F1: Insiders Expect Bahrain To Be Axed Photo:
TMR Team | Apr, 11 2012 | 0 Comments
  • Insiders expect F1 to axe Bahrain
  • Bahrain boycott would breach teams' contracts - Ecclestone
  • Lotus to keep F1 name until at least 2017
  • Vettel says McLaren 'the team to beat'
  • Still some 'gentlemen' in F1 - Sauber

Insiders expect F1 to axe Bahrain

Many F1 insiders are now expecting next weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix to be called off.

"We're not going to Bahrain, the decision will be announced soon," wrote Livio Oricchio, the correspondent for Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

In the wake of the latest reports about the ongoing political situation inside the island Kingdom, Oricchio said he expects the news about the race to be known "today or tomorrow".

He referred to the direct threat made by the protest organising group February 14th Youth Coalition, who said it could not "ensure the safety" of the sport's travelling members.

A spokesman for the international group Human Rights Watch admitted it is worried.

"On the ground we see an increasing number of deaths, and serious injuries from tear gas and beatings," he is quoted as saying by the BBC.

And the latest fears have been intensified by the explosion of a bomb that injured seven policemen on Monday, and news that a jailed activist on hunger strike is now close to death.

An unnamed team boss admitted he is worried about his employees "and their families", but an advisor to Bahrain's interior ministry tried to play down those fears.

"People can be assured that if problems arise, then there will be a plan to deal with that as there would be with any public event in the world," former London police assistant commissioner John Yates told the Associated Press.

But even Bernie Ecclestone, who will be in China this weekend, could now be stepping back from the controversy.

"If the teams don't want to go, then we cannot make them," the F1 chief executive told the Times.

All the FIA has said is that it is "monitoring" the situation, with it believed that contingency plans are in place so that F1 can cope with a cancellation decision made as late as this Saturday or Sunday.

The Bahrainis, meanwhile, are confident.

"We anticipate formula one will continue and hope it will be a success," said government spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa.

The Bahrain circuit's Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa added: "The race is going ahead - there is no doubt about that.

"There are several reports doing the rounds that are saying a lot of things which are baseless," he told the Gulf Daily News.

"We are ready and there is a plan in place to ensure the safety of the teams, officials and fans."



Bahrain boycott would breach teams' contracts - Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone has admitted F1 teams will breach their contracts if they do not race in Bahrain next weekend.

Earlier, as the controversy surrounding the sport's continued plans to travel to the troubled island Kingdom deepens, an unnamed team boss admitted his peers would prefer if the event was called off.

The Times newspaper then quoted F1 chief executive Ecclestone as saying that "If the teams don't want to go, then we cannot make them".

"We've no way we can force people to go there," he also told the PA Sport news agency on Tuesday.

But in actual fact, teams are contractually bound to race at each event on the F1 calendar, with breaches punishable by exclusion from the sport.

"We can't say 'you've got to go' - although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn't go - but it doesn't help," the 81-year-old clarified.

"Commercially they have to go, but whether they decide to or not is up to them," said Ecclestone.

"I've had no one say anything other than 'we're going to be racing in Bahrain'."

He said the local race organisers, and the national sanctioning body, are the ones that could cancel the race.

F1's governing body, meanwhile, is the FIA.

"I've spoken to (FIA president) Mr (Jean) Todt," Ecclestone revealed, "we keep in close contact, and he's going out there (to China), so we'll have a chat then, and we always meet with the teams."

It also emerged on Tuesday that Ecclestone has phoned Dr Ala'a Shehabi, a prominent Bahraini journalist and activist.

She revealed that Ecclestone wants Bahrain's government opposition to "have a press conference" at the Grand Prix "in which opposition can get their message across".

Shehabi said Ecclestone is "very concerned" about the situation in Bahrain, including the fate of human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who amid his hunger strike in jail is said to be close to death.



Lotus to keep F1 name until at least 2017

F1's Enstone based team will keep the 'Lotus' name until at least 2017.

It emerged late last week that the sponsorship agreement between the team formerly known as Renault, and the Proton-owned carmaker Group Lotus, has ended.

But the team will at least keep its new chassis name for the foreseeable future, the French sports daily L'Equipe reveals.

"We are pleased to keep the name," said team owner Gerard Lopez, "because it's a great brand for F1."

Group Lotus confirmed: "The F1 team uses the strength of the Lotus name to promote themselves, and in return Group Lotus benefits from F1 exposure and the ambassadorship of its drivers."

The carmaker confirmed that the "financial arrangement" between Group Lotus and the F1 team has ended.

L'Equipe said the Genii-owned team is currently in talks with a major North American company about becoming the new title sponsor.



Vettel says McLaren 'the team to beat'

McLaren remains "the team to beat" despite the topsy-turvy outcome of the recent Malaysian Grand Prix.

That is the claim of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, having slumped to sixth in the drivers' standings after a dire weekend in Malaysia.

The formerly-dominant Red Bull driver now lags a Ferrari and even a Sauber, after Fernando Alonso and the unlikely Sergio Perez proved the cream of the slippery Sepang circuit.

Vettel, however, is still thinking silver.

Asked by the French-language RMC Sport to name the 'best team' of the moment, the German answered: "There are several.

"But McLaren seems very strong right now. They are the team to beat," said Vettel.

The trophy enthusiast received a small memento on the Melbourne podium last month, but a more impressive prize was the prestigious Grand Prix de l'Academie des Sports that he collected from FIA president Jean Todt recently in Paris.

"That was my first trophy (of 2012)," he laughed, "but I want much more than that!

"It's a long championship," Vettel argued. "We did quite a good job in Australia, and Malaysia was chaotic with the weather.

"We have a good car and the objective is to fight for the title."



Still some 'gentlemen' in F1 - Sauber

There are still some "gentlemen" in F1, team boss and owner Peter Sauber insists.

Amid the recent F-duct debate, it was suggested that Mercedes' Ross Brawn had broken a teams' 'gentlemen's agreement' that the technology should not be pursued.

"I think you need gentlemen in Formula One for this," Sport Bild reporter Ralf Bach jibed sarcastically during a news conference recently.

But Sauber, arguably one of the few gentlemen in the paddock, told Sonntagsblick that he still has some peers.

Asked if he was privately congratulated after Sergio Perez's second place in Malaysia recently, the Swiss said: "Martin Whitmarsh, of McLaren, offered me a very nice congratulation.

"Franz Tost (Toro Rosso) wrote me a lovely text. And then Domenicali and the people at Ferrari; we have a very friendly relationship," added Sauber.

As for whether there are many other gentlemen in F1, he insisted: "In this business, you don't really ask this question.

"I didn't know Colin Chapman. Ken Tyrrell was someone who appealed to me greatly, but he didn't take us (Sauber) seriously. It was the same with Frank Williams."

Indeed, in the paddock, scepticism and cynicism are more widespread, which explains why Sauber's 2012 car - although fast throughout winter testing - was not regarded as a serious threat until mere days ago.

"We knew our car was good after the tests in Jerez and Barcelona. But the others just thought that we were running light, which is common when a team from the midfield shows something," said Sauber.

Also amusing, according to Peter Sauber, is the story of Sergio Perez.

"A year ago it was said he just paid for his cockpit. So it makes me chuckle now when I see them say he is going to Ferrari," he smiled.


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