LONDON, Aug 5 — Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has agreed to provisionally re-schedule next season’s Bahrain Grand Prix from March to November because of the uncertain political situation in the country.
This year’s race at the Sakhir circuit, originally set to open the season in March then controversially switched to October 30 because of bloody civil unrest, was finally struck off the calendar in June after pressure from the teams.
When announcing its provisional calendar for 2012 in June, governing body the FIA pencilled in the Gulf kingdom for the season-opener in March.
However, continuing unrest in Bahrain has forced the government to ask for a later date, according to a report in the online version of the Financial Times.
“They didn’t want it up the front so I’ve had to screw the whole calendar up,” Ecclestone was quoted in the report on (www.ft.com).
While next season’s calendar is provisional, the new date of November 4, three races from the finale, would cause logistical problems for the teams, who face six back-to-back races in quick succession in different continents.
However, a spokesman for the Bahrain International Circuit said a November race would have advantages.
“We are extremely happy to host the Grand Prix in November. Due to high temperatures in our summer, either early or late in the season is better. November is the best month for us,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted in the report.
Bahrain has been a thorn in the side of the FIA since Shi’ite protestors took to the streets of the capital Manama in February, demanding the fall of the country’s Sunni leadership.
Several protestors were killed and hundreds wounded as the government’s security forces tries to suppress the revolt.
When it was announced by the FIA in June that the Bahrain Grand Prix would go ahead on October 30 it sparked criticism from human rights campaigners and some of the drivers, including Australia’s Mark Webber.
“In my personal opinion, the sport should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year rather than constantly delaying its decision in the hope of being able to reschedule it in 2011,” Webber said at the time.
“It would have sent a very clear message about F1’s position on something as fundamental as human rights and how it deals with moral issues.”
The Bahrain Grand Prix, which has been on the F1 calendar since 2004, is estimated to inject US$500 million (RM1,500 million) into the local economy through tourism and commerce. — Reuters