Bahrain Grand Prix back on the agenda
The row over whether the Bahrain Grand Prix should take place seems likely to resume in the light of a report which condemned the way the authorities cracked down on pro-democracy protestors earlier this year.
The 2011 grand prix was postponed and eventually cancelled against a backdrop of international condemnation at the political situation inside the kingdom and deep unrest among teams and drivers. The 2012 race has been set for April 22, but it seems already that is in doubt.
The official line from the Bahrain ruling elite is that Bahrain is safe. "Just like any other country that has faced troubles in the past, we will learn and move on," Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said. "There are certainly things that happened in our country [which] nobody is proud of." C Pro-democracy factions have labelled the report by the Bahrain Independent Commission, which was commissioned by the royal family, as a "whitewash".
"I would be very sad to let … Bahraini fans and the Gulf fans [down] for not doing all that we can to make our race a great success. The race is a symbol of our national unity," the Crown Prince added. "Sports are a great unifier. We want to bring back to the forefront our spirit of nationalism which is there and is strong. This race is part of our passion."
However, unrest continues and earlier this week police in Manama, the capital, used tear gas to dispel protestors.
As was the case last year, Bernie Ecclestone remains completely supportive of the Bahrain Grand Prix. "There is a report, completely and utterly independent," he said. "It's not a glossy thing. I've no doubt in my mind we'll be there."
He has some wriggle room, however, with the increasing likelihood the inaugural race at Austin on November 18 will not happen. That could allow the Bahrain GP to be moved to fill that date, giving another seven months to assess the political situation and to see if promised reforms materialise.