F1: Bahrain In 2011 'Of Course Not On' - Ecclestone Photo:

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Mike Stevens | Jun, 09 2011 | 0 Comments

With the on-off 2011 Bahrain GP saga becoming farcical, Bernie Ecclestone on Wednesday announced his sport "of course" cannot go to the troubled island Kingdom later this year.

Prior to the FIA last Friday controversially rescheduling the race for October 30, F1 chief executive Ecclestone seemed to favour that decision being taken.

But the 80-year-old Briton has now isolated president Jean Todt by urging the teams' group FOTA to write to demand a new vote of the World Motor Sport Council. The obvious conclusion that F1 must stay away from Bahrain for now.

"Hopefully we can return in the future, but of course it's not on," Ecclestone told BBC Sport.

"The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants - they're the facts."

The FIA did not immediately comment.



Ecclestone could send own inspector to Bahrain

Bernie Ecclestone could send his own envoy to Bahrain as the 2011 race rescheduling saga becomes a political power struggle.

Some commentators have raised eyebrows this week as Ecclestone appeared to be back in step with his old sparring partner Max Mosley in the wake of the FIA's controversial decision to slot Bahrain back into the 2011 calendar.

Ecclestone has admitted recently he is "at loggerheads" with Mosley's successor as FIA president, Jean Todt, whose reign he has described as a "joke".

The events of the past days means Ecclestone is now also aligned with the F1 teams who have written a letter expressing their displeasure at the Bahrain rescheduling for late October and the extension of the calendar until December.

On the other side are Todt and the likes of Carlos Gracia, the FIA vice-president whose report - which after his recent visit to Bahrain was described in some quarters as a "whitewash" - has been leaked online.

Mosley this week described Gracia as a "very, very nice man who speaks no English and as far as I know, speaks no Arabic".

Gracia, speaking in Valencia on Tuesday, said he found Bahrain peaceful when he visited recently but acknowledged that demonstrations and protests have occurred since then.

"That is something that neither I nor anyone else could predict," he is quoted in the Spanish press.

"We do not want the Grand Prix held at all costs. Formula One in total is 2500 people and we would not put at risk the drivers, the mechanics, the sponsors, anyone," Gracia said.

Ecclestone told the Financial Times he might now send his own inspector to Bahrain.

"That is precisely what we should do," he said. "I wish I knew more. We've been told there are no problems. The FIA said everything is fine, that (Gracia) met people. So who do you believe?"

FOTA confirmed it wrote a letter to the FIA, and the latter has now confirmed it was received.

"We have received the letter and we are considering it," said a spokesman. "The FIA is a transparent governing body and we welcome all input in the matter."

And a spokesperson told the Telegraph the FIA is "checking the small print" of the regulations in the wake of the World Motor Sport Council's controversial decision late last week.



Bahrain reshuffle means Webber to miss own event

The Bahrain rescheduling chaos means Mark Webber might have to miss his own adventure challenge later this year.

The Tasmanian event is returning in December for the first time since the Red Bull driver broke his leg at the end of 2008.

It was scheduled for December 7-11, after the end of the current season, but if the FIA does succeed in extending the calendar until mid-December to make room for the controversial Bahrain reshuffle, 34-year-old Webber would have to miss his own event.

"There is still a level of uncertainty about how the F1 calendar will end up so we are just sitting back and watching like so many others as to how it will all unfold," event organiser Octagon's chief Mark Perry told the Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury.

"Once we know the facts we will then consider our options," he said.

Webber has been easily the most outspoken driver on the issue of the Bahrain rescheduling. His view is that the 2011 race will ultimately succumb to the political and logistic issues.

"Even though a decision has been made, I'll be highly surprised if it goes ahead this year," he said.

"I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually, but now isn't the right time."



Red Bull aims to promote Toro Rosso driver - Marko

It is likely a Toro Rosso driver will step up if Mark Webber does not stay at Red Bull beyond 2011, the energy drink company's motor racing chief Helmut Marko has admitted.

While most key players including teammate Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Adrian Newey recently had their contracts extended, Red Bull Racing is holding off re-signing Webber until his ongoing performance and motivation is gauged.

Already fighting for survival at the junior team Toro Rosso, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi are therefore also dicing for arguably the most coveted seat in F1 at present.

"This is by design," Marko, the manager of Red Bull's driver development programme, told the Italian magazine Autosprint.

"We will try to do what we did three years ago with Sebastian Vettel, when David Coulthard retired," he said.

"Of course, this will not be automatic," insisted Austrian Marko. "If a driver does not meet all of the professional requirements, we will not offer him the opportunity to drive at Red Bull."



Austin Council Could Scupper 2012 US Grand Prix

US grand prix lawyer Richard Suttle has admitted the Austin City Council has the power to scupper the Formula One project.

According to local Kxan news, council members learned this week that they must sign off as the "endorsing municipality" in order for race organisers to access the $25 million per year promised by the Texas government.

That will involve the City of Austin contributing $4 million to the Major Events Trust Fund.

"There is a distinct possibility that if this process doesn't work, that the project and the 1000 people that are working right now, their jobs could be in jeopardy and the event could be in jeopardy," the Circuit of the Americas project attorney Suttle confirmed.

There is no guarantee the Austin council members will play ball.

"Apparently there is no plan B," said one member. "I think that is an interesting assumption to make that something like that is going to be approved."

Suttle said the first USD$4million will be paid by the race organisers, while in future it will be funded by extra hotel, alcohol and car rental taxes paid by spectators visiting Austin.

He admitted that organisers took a gamble that the council would approve the plan.

"We are hoping that it's not just a bet, it's a confidence in our city that they will realise what a benefit this will be for our community and our region," said Suttle.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell also acknowledged the risk.

"If it's not approved by the city and council, they (the F1 organisers) will have some assets that are sunk," he told local Kvue news.

"They'd have to go back and make another use of that property."

The council's decision is due later in June, with the organisers' sanctioning fee for 2012 needing to be paid in full to Bernie Ecclestone at the end of July.

Asked if the project could be scrapped, Suttle is quoted by the American Statesman newspaper: "That's a distinct possibility."



Two 'DRS' zones to spice up Valencia spectacle

As in Canada this weekend, there will also be two 'DRS' overtaking zones for Valencia's Grand Prix later in June.

The news was confirmed by European grand prix organiser Valmor Sports' Jorge Martinez Aspar in the Spanish port city on Tuesday.

Valencia's street circuit has usually not hosted the most spectacular formula one races but the adjustable rear wing innovation could change that, Aspar said in Spanish reports.

"Hopefully it will be a great show," he told El Mundo newspaper.

The organisers have reduced ticket prices for 2011 by 12 per cent with the goal of attracting 80,000 race-day spectators and breaking even financially.

"We have a contract until 2014, with the option to renew for five more years until 2019, and we believe that we will meet the deadline," he is quoted by Europa Press, playing down rumours one of F1's two Spanish hosts might make way to reduce the size of the sport's swelling calendar.

Spanish motor racing federation president Carlos Gracia said the situation could be helped by the Barcelona and Valencia races having more space between them on the schedule.

But he insisted: "The two Spanish races have contracts in force and I know they are current in their payments and want to fulfil their contracts.

"We might have to change the date so they are not so close together but two grands prix in Spain can live together perfectly well."



Storms gather over Red Bull dominance in Canada

A stormy weekend of weather has been forecast for Montreal's Canadian grand prix.

That is one more variable thrown in the face of Red Bull's current dominance, alongside expected high tyre degradation, two 'DRS' overtaking zones for the first time and the fact that McLaren's Lewis Hamilton dominated a year ago.

"I've always got on really well with the track, the layout seems to suit my driving style," said the Briton, referring to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

"We have a great engine, the best KERS system in the sport and excellent traction out of slow corners. I'll be looking for a strong result on Sunday," added Hamilton.

As in Canada last year, 64-year-old former double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi will be the driver representative in the stewards' room.


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