Boss cools fears on Bahrain safety
Formula One teams and drivers reluctantly heading to this week's controversial Bahrain Grand Prix needn't worry about their safety - at least that's the view of circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani.
Speaking before the first members of the spectacle of speed arrived in the troubled Gulf kingdom yesterday, Al Zayani insisted the decision to go ahead with the race wasn’t putting anyone in harm’s way.
“We wouldn’t take a decision on a gamble,” he said. “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.” The sport’s governing body announced last Friday 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.
Last year’s GP was called off following a bloody crackdown on dissidents that left more than 30 dead and F1 teams have been deeply uneasy about returning, but have binding contracts to do so.
On the day of the FIA’s announcement last week, three teenagers were wounded at a rally in Manama after the funeral of a man shot during a protest earlier this month.
Petrol bombs were thrown at police, who used tear gas, and more demonstrations have been called for leading up to the race - the biggest sporting event in Bahrain and one broadcast to a global TV audience of millions.
However, Al Zayani ensured it was safe to go racing, even if there were still protests across the island.
“You have some stuff going on in villages, but it’s nothing that can’t be handled,” the Bahraini added. “I have no doubt at all that Formula One is not a target, not the teams, not the media.
“I think [the protesters] will probably look out for the media to try and get their message abroad, which is fine. Let them express their opinion.” Much of the world’s media has been fiercely opposed to the race going ahead. Yet Al Zayani suggested some of the other countries on the calendar had worse human rights records and questioned the motivation of critics.
“I think every time we plug a hole about Bahrain, something else seems to pop up,” he said.
“I sometimes wonder and ask myself what is it that they’ve got against Bahrain? Are they just trying to find anything to spoil the race?”