Bahrain Grand Prix: FIA president Jean Todt backs race

Motorsport boss Jean Todt has defended the decision to hold this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix amid ongoing civil unrest in the country.

Jean Todt, the president of governing body the FIA, said he had no regrets about the race - and emphasised no Formula 1 team had expressed any concerns.

Extensive investigations into the situation in Bahrain had unearthed "nothing (that) could allow us to stop the race", he said.

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I don't see one team not supportive of being in Bahrain

Jean Todt, President of the FIA

"On rational facts, it was decided there was no reason to change our mind."

Todt expressed caution about commenting on reports a protester had been killed in clashes with police.

"We know protests can have a negative result," he said.

"We are a governing body running sport, you can have lots of protests and there can be consequences, and I am not sure the protests would not have happened if the grand prix would not have happened."

Todt played down two separate incidents in which members of the Force India and Sauber teams encountered trouble on their way back from the track.

Four Force India mechanics were caught on Wednesday between protestors throwing petrol bombs over their car and riot police firing tear gas - an incident that led to two team members asking to return to the UK.

And, on Thursday, 12 Sauber mechanics drove down the hard shoulder of a motorway to avoid traffic when they saw a group of masked people heading in the direction of their car.

Todt said: "I spoke with (Force India deputy team principal) Bob Fernley and it was not an attack that was guided to them.

"I can understand there can be some emotion, but so can there be in a soccer match when there are problems. It can happen all over the world.

"I had a long discussion with Peter Sauber yesterday and this morning, he said to me: 'You know, I feel definitely as safe here as I feel in any other grand prix in the world and specifically in Europe.'"

Todt said he had spoken to most of the team bosses since arriving in Bahrain and "I don't see one team not supportive of being in Bahrain."

Bahrain GP factfile

  • First held: 2004
  • Last race: 2010
  • 2010 race winner: Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
  • Circuit length: 5.412km
  • Laps: 57
  • 2011 race: The event was called off because of anti-government protests in the Gulf state
  • 2012 race: A number of teams expected this year's event to be cancelled, but the FIA said the race will go ahead.
  • Schedule: Qualifying at 1200 BST on Saturday, race at 1300 BST on Sunday

Protests in the Gulf state have intensified over the weekend as opposition parties declared 'three days of rage' in protest at the race taking place.

Todt and F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone have emphasised F1 is in Bahrain as a sporting entity and not to become involved in politics.

But race organisers have used posters with the word 'UniF1ed' to promote the race.

Asked to comment on whether this was a deliberate politicisation of the race, Todt said: "It can be a lot of interpretation. I understand, in the UK, some opposition parties are against running the grand prix, if you take the comments of the actual prime minister he feels things are moving in the right direction.

"We as a governing body had no reasons not to have the grand prix happening in Bahrain. If we had a new vote today to the world council, I am convinced there is no new evidence that would make the decision (to hold it) different."