Pressure has been growing for the April 22 race to be canceled for the second straight year because of ongoing clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters. The crackdown has left at least 50 people dead.
“The race is on the calendar. Unless it gets withdrawn by the national sporting authority in the country, we will be there,” he said.
Ecclestone plans to meet with the F1 teams on Friday for discussions, but stressed that wouldn’t change the situation.
Bahrain’s Sunni leaders and race organizers remain committed to going ahead as a way of showing the divided Persian Gulf island nation is moving past the strife of the past year.
Bahrain’s circuit chairman said this week that extremist groups are using “scare-mongering tactics” to make the unrest seem worse than it is to force the cancellation of the race.
Last year, Bahrain organizers canceled the race after an attempt to reschedule it by motor sport’s world governing body (FIA) was criticized by rights groups, F1 teams and fans.
Amid the ongoing turmoil in the country, human rights groups have criticized the race being reinstated this year. Protesters have galvanized supporters by incorporating anti-F1 chants in their marches, putting anti-F1 posters on walls and criticizing Ecclestone and F1 drivers in online posts.
Amnesty International is planning to release a report next week on the eve of the race detailing the numbers of protesters in Bahraini jails and the human rights violations that it says are still being committed by security forces.
Many drivers avoided talking about the situation on Thursday. When six of them were asked at a news conference whether they had any moral problems with competing in Bahrain, all six sat completely still and didn’t say a word.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel also deflected questions about the race.
“No Bahrain questions. Ask the people in the paddock,” he said. “Maybe I don’t watch enough TV.”
Mark Webber of Red Bull noted the difficulty of the position the drivers have been put in.View Entire Story
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