| LONDON, March 28
LONDON, March 28 Formula One supremo Bernie
Ecclestone and team bosses joined Bahrain officials on Wednesday
in a strong show of support for the decision to race in the
troubled Gulf kingdom next month.
Red Bull principal Christian Horner, whose team are reigning
champions, McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, Mercedes chief executive
Nick Fry, Frank Williams and Ecclestone all attended a media
lunch hosted by Bahrain circuit officials and the country's
ambassador to Britain.
Tyre supplier Pirelli and the governing International
Automobile Federation (FIA) were also represented in a turnout
that left no doubt about their commitment to a race that
activists would like to see cancelled.
Last year's race was scrapped due to the uprising in Bahrain
but Ecclestone was firm about this year's going ahead, despite
continuing daily protests and at least 33 deaths since June.
"(People) are saying things they don't understand," he told
"People say to me 'Oh there's not going to be a race'. I say
'How do you know?' 'Ah, we know because we saw, we read or we
heard' or something like that. It's all nonsense," said the
"Forget the financial side, it's nothing to do with that at
all," he added when asked about the commercial importance of the
race to Formula One's revenues.
"These people were brave enough at the beginning to start an
event in that part of the world. That's it. We'll be there as
long as they want us."
Ecclestone doubted security would be an issue, despite the
April 22 race being seen as an obvious target for
"I'm absolutely sure that whatever is necessary to do will
be done. Probably not necessary," he said. "We've never been
concerned about security in the past. I don't understand why we
should be now."
Zayed Alzayani, chairman of the Bahrain International
Circuit, said it would be business as normal and laughed off a
suggestion that violence could tarnish the event.
"I have been mugged in New York twice and I still go," he
said. "My brother was mugged out of Harrods (department store).
Someone stuck a knife to him and took off his Rolex. He comes to
London 10 times a year. These incidents can happen anywhere.
"I don't think that will happen," he added when asked about
more serious attacks.
"We are not witnessing that in Bahrain. There hasn't been
any assaults on foreigners...maybe you are referring to the
British guy who got his fingers chopped off, but that was an
The grand prix is Bahrain's largest sporting event and the
only one with global reach. Alzayani hoped it would be a
catalyst for unity and reconciliation.
He read out a letter from Britain's ambassador to Bahrain,
Iain Lindsey, backing the decision for the race to go ahead. A
majority of the 12 Formula One teams are based in Britain while
Bahrain was a British protectorate until 1971.
"It is in nobody's interests that Bahrain should be denied
the much-needed financial injection which the grand prix will
bring to the economy," wrote Lindsey.
Alzayani said the race contributed some $220 million
directly to the local economy and $400-500 million indirectly.
"I remember last year on June 3 when we were reinstated I
went to a wedding party and (the bride's) grandfather, an
80-year-old taxi driver, came up and hugged me and said 'I make
more in that week than in three months normally'. This is how
much it touches the average citizen," he added.
The Bahrain circuit sacked 29 employees last year after the
uprising but Alzayani said 25 had been reinstated.
Horner said the teams, who made clear their reluctance to
going last year, were ready to race.
"Bahrain is on the calendar. The FIA has obviously stayed
very closely informed of the situation. When you enter the
championship at the beginning of the year, you enter it to do
all of the races," he told reporters.
"We have always been treated well in Bahrain previously and
we will go there and do our very best to put on a good show.
"We have had reassurance from the governing body and we have
to trust in their judgement," added Horner. "Personnel safety is
something we take very seriously but I think all of the relevant
precautions will already be in place."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)