Bahrain pressing ahead with F1 plans
|By Jonathan Noble||Thursday, February 17th 2011, 14:04 GMT|
Bahrain Grand Prix officials said on Thursday that they remain focused on delivering a successful Formula 1 season opener next month, despite mounting doubts about the event taking place due to political unrest in the country.
With a number of deaths and injuries reported overnight after police acted forcefully against protesters in Bahrain's capital Manama, there has been reservations about whether F1 can go ahead with the opening race that is due to take place on March 13.
The chances of the event getting cancelled also increased after the GP2 Asia Series organisers announced on Thursday that they have called off this weekend's second round of the series after a request from the Bahrain motorsport federation.
"GP2 race has been cancelled in Bahrain. Big uncertainty about testing there next week. Hope our GP2 guys get home safely," wrote Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne on Twitter.
However, despite the speculation that Bahrain may have to cancel its F1 race plus the final pre-season test that is due to take on March 3-6, race organisers have reiterated that they are concentrating only on pressing ahead with plans for F1.
In a statement issued on Thursday by race organisers, Bahrain International Circuit CEO, Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, said: "The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the Kingdom and, at the Bahrain International Circuit.
"Our focus at the present time remains on delivering another successful event in the form of the 2011 Gulf Air Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, [and] we continue to monitor the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities.
"Our priority at this time is ensuring the well being of everyone associated with this event, and we will respond appropriately to any further developments."
AUTOSPORT understands that teams will discuss on Friday whether or not to press ahead with plans for the Bahrain test.
A get-together of the sporting rules committee of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) had been scheduled for a while to take place in Barcelona, and sources suggest the issue of Bahrain testing has been added to the agenda.
The Bahrain test is a more pressing issue because teams will have to send freight to the test within the next week if it is going ahead. Although cancelling or rescheduling that test would not be too difficult, F1 chiefs would find it harder to find a new location for a season-opener if it is deemed that the Bahrain Grand Prix cannot take place.
Race freight from the teams has already left their factories, which would make it almost impossible for another event to be slotted in for the March 13 date.
Virgin Racing team principal John Booth told the BBC that a replacement race would be 'impractical' - meaning that if Bahrain was cancelled then the season would likely start in Australia.
"Our sea freight, like every other team's, left for Bahrain a month ago, and a lot of the equipment in the sea freight is vital of the running of the cars," he said. "So to run it somewhere else would be very difficult."