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.