Ecclestone backs Bahrain Grand Prix go-ahead
Bernie Ecclestone would need to be presented with "incontrovertible evidence" of unacceptable things happening in Bahrain to reconsider next year's grand prix, but is hoping for a problem-free race in April.
The 2011 grand prix was postponed and eventually cancelled against a backdrop of international condemnation at the political situation inside the kingdom and unease over the dates among the teams. The 2012 race has been approved for April 22 despite ongoing political tensions in the country and more anti-government demonstrations at Manama's symbolic Pearl Square roundabout this week.
The roundabout had been the focus for protests earlier this year when the government enforced martial law to crack down on the demonstrators. At least 24 people were killed in the unrest according to official figures and an inquiry said excessive police force had resulted in deaths, mistreatment and torture of civilians.
Human rights organisations also reported that doctors were put in prison for treating protestors, but in an interview with the Guardian Ecclestone said he had been given assurances that was not the case.
"We have been assured that this is not what's happening," he said. "In fact they had a report made, allegedly independent. What did the report say? Yes, there were instances or whatever, but ... I wanted to go out there. I was happy to go. I'd like to go into the prison or the hospital or whatever and ask: 'What actually happened?'"
He added: "I have asked [to go out there]. They said, 'No problem.' The danger is you go out there and they pick you up in a limousine and take you to the best hotel and take you to dinner and then put you back on the aeroplane."
Asked what he would do if he was presented with "incontrovertible evidence that unacceptable things were still happening", Ecclestone said: "We'd have to give it some serious thought then. But we've been to Argentina when there's been big dramas. There's been dramas in Brazil. Bad things happen there. I think you can look anywhere now and it's not all good. You can't really hold England up as being all good, can you? There have been some terrible atrocities that we committed."
However, Ecclestone hinted that not going to Bahrain was an option and added that he had pulled F1 out of South Africa during apartheid.
"Wherever I go, the minute you get off the plane, the minute you go into somebody's country, you've got to respect exactly what their way of life is - their religion, their laws or whatever. It's not correct to go moving into somebody's country and try to change them. Don't go. If you know something's wrong, stay away.
"We pulled out of South Africa years ago [in 1985] because of apartheid. I witnessed things that had happened there which upset me. I thought: 'That ain't the way to go on.' I hope we go to Bahrain and there's no trouble - the race goes on, the public are happy and there are no dramas. That's what I hope."