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Ecclestone hints at U turn on controversial Bahrain decision
Ecclestone hints at U turn on controversial Bahrain decision
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jun 2011   |  7:18 am GMT  |  71 comments

The situation over the reinstatement of the Bahrain Grand Prix has been thrown into some confusion by the intervention of Bernie Ecclestone, who appears now to be urging the teams to revolt against the FIA’s decision last week.

Ecclestone: Change of heart on Bahrain (Darren Heath)

The decision by the FIA World Council, on which Ecclestone sat – as did Ferrari – has been heavily criticised by fans and commentators alike. On this site 92% of a sample of 4,000 fans said that the FIA had been wrong to reinstate the race.

FIA president Jean Todt has explained that the federation acted on the basis of a report compiled by one of its vice presidents who visited the country. But human rights groups have suggested that the visit was largely conducted on the agenda of the goverment and didn’t dig deep enough into the situation on the ground.

Speaking last night to the media, Ecclestone suggested that Bahrain could switch to the final race in December. This ongoing confusion will dismay the organisers of the Indian Grand Prix and many fans, who have bought airline tickets to Delhi and now do not know whether to cancel or reschedule, if indeed they have that flexibility.

The teams have decided to act as a unit, via the umbrella of the Formula One Teams Association, rather than take individual positions on the issue. The team principals have been in discussion over the last 24 hours but no statement has been made yet.

But Ecclestone is understood to have contacted them all to suggest that they demand a fresh FIA vote. There appears to be a question mark about whether the FIA World Council’s vote last Friday was unanimous, which it would need to be in order to bring about a short notice change such as this.

“The way things are at the moment, we have no idea what is going to happen,” Ecclestone said. “Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go.

“If they are not, then we don’t go and there are no problems. We listened to that report from the FIA and that was saying there were no problems at all in Bahrain. But that is not what I am hearing and I think we can see that we need to be careful.

Ecclestone was also keen to point out that money was not his primary concern here.

“The money makes no difference,” he said. “It is there because the Bahrain people asked us to keep it. If there is no race, we will return it, but money is not the issue here. It is whether it is safe and good to have a race that is the issue. We can change this Oct 30 date by having a vote by fax if necessary. It can be done, and fast.”

Ecclestone’s long term ally and confidant Max Mosley has expressed grave concern about the Bahrain decision, even writing a column in Sunday’s Telegraph newspaper in England denouncing it and the Bahraini government.

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Seeing all this I can’t help but recall the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, except now it’s (Bahraini delegate) “please come let me show beautiful island with green parks and happy children singing and dancing with no threat of danger or protest, everything all normal again” (FIA VP) “what about that dark building over there that says prison for protesters? I want to have a look at that” (Bahraini) “I’m sorry that building, which is actually a candy factory for all the happy peaceful bahraini children, is not on the tour today”. They probably hired the Mclaren PR guy who did all the Lewis and Jenson videos from earlier this year.


First of all, I agree with Bernie – it is not about money, it is about GREED.

Second – so where the final is going to be decided? Do we go to India..thinking that Bahrain will be the last race and then there is not going to be Bahrain and we will say: “wait, we have had a last race in India…let’s communicate results of the Championship”.

By the way, the whole thing about F1 and they way fans are treated is beyond my understanding.

I wanted to go to a race and purchased ticket…but even though you by tickets 9 months in advance, they ship them to you 7 days before the race! And…you can never know what seat are you going to get – a lottery or serving friends and family and then everybody else.

This is the last race I am going to…I will watch it on TV.


The most frustrating thing about this is everyone said public opinion was against the GP this year, but they went ahead and approved the return.

It actually makes the FIA look amateurish (and bernie). Bernie for me (IMHO) lost all credibility a couple of years ago, and I think F1 needs new leadership on the promoter side.

Thanks for developing the sport, but we need someone else in charge (and by that I dont

mean someone called Flavio).

I’m hearing Renault are not keen in staying in F1 if the 2013 rules on engine formula are not pushed through.

I’m really frustrated at the direction F1 is taking. Perpetuating the Aero reliance past 2012 ETC ETC. If they can design an indycar to run at 220 mph behind another, surely they can design an F1 car that can follow through corners without to much trouble.


Seems like Bernie is trying to drive a wedge between the teams and the FIA. Maybe he’s used the Bahrain issue to suit his aims for Concorde Agreement renewal talks? There was much talk a while ago about the FIA and FOTA/Teams joining up to pressure a better deal from CVC/Bernie, those may be compromised if some tension is built out of this race/non-race.


To everyone commenting in this blog:

I cannot reply to every single person naming and shaming Bahrain in this blog and elsewhere. You can follow me on Twitter @hind49, and follow others I’m retweeting for more information regarding Bahrain’s situation. You will find many tweeted videos of the nature of Bahrain’s protests. What I ask is: Please research, and base your opinions on facts and on the whole picture. News channels all over the world have aired very biased coverage of the unrest in Bahrain, which was shrouded under the “call for democracy” yet blatantly shows Iran’s long-standing interference in Bahrain.

Please read reports by searching Health Ministry, Interior Ministry, Justice Ministry etc or you can refer to for those of us AGAINST the violent protests that brought our whole country to a stand-still, calling for the fall of our King and the establishment of an Iranian-liased religious “shi’a” country. Bahrain is by far a more developed country than most of you know. Protesters played with the media’s logic by claiming extreme poverty and lack of human rights, making Bahrain look and sound like a decaying country. Whereas reality is otherwise. Visit! Read up on Bahrain! See what we are before judging.

Bahrain is now taking legal action against those responsible for terrorizing the country, as would any other country would do, including the U.S. Bahrain is applying the Rule of Law. Bahrain is scrapping the unfamiliar terrorism and violence that took place on its peaceful grounds. Bahrain has achieved strides in democracy and openness. Iran’s instigation of sectarianism will not, and cannot, ruin Bahrain. For those of you who do not know the whole story, read. Ask. Just do not judge us wrongfully.



” Bahrain is by far a more developed country than most of you know”

I respectfully disagree with you theory…if it was more advanced than what is clearly visible …no matter who you read or listen to… sectarianism could not get a hold of the population….like it has IMO


I have been to Bahrain. What I do recall is that the internet is censored – they block any pages critical of the [mod]

They even blocked Google earth when it allowed ordinary people to observe how their greedy dictators live:

No doubt Hind will tell us the photos are fakes, it’s all lies, Google made everything up, every Shia is happy to live in squalor while the unelected rulers bath in champagne, etc.


The news at the head of this discussion, and the reason we have returned to it, is that Bernie has made a u-turn on his position.

Has he, or have CVC suddenly realised how much negative publicity they will receive if the race goes ahead?

Also, on the ‘sudden’ announcement that the calendar change needs unanimous support from the teams – I think the FIA were well aware of this all the time: reinstate the race, get the teams to cancel it and save face.


All Bernie does is related to money. He is breathing money instead of air.

He wanted FIA to put Bahrain back in calendar,cause he knew from start that it will cause lots of havoc across the planet. The teams wanted also.

The F1 image has started to suffer since the last Friday .

Who are the owners of the F1? CVC! What is going to happen next ? F1 will start to loose revenue . There will have to be a major chance in the stakeholders, in order to send a strong message out there that reinstating Bahrain was a mistake , and it won’t happen again . As far as i know there isn’t one stakeholder on this planet that likes to see his ROI diminishing .

Who wants to buy CVC assets in F1? CVC didn’t have a reason to sell it until last friday . Now they do. Why do you think Domenecali voted for bahrain ? 🙂

Just imagine how much money the teams will do once they have an major HYPE in USA! And damn , that USA grandpa can deliver it 🙂

I believe you can figure it out what is going to happen in the next months 🙂

Anyway GG Bernie and FOTA ! You guys are going to be even more rich !


Do we know which FIA vice president visited the country?

Looks like he didn’t manage to get far from the hotel complex.


No, he didn’t. The report was leaked. He was basically showed around and everyone he met had the last name “Khalifa”. Even the part where they talk to some business people (mind you, their names or occupations or whatever were redacted CIA-style) were organized by the Sheik. It reminded me of when Henry Wallace went to tour the Kolyma gulag and was told and shown how happy everyone was to be forced to mine gold until they died of starvation.


I think Bernie has finally realised that the feelings of the fans and everyone outside the FIA, the “international community” are so strong as to actually affect the commercial outcome of going to Bahrain. So now he has to find a way of doing a “U”turn and blaming someone else. Ask the FIA for another vote there is confusion about it’s unanimity! Pull the other one, all votes must be recorded, just look at the record. Mind you some team representatives on the WMSC need to explain themselves. (or were they hiding behind the word “safe” instead of using their brains)

Bernie enraged fans who had bought air tickets and booked hotels for the original Indian GP date who have had to change everything to the later date and now he is talking about changing it all back again. He is costing fans a great deal of money in booking charges and non refundable tickets. People who are cannot be responsible for their own actions should be locked up.


Just read an article in which Max Mosely is basically stating that the race calendar can not be changed without the unanimous agreement of all the teams. That would also put the Indian GP at risk as the teams are against racing in December. Looks like a U turn is in order.

Adrian Jordan

That stories getting more widespread now and is why I, personally, don’t think there’ll be a Bahrain GP.

Can you see Williams signing up to the race after being so vocal earlier in the year? It would also be interesting to see whether “participants” includes the individual drivers (I doubt it does) as that would certainly seal the race’s fate.

It’s a strange world when I find myself agreeing with Max Mosley…


FOTA aren’t stupid I’m sure theyve heard the fans view on this and hopefully sanity prevails and the race is cancelled.


There is no chance of a Bahrain GP this year. As JA says, what of all the people who have booked tickets to India, and are now re-scheduling? It’s a dog’s dinner.

Jean Todt is left looking a bit silly from all this. …[mod]. A case of wishful thinking, at best.

As for a Bahrain GP next year, who can say yet? I think it looks very unlikely, especially as a quarter of the circuit staff (who are shia) are still locked up!


Bored with this now. I wish they’d just have the balls to cancel it and move on.


The way the FIA has bent backwards over the Bahrain race has beggered belief.

But honestly moving it to the last race in the schedule? I know Vettel is doing his best to wrap up the championship early, but what happens if it does close up in the second half of the year, and we won’t know if the final race will happen or not?



The way the FIA showed total disregard (if nothing else and as we all know there are very important other things) for the fans who had made arrangements for the Indian Grand Prix shows us all what they (those that rule the show) think of the, so called,fans, that is utter contempt.

If ever an example was needed as to why the teams should go it alone then this is it (not that there haven’t been so many others, especially during Mosley’s reign. – [please observe the rule of the site or the entire comment will be moderated out next time] – mod

To date the only insider of today’s F1 that has spoken, on the record for the world to see is Webber, is there nobody else with any morals or plain balls!?!


This whole saga really is becoming quite amazing.

1. A delegate that visits and says it should be ok even though many western countries still have “travel warnings” current. Huh?

2. A “unanimous vote” that maybe wasn’t so unanimous after all : Huh?

3. India and it’s fans getting jerked around re their event-date when they’ve done nothing wrong: Huh?

4. No official comment (yet) from any Team or from FOTA.

5. Ecclestone and Todt doing their impressions of politicians : Saying a lot but really saying nothing,

Quite simply : Bahrain had their chance and they blew it. Better luck next year.


Don’t forget:

6. Max Mosley making sense.

The whole thing is rather incredible and points to either the FIA’s incompetence or utter moral corruption. But of course, they proved the former at Indy 2005, and the later when China got a GP.


Agreed in full.


the thing is , if people say it should not happen in December , why should it happen a few months later in 2012 ?



Good point – we’re going to go through all of this again next year.


Let’s here it for the power of sites like this one ….


The process by which the GP has been re scheduled, the machinations that have gone on behind the process, and the agendas of those involved are, as usual, somewhat murky. I am inclined to agree with Max Moseley on this, that this has gone beyond any questions of safety, morality or neutrality. It is allowing F1 to be used as a political tool, as a way of the government of Bahrain to show that they have put their house in order. Bernie’s protestations that F1 doesn’t get mixed up in politics are deliberately short sighted. This crisis has once again highlighted a lack of decisive leadership in the FIA and just leaves me thinking that no one wants to make the decision to cancel, least of all Bernie.


I’m surprised that India is not livid about this because first of all the weather in December is pretty bad for an F1 race to be held in Delhi and second of all, its gonna cast some doubts in the hands of the already skeptical western world after the dismal show in the CWG which was held earlier in the country. From what I have heard, the circuit is not struggling to keep up with the deadline like how Korea did last year but still, the organisers are somehow allowing the delay-will-suit-India image to be imparted on their faces.

On the upside though, they can make some ground on the PR front as they will have 3 more months at their disposal but to be so definitive about this whole farce, the FIA would need a signed draft from all the members of the FOTA to go ahead with a calendar change.

Furthermore, its appalling to see Ferrari, who’s one of the key members in the FOTA, nodding at reinstating Bahrain. Perhaps, Alonso is so far back and more the races, more the chances of an unlikely Ferrari fightback to happen.

I think the FIA would need to do a morality check before jumping the gun. In all possibilities, I don’t see a race happening in mid December.


The Bahrain GP should have been cancelled out right at the start when it was decided that it wasnt going to happen at the start of the year. The teams , fans, and Bahrain officials would have then known exactly where they all stand. It would have a sent a clear message to all, and at a later date in the year, it could then have been decided if it was to be pencilled in for the 2012 season. This juggling with dates, is it on , is it off, messing with the Indian GP date etc is no good for anyone.


Thinking back, Bernie’s assessment in Monaco “I suppose it’ll be all right” was hardly a ringing endorsement, was it ?

Are we now understanding a bit more about the FIA’s decision and who was pushing for it ? Why Todt should feel the need to go out on a limb over this is anyone’s guess. Hign Middle East finance ? James ?


Thanks for touching on the impacts on India James, first time I’ve seen this covered in any way.

In terms of logistics for the teams/Indian GP at what point does it become too late to move the Indian GP back to it’s original date if the Bahrain GP does get cancelled? As you mentioned the organisers there surely need to know when to prepare for. And of course, the fans paying out for tickets, flights, accomodation – F1 has to be fair to it’s supporters who ultimately pay the bills…

Also, given the teams have raised the issue of the new date for the Indian GP being too late in the year in their view and their staff needing a break, is there a chance that they could refuse to continue the season so late, or we later find the race can’t realistically be held at it’s original date, and the Indian GP fails to happen?


Bernie, Ferrari & McLaren already showed their respect for human rights by going to South Africa in 85, Bernie being very keen to go there. I wasn’t surprised by their vote for sure. Bernie because he’s Bernie and Ferrari because their cars aren’t bought by those who protest in the streets. Only poor & medium classes protest.

I just remembered Ferrari black nose after 9/11. How much of that was down to feelings & how much down to 50% market importance.

Mercedes on the other hand is the official manufacturer of dictators limousine. It has reached the top with Mercedes 600, the limousine every blood-thirsty dictator owned (Amine Dada, Saddam Hussein, Mobutu,…)

Renault on the other hand even if they don’t own the team bearing their name has much higher moral standards because their clients, mainly french, are very critical of such moves.

P.S : In all the Bahrain affair, the only question bothering me is why Wefak the main oppostion Shiia party called for the race to be maintained even if the government isn’t showing Wefak a particular kindness.


“Mercedes on the other hand is the official manufacturer of dictators limousine. It has reached the top with Mercedes 600, the limousine every blood-thirsty dictator owned (Amine Dada, Saddam Hussein, Mobutu,…)”

You make it sound as if the design team of Mercedes Benz went with the idea of the 600 and went ” Lets see know what the dictators of the world want as a limousine” and came up with the 600. That is in bad taste… really. Do you think that Mercedes has it in their brochure? Mercedes makes a limousine, and many of the dictators happen to buy them. I am sure that that is not their main business. Seriously Jo, that comment is baseless and unfounded.


Renault are also propped up by the French tax payer.


Not the F1 team, not any more

Adrian Jordan

Wefak might see the race as an opportunity to have the world’s media focussed on Bahrain so that they can hold more protests and get more media coverage at a time when much of the world’s media are instead focussing on Libya and Yemen.


I think you’re out of line on the black nose comment.

That was an extremely raw time in US and for that matter world history. F1 was first event back after it happened if you recall. F1 and teams behaved respectfully and cheered up the people’s spirits. I know it made me think of something else for a few hours.


I assume the opposition wanted the race there because it’ll have the world’s media focus again. And they might get a weekend off without being shot at, rounded up and beaten to death in custody. Of course on monday morning, it’ll be back to the norm, [mod] But Bernie will be on a private jet home, and it won’t be his problem.


Wefak have obviously been offered a carrot. F1 should only go back to Bahrain when all the doctors and nurses being prosecuted for doing their job are released.


’85 was a different time and place to now – no Internet, and F1 was still overwhelmingly Eurocentric (Europe and the ex-colonies) – pointless to use comparisons with events nearly

thirty years ago.

Wefak want the race so they can turn it into a focal point for protests – expect many deaths, or a lot of people ‘disappearing’ in the run-up to the race.


(repost of identical comment made elsewhere…)

I know the golden rule of listening to Bernie is to include a large pinch of salt. But this isn’t an internal row about tyre sizes or trucks in the paddock, it’s an issue of his sport being seen to directly support a regime which all independent news sources say is despotic and murderous.

So to suggest that he and the other committee members listened solely to the word of the FIA delegate, who I don’t suppose arrived in the country incognito and equipped to find out the real situation on the ground, and did not take account of the multitude of reports from Reuters, Al Jazeera, CNN, Time etc etc absolutely beggars belief.

I think there is still a charge available somewhere of bringing the sport into disrepute. I wonder if it can be applied to the WMSC itself.


Actually I would expect they did pay much more attention to theirown evaluation. Every news source you mention is a for-profit organisation that relies on ratings and as such will be hyping up any news story they can to make it bigger and noisier and shinier than their competitions report. While it will mostly be truth based, you cant take it as complete fact.

But really that is another story.

What I wonder really is why people make so much of an issue about Bahrain when China is probably a thousand times worse for human rights, and yet everyone goes over there without a second thought. Bahrain could imprison and murder every one of its citizens a hundred times over and still not be in the same league as China…


Adam Cooper said it better, or at least more concisely, than I could, in his replies to Maurice Hamilton the other day:

“You can’t compare China and Bahrain. The Chinese GP is not run and promoted by the very same guys who run the country”

“I don’t recall the Chinese Premier and his family swanning round the Shanghai grid or being pals with BCE and JTodt”

“Or indeed the F1 team principals partying at his palace! Just making point that this is a much closer relationship”

“Not defending China at all, am just saying going to Bahrain would be 100x more damaging for F1 in eyes of world”


Not to mention celebs like Rory Bremner and Jamie Callum who came over as official guests to Bahrain GP each year

Adrian Jordan

Basically I think the difference is that holding the GP in China doesn’t directly cause any human rights issues. The fear is that holding the GP in Bahrain would directly result in further protests timed to coincide with it and, as a result, further human rights issues.


F1 can’t be held responsible for such protests or for the regime’s response to them. If it were a question of people protesting against F1, that might be different, but I seem to recall instances when F1 has caused protests and yet carried on (e.g. environmentalists in Melborne). In any case these protests are about the Barain regime oppressing its people. The same regime that has been in charge all the time F1 had been going there.


Exactly. There’s a whiff of hypocrisy and political correctness about this whole thing. Bahrain has always been a repressive country (but not as bad as Egypt, say, where people gladly go for their holidays) but now suddenly F1 develops a conscience because the repression has been more visible.

Meanwhile everyone is happy to go to China despite it’s many human rights violations because China gets a good press these days. Also other places like Turkey which are far from perfect. I doubt Abu Dhabi is blameless. Not to mention Britain, which is an ally of Bahrain and helped train and equip the Saudi thugs who have been helping Bahrain repress its people. As well as selling arms to Libya which are being used to kill civilians. And Bernie is negotiating an GP in Russia of all places! Also F1 teams are not blameless: Williams takes money from the Venezuelan government, Mclaren is involved with the Bahrainis etc.

Basically I think F1 should stay out of politics, but if its going to take a stand on human rights it should be consistent.

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