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April 11th, 2012
Formula 1 teams insist that it is not their call as to whether the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead, with the FIA now being looked at for a final decision.
Amid increasing concern about safety in Bahrain on the back of protests supporting jailed activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who has been on hunger strike for two months, the fate of the race is now the main talking point in F1.
Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s commercial rights holder, had said on Monday that if teams had concern then they would be free not to go – although they could face commercial consequences for doing so.
However, in a statement issued by the Formula One Teams’ Association, the onus has been firmly shifted on to motor racing’s governing body to decide what the appropriate course of action is.
“There’s been some media speculation recently to the effect that the teams may seek to cancel this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix,” said the FOTA statement. “That wouldn’t be possible. Teams are unable to cancel grands prix.
“We race in an international series called the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and it is therefore for the FIA to offer the teams guidance on these issues.”
The FOTA statement was followed shortly afterwards by one from Lotus, criticising Bahrain organisers for using comments from the team in a press release supporting the event.
Lotus representatives had visited Bahrain to prepare a private dossier for all teams about safety in the Gulf state – but comments in this document were released to the public.
“Earlier today, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) issued a press release attributing quotes to our team showing support for the Bahrain GP,” said the Lotus statement.
“These quotes were part of a full internal and confidential working document, that was also sent on a confidential basis to all F1 team managers last week.
“Lotus F1 Team is one of 12 contestants of the Formula 1 World Championship and we would never try to substitute ourselves for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which is the only party entitled to determine if a Grand Prix should go ahead or not, and we endorse the FOTA statement that was issued earlier to this effect.”
The clash over the use of the Lotus comments will only serve to increase tensions between the race organisers and the teams, with meetings scheduled to take place over the Chinese Grand Prix to discuss the next steps.
Last year, Bahrain’s circuit boss Zayed Alzayani criticised teams for being ‘temperamental’ in forcing the cancellation of the 2011 race.
“I feel disappointed,” he said at the time. “It cannot go within three months from one end of the spectrum, ‘Oh, you are my favourite destination. We love it here. We feel like we are at home in Bahrain.’ To the other, ‘We don’t want to go to Bahrain.’ Yes, events have happened in between but you can’t be so temperamental.”