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Bahrain GP is off – organisers say it’s official
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Bahrain GP is off – organisers say it’s official
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Feb 2011   |  5:08 pm GMT  |  70 comments

The Bahrain Grand Prix due to take place on March 13th has been called off, according to race organisers. The Crown Prince of Bahrain telephoned F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone this morning to tell him of the decision. The reason given was that the country needs to focus on its own internal issues at this time.

“At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,” said the Crown Prince.After the events of the past week, our nation’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.”

It is not yet clear whether attempts will be made to reschedule the race for later this season, although the wording of the statement from Bahrain suggests that they expect it to be rescheduled, rather than cancelled. Fitting it into an already packed schedule that runs to the end of November will be difficult, without having three back to back races or extending the season into December.

Today’s decision follows a volley of intense media coverage of the situation with mounting criticism of the sport for not calling the event off. But for legal, insurance and commercial reasons the teams wanted to push the decision onto FOM and FOM needed to push it onto the Bahrainis to make the decision. This has now happened.

It is the first time in modern F1 that a race has had to be cancelled.

Williams chairman Adam Parr said, “It is obviously disappointing for everyone involved in the organisation of the event, but it is clear that to race in Bahrain at this time would be inappropriate given the current circumstances. It is always Williams’ intention to contribute positively to the countries we compete in and so we fully support the Crown Prince’s decision to cancel the test and forthcoming Bahrain Grand Prix. We now look forward to a season debut in Melbourne and returning to Bahrain when it is right to do so.”

FOTA met to discuss what to do about rescheduling the fourth test session, scheduled to take place in Bahrain. It was decided that the teams will now reconvene here on March 8th for four more days of testing. This is not what Pirelli were hoping for. They badly wanted some hot weather running to evaluate their tyres which have come in for criticism for the way they behave in cold conditions.

It is not yet clear whether the teams will attempt to run again before the first race in Melbourne on March 27th. But pushing the test back to March 8th indicates that they will probably not hold an extra test in place of the Bahrain GP. One sticking point is tyre supply, with Pirelli committed to a certain test supply and the ones destined for the Bahrain test are already in transit.

Some teams are likely to want extra running. The dropping of the Bahrain race certainly will help McLaren and buy them some more time to fix the initial problems they have encountered with their new car.

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  1. FinchOwl says:

    James, if Pirelli want some hot weather running, and many of the teams may want an extra test session to compensate for the lack of Bahrain GP, what do you think are the chances of Abu Dhabi or possibly Turkey putting on a test? These would seem the obvious choices to host an extra session if required

    1. Richard says:

      Sounds like a good idea, but I wonder if that could be arranged before the season now starts in Australia?

  2. Jeremy says:

    Great news for my fave underdog HRT too!

  3. Josias says:

    Certainly the right decision, but now i have to wait two more agonizing weeks for the season to begin and to find out where everybody stands!! Arghh..the anticipation is killing me. ;)

    1. Mike says:

      At least your government isn’t killing you. This should have been called off as soon as the unrest began.

      Hopefully this could spell the downfall of the boring in the middle of nowhere races!

  4. Jo Torrent says:

    Happy for Bahrainis first and foremost, their king should have dealt with it peacefully : he lost credibility and political ground plus bad publicity worldwide.

    As for F1, the teams will have less money as there’s one less GrandPrix and thus less TV money unless insurances compensate with might be called a “force majeure”. Maybe TVs are entitled to ask for compensations due to breach in contract too. Even if the GrandPrix is rescheduled, TVs have to agree to the new schedule I guess, looks like a nightmare for Mr E but he showed he can deal pretty much with everything with the exception of Slavica.

    I can see one happy team though McLaren with their not so quick and unreliable ugly car. Mercedes with their current form must wish for an uprising in another 19 countries : it will provide time to prepare 2012 challenger and to convince Schumacher to retire.

    1. jonrob says:

      I am quite sure that all of Bernie’s contracts will have clauses in to cover not only this situation but also earthquakes, floods, asteroids, robots, androids, UFOs and the common cold.
      However there may be a lot of small print reading going on now all around the world.

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        Arabic uprising till recently was deemed less likely than UFOs !

      2. Martin says:

        A naive question is why? After all the Iranians could do it in 1979, while not Arabs, they are human…

        Is there something culturally that you feel encourages Arabs to except the status quo?

    2. True Blue says:

      I think you have to feel sorry for *poor * old bernie. The extra 20 million he would have got for Bahrain being the first GP must have really hurt him more than the thought of all those arabs would couldnt even afford a taxi fare to the venue.
      I am a supporter of F1 for numerous years and yet the spectacle of these men in their white dresses spending millions on corporate events while so many of his millions of subjects live in poverty … think this might be the end of despots using their ill gotten gains to further their ambitions.
      Power to the people

      1. philipb says:

        Exactly.

      2. Josh says:

        Yes. The prince shouldn’t have called the GP off – Bernie should have. It is disgusting what most people find acceptable because “its just business”.

  5. Jonathan Chan says:

    I think Mclaren can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Bahrain is cancelled, their testing program hasn’t been smooth and their mileage compared to their rivals is minimal, therefore the additional break will give them more development time and hopefully full race simulations to ensure reliability isn’t an issue. Although the Mp4-26 is highly innovative they’re essentially starting from scratch, where as the RB7 and F150th Italia are evolutions therefore a known platform.

    As a Mclaren fan I hope this isn’t 2009 all over again, I’m sick and tired of their lack of competitiveness at the start of season, where they’re forced to play catch up as opposed to being quick out of the box. I hope the guys at Woking have an ace up their sleeve, because there are no excuses this year… WDC and WCC

  6. AlexD says:

    I need to say that I am not regretting. It is better not to have a race there vs being forced to suffer as it was the case in 2010.

    McLaren is not complaining too…..they will have more time to prepare – lucky…

  7. Brotedau says:

    The only reasonable decision I think. Formula One would have looked terrible if it went in there at the moment, and I would guess the GP would be used as an opportunity by both sides (further curtailment of right of protest/ a way of gaining extra worldwide coverage).

    It is a shame though because the Bahrain Grand Prix has always delivered exceptional, exciting racing, plenty or overtaking in front of reams of avid fans ….oh hang on, no it hasn’t. It has just felt like a vanity project of a few super rich rulers.
    Really no great loss.

    Let’s have a proper opening race in Melbourne.

    1. tank says:

      LOL. agreed.

  8. Ajay says:

    Good decision I would say. Also, good luck to Bahrain toward solving their problems. If they do try and reschedule when would they try and fit it in?

    1. F1 Grid Slot says:

      The obvious place would be to put it between India and Abu Dhabi…but that would mean 3 races in 3 weeks as James says – can’t see the teams agreeing to that.

      James, what chance do you think of them slotting it into the 3 week summer break instead?

      1. Kevin B says:

        Highly unlikely imo. I imagine the heat would be unmanageable in the middle of summer.

      2. Richard says:

        At that time of year it would be way to hot to try and stage a GP in Bahrain!

  9. Martin says:

    So with more testing at Barcelona it looks like the Spanish GP will be more of a precession this year. I wish ALL testing was at non-grand prix venues.

    1. Alex J says:

      Fully agree! I didn’t really see the point in testing in Bahrain then racing there a few days later. They used to test at Monza then race the week after 2002-2005 or so.

  10. MikeW says:

    Right decision, made by the right people, for the right reason.

  11. bones says:

    I am glad to hear that,there are more important things than F1.specially for those ppl.
    About this James:”It is the first time in modern F1 that a race has had to be cancelled.”
    When do YOU start calling F1 modern? Right away I can recall 82′s Argentina GP canceled a couple of weeks before the race.

  12. Chris-W says:

    Australia first – how retro!

  13. Neil says:

    The start of the season should always take place in OZ in my view so this is good by me. Further more, my daughter’s birthday clashed with the Bahrain race (selfish brat) so win win

  14. Harvey Yates says:

    No surprises of course, but a shame. As you say, James, unprecedented in modern times.

    Is this good or bad for the country and its population?

    I suppose the question we will be asking in the futures is whether F1 in particular and other international sports should go to the highest bidder.

    Not my, nor I suspect anyone’s, favourite venue but I hope it is rescheduled and run in pleasanter times.

  15. So Bahrain is canceled. All we need now is to move the Melbourne GP to its usual time and I can get back to my sourly missed ritual of waking up at 2 in the morning to welcome in the F1 season. Happy days…

    1. Peter says:

      Yeah I’d admit that getting up at 6am doesn’t quite have the same feel to it as watching the Aussie GP at 2am!

      1. McMercManiac says:

        Alas; the days when the Australian Grand Prix would be at 2am, the days of Hill and Schumacher battling for the championship and Mansell having his tyre blow. Then again, I stay up till 4am on weekends so having the Australian GP at 2am would be convenient, to say the least.
        Plus, weren’t the drivers complaining in 2009 that the Aussie GP start time was too late in the day, causing sun glare (17:00 local time I believe)?

    2. AB says:

      Well you could always move to a better country like Aus and then have to be up at midnight for almost all the GP’s, getting to bed around 2:00am on a Monday morning…I think I would take an early Sunday morning a couple of times a year….

      1. AB I think you misunderstand us. The ritual of getting up at 2am in the morning to watch the opening race is something I used to look forward too. Get up, watch the race with my (as christened by JA) ‘F1 Breakfast’, then go back to sleep for a couple of hours… and if it was a really good race, watch the re-run!

        Moving to Aus would be the worst of both worlds… NOT having to get up for the first race, and then having to get up for all the subsequent races.

        Still times move on. The 2am Grand Prix is no more :( On the other hand, it does quite nicely leave the door open for the 5am winter breakfast barbecue :)

  16. Obster says:

    Remembering the 1968 LeMans race postponed due to student demonstrations and run in September of that year.

  17. Kevin B says:

    Common sense prevails. Well done everyone involved. Let’s hope things clear up soon. Onwards and upwards, bring on Melbourne :)

  18. Eddyr says:

    I’m glad not least because it’s rather a dull event, won’t ever forget the disappointment last year after watching the most hyped new season for years start out something of a damp squib; only for two weeks later in Australia being entertained by a thrilling race!
    I’d say I’m a fairly hardcore fan in terms of the amount of time I spend watching and reading about F1, but I struggled with last years Bahraini offering…

  19. A-B says:

    Bahrain has been postponed. James, I’ve read the FiA press release, do you think that Jean Todt was working quietly behind the scenes with the Bahrain Motor Federation to call it off themselves, rather than forcing the FiA and FOM’s hand? Sheikh Abdullah Bin Isa Al-Khalifa is one of Todt’s supporters, so I wonder if the silence from the FiA actually meant that they were doing something. Todt never struck me as a man who waits for circumstances to get wrapped around his throat before he acted.
    Getting the Bahrian GP shoehorned into the schedule somewhere is is going to be quite a job.

    1. Peter Freeman says:

      Yes once all the bodies are buried and the blood is washed off the streets I am sure the FIA will be only too happy to continue to race in Bahrain and they will find the space in the calendar.

  20. Lilla My says:

    It’s a good decision IMHO. Unfortunatelly, we need to wait longer for the first race, but for obvious safety reasons it’s good that the GP was cancelled. What’s even morw important, Bahrain has some more important issues to deal with now than an F1 race and it would be a bit “incensitive” to organise this, let’s call it, fancy and rich event when the country’s in such a turmoil.

  21. jmv says:

    I really commend F1 for making a just decision. I was a bit sceptical when it came to Bernie saying its up to the Emirs. But business wise it would have been an unwise decision to carry on. The news coverage could have been awful.. “while people are being killed and tortured.. F1 – a world sport – makes flying start in Bahrain”.

    So this brings us to a season starter with a big unknown: Pirelli’s in the heat.

    It could be a surprising race! Bring it on!

  22. RIP Bernie says:

    Our Bernie who art not yet in heaven, sullied be thy name, thy kingdom nearly done, thy bidding WILL be done on race tracks and in business, give us this day more of your power crazed delirium, and forgive us for questioning you as we don’t forgive you for slowly destroying our sport. Lead us not into another “borehain” but an exciting historical australian season opener. For thine kingdom is crumbling your glory nonexistent and thank the real Lord you won’t be around forever and ever!

  23. Richard says:

    If any one race had to be chopped from the calendar, I’m sure a lot of people would pick Bahrain!

  24. Pain in Bahrain. I was almost looking forward to a bit of boredom there but instead we get one more Barcelona test with no TV coverage (at least here).

    In any case, it would’ve been sort of funny to see how the tyres work in racing conditions and maybe get a massive pile-up at the first corner in Bahrain. No such luck, and the first official pile-up of 2011 will certainly come courtesy of Melbourne.

    They could’ve tried Portimão for a change or Navarra, dunno, Barcelona seems like a cliché to me. The teams obviously have a vast amount of data from previous years and can make comparisons, etc., but for photographers it’ll be boring – the same pics as the last time.

  25. Can’t the BBC televise that sunday afternoon some testing action….. anything…… I jsut want to see some cars in action soon….

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, it’s odd that they’ve not played out any footage from Barcelona. They were here in force, with camera

      1. McMercManiac says:

        Are they allowed to show testing live? It seems strange that the BBC wouldn’t, even if it was just on the Red Button. I think they showed MotoGP testing in November live on the Red Button.

  26. Andrew says:

    The idea of the cars racing around in the current climate over there would never have looked good for the sport. It would have led to more riots and members of the teams being targets for the protester’s rage and anger.

    In a very busy year its tough to see it fitting in anywhere unless a date or two inregards to other races is changed or the teams give up their 3 week break in the summer. Perhaps simply racing twice at one event would be an option?

  27. Rubinho's Keyfob says:

    I’m just shocked that people were still /prepared/ to possibly race there with what has gone on recently (I know many people had stated that they would not attend, regardless). IMHO this decision should have been made already. I am far from being a political animal, but to be honest it sours my opinion of F1 in general that a race was still under consideration.

    The irony is that from a fan perspective, I don’t see it being a big deal. I see Bahrain as an under-attended yawn-fest. The only exciting thing about it is that it’s the first chance we get to see the new cars – perhaps that’s why it’s the first on the calendar? Last season, after Bahrain, everyone was saying what a boring year of racing it was going to be (look at the JA archives) – and then what happened?

    I’m happy to wait a fortnight for the first race – one that won’t feel like a “teaser”.

  28. H says:

    It’s posted elsewhere that it can’t be run the weekend before or straight after the Indian race as new races have to be stand alone as people don’t know how easy it is to get stuff in transit.

    Could they not extend the Friday practise sessions at auz or run on Thursday?

  29. JohnBt says:

    Honestly if Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are not in the calender I won’t miss it at all.

    So follow the money does not work all the time.

  30. Brian says:

    If Pirelli have their Toyota test car could they not just ship that & Pedro De La Rosa out somewhere hot to do hot weather running?

  31. Nando says:

    Wonder whether Bernie is asking Melbourne for more money now they’re the first race? :).

  32. Andrew says:

    Tag need to reset their clock on the homepage

  33. Richii says:

    I like H’s idea and if we expand on it. Run the race on Saturday and use the finishing order of the Saturdays race for the Sunday race. I would make a great doubleheader and add something different to the season.

  34. Jingjing says:

    I think it’s better to move the final test to Australia than in Spain, a different circuit and temperature for teams to collect different data, and teams can have much more time to prepare for Australia GP.

    I hope they don’t cancel Bahrain GP, instead move to before or after Abu Dhabi GP.

  35. Peter Freeman says:

    Not a single soul has said a word about the FACT that this country’s dictatorship is SHOOTING its citizens for the crime of wanting democracy!

    We are not concerned at all that we are doing business with such despicable [mod], its is not even questioned IF we should continue at all!

    So we quietly wait while the prince shoots the remaining ‘trouble makers’ before we go back to continue our sport and profit…

    And no one says a word!

    1. Aaron95 says:

      Of course not. They have oil and money. Lots of money.

    2. Dale says:

      Well said, it’s time F1 looked at itself, there is more to this world that just money 0 something Ecclestone doe not appear to even begin to understand!

      F1 has in the past few days showed those outside of F1 what it really is.

      I for one love F1 but the way it is currently run with so many of the current races being what they are and raced where they are just because they’ll pay crazy sums is just wrong.

      Take Canada for example, what a great race they always give us and their supporters are as good as any yet it mattered not a jot when they couldn’t afford the obscene fees demanded and time will only tell whether or not Silverstone will remain viable during their contract.

      Of all the drivers (just as in the Mosley affair) one driver stood head and shoulders above the others, so well done to Mark Webber, it’s people with a sense of what’s right we need at the helm of F1 (can you hear the FIA – not a word)?

    3. Brotedau says:

      Fair point, I wasn’t as scathing as I perhaps wanted to be earlier.

      Please let’s not try to reschedule this race for later in the year. There are a multitude of reasons but probably the biggest is that this event was a vanity project for the super rich rulers, from the same family who have imported vigilantes to fire on their own population, in a desperate attempt to cling to power.

      If some kind of new regime is brought in you would have to wonder if their top priority would be housing a few thousand rock stars who rose to fame in the 60′s, a spattering of uninterested supermodels and the few hundred actual fans who trudge out there for the snoozefest of the grand prix.
      Hopefully the new/ rejigged regime would focus on more things that actually matter.

      This year’s calendar is no worse of for skipping this GP, the corrupt regime in Bahrain now doesn’t have a little PR opportunity to suggest ‘everything is fine in the Pearl of the Gulf’.

      Glad we are out now let us stay out.

      1. Rudy Pyatt says:

        yes

  36. Dale says:

    Why on earth was a tiny island that has zero motor sport heritage that rules it’s people as though they’re all but worthless ever given a Grand Prix in the first place?

    To me this episode shows to the wider world all that’s rotten with the way F1 is currently ruled.

    I note that not a single F1 reporter who relies on F1 for their living had the balls to really any what needed to be said, probably due to the fear of having any passes taken away by the dictators that run F1.

    One F1 website that doesn’t re;y on FIA/FOM passes did speak out (Pitpass) so respect to them.

    As a follower of F1 since the late 60′s and for those that say politics shouldn’t comer into it it was ever thus, we used to have some great races in South Africa, funny but I don’t recall their armed forces opening fire on peaceful protesters?!

    Back to F1, I’d think of all the teams McLaren must be most pleased as to me it would appear they have not got it right AGAIN, time for an engineering change at McLaren as it’s just not good enough (F1 needs a strong McLaren to counter Ferrari)?

    It’s no good having the fastest, most exciting ad racy driver if the car isn’t up to it, it they fail to get on a par they’ll end up loosing Hamilton for sure just like the did the greatest of them all, Senna – time for some tough decisions McLaren.

    1. brukay says:

      Did you forget about Sharpeville South Africa 1960?

  37. jonrob says:

    So on to the next race which won’t be there much longer.
    The Aussies reckon it costs the tax payer A$50M, and they don’t like the noise. So it is unlikely that Melbourne officials will stay in place too long if they keep the race going.
    Bit like that olympic stadium scheduled to be demolished just after it’s finished, such forethought the designers had!

  38. McMercManiac says:

    Was it a mistake for F1 to expand to the Middle East, James? They’ve produced largely lifeless races (Abu Dhabi last season was a poor race with little overtaking, Bahrain was just dull, but I understand last year, the drivers were getting used to driving on full tanks.)
    Secondly, as regards to Melbourne, there is no way they can keep the grand prix with the $50M bill to the taxpayer. Then again, we’ve seen the future of the British Grand Prix threatened before, so is this something we’ve come to expect from the cut-throat, modern day F1?
    Thirdly and sorry for the long post, where could the Bahrain Grand Prix be rescheduled to? I think it’s better to delay it until next year or even better, don’t let F1 return to Bahrain and go to some classic circuits like Buenos Aires.

    1. James Allen says:

      Of course not, the sport has to reach new markets. I don’t agree that Bahrain is dull. Last year’s race was with the new loop, but previous editions I recall as being exciting, when I had to commentate on them! Lots of passing etc

  39. Bobby says:

    The other problem is they’re hiring the same bloke (Tilke) to design every new track. Greater Noida and Austin are such tracks, while the FIA ignores real tracks such as Leeds (Barber Motorspots), Laguna Seca, Toele (Utah), Magny-Cours, or any of the real tracks that are challenging. I wonder why Leeds isn’t even considered — maybe it needs a pit complex, and it doesn’t have a grandstand (fans just pile the spectator mounds and camp out) but I would like to see how that track would be as an F1 track!

  40. MercBrainiac says:

    Magny-Cours produced pretty boring races, except for when it was wet (part of the 1997 grand prix and 1999). Don’t forget that Hermann Tilke also made the A1-Ring first raced on in the 1997 Austrian Grand Prix, and people actually want this track back in F1, despite the fact that it wasn’t technical enough, only had 7 turns, and was criticised by the drivers at the time for not being a skillful enough track.

  41. brukay says:

    Dale re your comment,as a follower of F1 since the 60s and for those that say politics should not come into it,we used to have some great races in South Africa,funny but i don’t recall their armed forces opening fire on peacefull protesters. Can i remind you of Sharpeville 1960 when indeed their armed forces shot and killed dozens of peasefull protesters demonstrating about their awful living conditions. This was the start of their isolation from sporting events.

  42. KOKO says:

    The Bahrain Grand Prix always delivered exciting and well organized races .. not me its the history of the F1 that says that and am sure those who attended it before agree with me.

    yes we’ve been through tough times here in Bahrain recently .. but its all under control now .. note that both the FIA and our government wont accept hosting the race here if it wasnt safe or Bahrain wasnt capaple.

    am a huge F1 fan writing this from Bahrain and we really want to have the race on our home land coz we waite for it with passion every year since 2004.

    we have hope and we need ur beliefe <3

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