Bahrain GP decision 'will be made next week'

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The Independent Online

Bernie Ecclestone is to wait until after the weekend before deciding on whether to cancel next month's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. The deteriorating political situation in the island kingdom yesterday forced the cancellation of the GP2 Asia Series races scheduled to take place at the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend.

Given the ongoing unrest, serious question marks now hang over the viability of staging the curtain-raising F1 event, due to take place at the BIC from 11 to 13 March.

A decision on whether it goes ahead rests with Ecclestone, FIA president Jean Todt and the race organisers in Bahrain, as well as Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

Ecclestone, who yesterday confirmed finally speaking with the Crown Prince regarding the prospects for the race, said: "It's not good, is it? We'll have to keep our eye on things and make a decision quickly.

"I spoke to the Crown Prince this morning. He doesn't know any more than you or I, but they're monitoring exactly what is going on. Next week we will make a decision on what we are going to do."

Formula One is due to descend on Bahrain in less than a fortnight's time for the final pre-season test session, scheduled to run from 3-6 March. A decision as to whether that goes ahead could be made as early as today given all the teams are in Barcelona for the penultimate test at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Al Khalifa has again reiterated everything will be done to ensure all goes ahead as planned, and as smoothly as possible. The BIC chief executive added: "Our priority at this time is ensuring the well-being of everyone associated with this event."

However, it appears to be a promise that cannot be guaranteed, in particular if the protests continue over the next few days, and into next week.

FIA president Jean Todt, speaking on a visit to Dublin, claimed he was determined to keep a cool head. Todt stated that he always tried "not to overreact on breaking stories," adding there was "no reason for unnecessary concern".

However, the cancellation of the GP2 race has added a further twist, as an FIA spokesman said: "As you can imagine we are monitoring events extremely closely – every five minutes. The president is looking at the matter closely and when there is something to announce we will let everybody know."

The environment in Bahrain is unpleasant, according to members of the GP2 Asia personnel. Team Air Asia driver and Team Lotus reserve Davide Valsecchi said: "My hotel is just 800m away from the centre of the riot and I could hear shots of machine guns."