Team boss speaks out on Bahrain
Formula One's team principals are hoping the FIA calls the Bahrain Grand Prix off, one of the 12 team bosses has told the Guardian anonymously.
The race is scheduled to go ahead in two weeks' time with both circuit officials and Bernie Ecclestone insisting it will be business as usual at the Bahrain International Circuit. But protests in the streets over recent weeks have led to serious concerns about the security situation, with the FIA saying it is "constantly monitoring and evaluating the situation".
In an interview with the Guardian, the nameless team principal said he could not envisage the race going ahead without serious security measures in place.
"I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain," he said. "If I'm brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lock-down there. And I think that would be unacceptable, both for Formula One and for Bahrain. But I don't see any other way they can do it."
One concern had been that the teams would not be able to insure their staff and the millions of dollars of equipment while in the country, and the team principal talking to the Guardian said it was the safety of the staff that was really worrying the team bosses.
"We're all hoping the FIA calls it off," he added. "From a purely legal point of view, in terms of insurance and government advice, we are clear to go. But what we find worrying is that there are issues happening every day. I saw an interview with a human rights activist on BBC World, and he said that there would be demonstrations and that they would be peaceful. But that is the way all demonstrations start off.
"Other team principals are going through the same worries. I spent all last week making sure the insurances are right so I can reassure the teams. I've sent out an email to our legal department to make sure all our employees are covered for acts of terrorism and civil disorder while travelling to, during and coming back from the Bahrain GP.
"We have a lot of people. Our first and foremost priority has to be our employees. And their families. That's what concerns us most, even though we've not said anything about it. It seems to me that while there has been some political progress in Bahrain they're not quite ready. The best thing would be for the race to be postponed until later in the year, or even cancelled.
"But that is a decision that must be made by the FIA, FOM [Formula One Management] and the commercial rights holder. I never anticipated a decision being made until the week before China. I believe Jean Todt is in China, which is interesting."
The comments emerged on the same day the Times reported that several teams have made contingency plans for their staff to return home after the Chinese Grand Prix rather than travel to Bahrain.