Bahrain race is no gamble, says circuit boss

Bahrain race is no gamble, says circuit boss

SHANGHAI - Reuters
Bahrain race is no gamble, says circuit boss

A supporter of Bahrain’s Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq holds up a placard calling for boycotting Formula One.

Formula One teams and drivers may be reluctant racers in Bahrain this weekend but they need not worry about their safety, according to circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani.

Speaking to Reuters before the first members of the travelling circus arrived in the troubled Gulf kingdom yesterday, Al Zayani said the decision to go ahead with the controversial grand prix was not putting anyone at risk.

“We wouldn’t take a decision on a gamble,” he said at the Chinese Grand Prix.

“I think it’s a calculated decision, we’ve weighed our options and we are committed to the grand prix and to its success. I don’t think anything drastic will happen. It’s not Afghanistan, it’s not Syria. I don’t see why anything should happen this year that hasn’t happened in the previous years.”

Green light

Formula One’s governing body said last week that the race would be going ahead, despite calls from activists for it to be cancelled due to continuing unrest with regular clashes between police and anti-government protesters.

Three teenagers were wounded later that day at a rally in Manama after the funeral of a man shot during a protest two weeks ago.

Petrol bombs were thrown at police, who used tear gas. More demonstrations have been called for this week leading up to the grand prix, the biggest sporting event in Bahrain and one broadcast to a global television audience of many millions.

Last year’s race had to be cancelled due to the February uprising and Formula One, whose teams have been deeply uneasy about going to Bahrain but have binding contracts to do so, has not returned since March 2010.

“You have some stuff going on in villages, but it’s nothing that can’t be handled,” said Al Zayani. “I have no doubt at all that Formula One is not a target, not the teams, not the media.”

Some drivers flew in yesterday, although others were spending time relaxing in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.