B ernie Ecclestone skipped the first two Grand Prix in Australia and Malaysia. It was in China for the first time. And in Bahrain he will be there in person if the race goes ahead as planned. 'I'll come in person,' smiles the 81-year-old Englishman. 'Sometimes I just send my ghost.'
No problems with security?
Ecclestone has to fly its flag in Bahrain. Even if he might prefer not to race himself. You can get that impression by reading his statements between the lines. Ecclestone only spoke the following sentence into the TV cameras: 'As things stand today we are driving in Bahrain. There are no problems with security.'
When asked why the American government classified Bahrain's capital Manama as a dangerous zone, Ecclestone said: 'Then they know more than we do. Or less.' Safety is probably not the big problem when the GP convoy begins its journey to the country on the Arabian Gulf after the race in Shanghai. Bahrain will do everything possible to ensure that there are no problems around the route and on the access roads. And if she has to use the military for this.
But every little message about riots or outbreaks of violence could be carried out on the back of Formula 1. You will wonder whether it made sense to have to race in this country at that time. Ecclestone knows that too. The ringmaster weighs up: 'Do we know in every country in which we drive whether human rights are being respected or violated?' On the other hand, he doesn't want Formula 1 to satisfy the interests of others. 'It shouldn't be that we are used for political purposes of any kind.'
Teams play ball to the FIA
Normally, the little man from London has almost unlimited power. This time he has to pass. 'We have a commercial contract with the Bahrain Grand Prix. If I canceled the race, I would be in breach of contract.' In other words. Ecclestone could only cancel the race if Bahrain did not pay the required entry fee. You shouldn't assume that.
The teams would like to pass the ball to the FIA. Lewis Hamilton's opinion on the controversial race is for everyone. 'It is not up to the drivers to decide whether the race is to be held. We follow the decision of the FIA.' Nico Hulkenberg takes the same line, usedbut other words for it. 'I do not have enough information to assess what is happening in Bahrain. That is why we have to rely on the judgment of the FIA.'
FIA President Jean Todt easily plays back the through ball. He sees the teams as having an obligation. For once, Bernie Ecclestone backs the Frenchman: 'The FIA's hands are tied. It can't just take the race off the calendar. It also doesn't have the power to dictate to the individual countries what to do and what to do on their own territory Not. The federation has a contract with the National Sports Authority of Bahrain. Therefore, a yes or a no to the Grand Prix can only come from this National Sports Authority. '
Drivers press around
While Michael Schumacher is not afraid to travel to Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel does not want to talk about the topic, Jenson Button at least dares something from the reserve, although as a McLaren driver he has to be careful because 50 percent of the racing team belongs to the Kingdom of Bahrain. 'Some of us can talk more about it, some less. The FIA is the only one of us who knows the facts. We can only hope that they will make the right decision. When that decision is made, Formula 1 should act as a unit.'>
Mark Webber doesn't want to be in the shoes of the decision makers, whoever is ultimately responsible. 'It is a massive responsibility. No one can guarantee absolute safety. In January this decision would have been easier to make. Now it is getting more difficult every day. Let us hope that the people in Bahrain assess the situation correctly and that the race goes very calmly on the stage. '
Webber speaks plain language
The Australian is the only one who did not avoid the question about Bahrain. The press round in the Red Bull Pavilion hadn't really started yet when Webber grabbed the microphone and said: 'You definitely want to ask me about Bahrain. It doesn't help if we drivers discuss the topic with one another. Everyone has their own agenda and influences it the respective opinion. '
A refusal is out of the question even for the critical Webber. 'I'm a racing driver and I have a contract with my team. My team has a contract with the FIA. The race is on the calendar and when it takes place I have to fulfill my contract. Last year it was right to cancel the race. None. No one.' but we know if the same reasons still prevail. It is very difficult to form an objective opinion on the matter. '
The chances that the Bahrain Grand Prix will be on April 22nd, which is canceled at the last minute, is fading with every day you wait longer. The deadline expires on Sunday. Bahrain is unlikely to cancel the race on its own. From the perspective of those in power, that would come at such a late point in time for total surrenderequal.
Far too much has been written about this case. Up until now, one has also waited in vain for a travel warning from the Foreign Office. If this were to happen, the teams would have leverage. You could then request insurance from the FIA. Hard to imagine that Paris would take this risk.