BAHRAIN: Formula 1 boss says Grand Prix canceled


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Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says October’s reinstated Bahrain Grand Prix is canceled this year as the Persian Gulf nation continues to grapple with reports of human rights violations a week after the king lifted martial law imposed to quell a pro-democracy uprising.

The race was due to open the season in March but was called off after anti-government protests erupted in February, leaving more than 20 people dead. Last week, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) restored it to the calendar despite complaints by human rights organizations of an ongoing crackdown by the gulf monarchy against dissidents.


‘Hopefully we can return in the future, but of course it’s not on,’ Ecclestone told BBC Sport’s Dan Roan on Wednesday. ‘The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants -- they’re the facts.’

In voting Friday to reinstate the race, FIA’s World Council apparently overlooked its own sporting code, which says no changes can be made to a championship after entries open without the agreement of all the competitors.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

Technically, the vote stands and FIA should vote again to cancel it. But sports anaylsts said Wednesday that the teams will most likely ignore the vote, since it cannot take effect without their agreement.

Teams scheduled to participate in the Bahrain race wrote to the FIA on Tuesday, expressing their opposition on logistical grounds and calling what would be the 20th race of the season ‘unbearable to our staff,’ according to BBC Sport.

The letter did not list any moral or ethical objections to holding the race in Bahrain, but sources told the BBC that the teams are also concerned about the unrest in Bahrain.

The decision to reinstate the Bahrain race and reorganize the 2011 Formula 1 season -- in which six races have already been completed -- had provoked an outcry from former FIA chairman Max Mosley, Red Bull driver Mark Webber and human rights activists.

‘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, 34, wrote on his personal website. ‘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.’

Avaaz, an international activist group, immediately issued a statement condeming the Formula 1 leaders’ decision.

‘Claims that calm has been restored and life is back to normal in Bahrain are completely untrue,’ said Avaaz campaign director Alex Wilks. ‘In the last week the police have continued to use tear gas, rubber bullets and sound grenades to break up peaceful marches, killing and injuring dozens of people.’ The teams, and the majority of F1’s decision makers, head to Canada this weekend for the seventh race of the season, where there is expected to be more discussion on the future of the Bahrain race.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photos, from top: Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone walks on the starting grid before the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in November 2009 (credit: Luca Bruno/Associated Press); Red Bull Formula 1 driver Mark Webber (credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg).