 30, 2012, in Sitra, Bahrain, where widespread demonstrations remembering those who've died in the past year's unrest were broken up by police firing tear gas and clashes erupted.

04/01/12 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. After the messages of reassurance from Bahrain GP organizers this week and the show of the support from the F1 bosses and teams, events on the ground in the country this weekend have raised further questions about what might happen over the next three weeks as we count down to the scheduled race date of April 22nd.

Protests this weekend saw a fatality as local militia shot dead a man who, according to a Reuters report quoting the man’s cousin, was “taking pictures of a demonstration when what he described as “militia members" in an unmarked car opened fire on him."

Protests are happening almost every day, according to reports, often ending in violence.

More worryingly for the image of F1, on Saturday a protester throwing missiles at the police was seen to be wearing the iconic Prancing Horse logo of Ferrari on his back, showing the uncomfortable mix of sporting icons and political struggle, which gives fuel to those who argue that the sport has no business mixing itself with the politics of the country at a difficult time. Ecclestone told me this week that he has no problem with F1 being used by the country’s rulers to send out a message that the country is moving forwards, the race being positioned as “a force for good".

“We’d be happy to do whatever," he said. “I don’t see that we can help much but we’re there, we have confidence in Bahrain. The good thing about Bahrain is that it’s more democratic than most places. The people there are allowed to speak what they want and they can protest what they want to."

Meanwhile it has also been emerged in the German media that the teams have a backup plan to get personnel and freight back to Europe from Shanghai via Dubai in the event that the situation escalates to such a degree that it is considered safer to call the race off at short notice. It is the belief of many within the F1 community that this will happen, at some point during the Chinese GP weekend. McLaren personnel are privately particularly concerned as the team is half owned by the investment arm of the Bahraini ruling family.

However that was far from the message from Ecclestone, the event’s organizers and the team principals who attended last week’s lunch at the RAC Club in London, making for a confusing picture just three weeks before personnel are due to arrive in Manama. James Allen

03/30/12 (GMM) Teams are making preparations just in case the Bahrain grand prix is called off at the last minute.

That is the claim of Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, reporting that the teams could put their back-up plans into action even as late as the Sunday in China — mere days before they are expected to be at Sakhir.

In London this week, F1 chief executive and team bosses stood side by side with Bahrain circuit officials, insisting the race will go ahead despite defiant speculation to the contrary.

But Auto Motor und Sport reveals that the teams will also be ready if the plug is indeed pulled at the last minute — for example, their freight would go not from Shanghai to Bahrain, but back to Europe via Dubai.

And the report also said tickets have been reserved for the teams' travelling staff, in the event they do not have to hop directly to the island Kingdom.

Michael Schumacher, however, insists he is not worried about going to Bahrain.

"I'm pretty relaxed, honestly," said the seven time world champion.

"From our perspective, we're going to be very well looked after, because they (the race organizers) might foresee whatever and be prepared.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to be ok," added Schumacher.

Leave a Reply