MANAMA (Reuters) - The Bahrain Grand Prix has a solid future and all publicity is good, Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said on Sunday at a race that anti-government protesters had wanted cancelled.
Asked whether the race would stay on the calendar, the 81-year-old Briton told Reuters: “Absolutely. Forever. No problem.”
The race at the Sakhir circuit passed without incident and was won for Red Bull by Germany’s world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Last year’s grand prix was cancelled after a bloody crackdown on an anti-government uprising and Sunday’s drew widespread condemnation from abroad and provoked rage among local opponents.
Asked whether the events of the past week, with the death of a protestor and television images broadcast worldwide of fiery petrol bombs and teargas, would have any impact on the growth of motorsport in the Middle East, Ecclestone was equally upbeat.
“I think it’s good because people talk about things, you know. You know what they say - there is no such thing as bad publicity,” he said.
“It’s growing all the time, and other places are interested. I think it will grow here for sure,” added Ecclestone, who owns the commercial rights to Formula One.
Bahrain was the first country to host a grand prix, in 2004, and the region now has two rounds of the 20 race calendar with Abu Dhabi joining in 2009.
Bahrain also owns half of the McLaren Group, the parent of the British-based Formula One team.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Philippa Fletcher