Formula 1 teams demand Bahrain Grand Prix cancellation

By Andrew BensonBBC Sport

The Formula 1 teams have called on motorsport's governing body the FIA to abandon its plan to hold a rescheduled Bahrain Grand Prix this year.

The race, due to be held in March but called off in February because of civil unrest, was reinstated last Friday and has been rescheduled for 30 October.

But in a letter to the FIA, the teams say they are implacably opposed to the race happening in 2011.

They say it is not practical to add the race at the end of a long season.

The teams wrote to the FIA on Tuesday under the auspices of their umbrella group Fota.

They want the inaugural Indian Grand Prix moved back to 30 October, its original date.

And contrary to reports earlier on Tuesday, they do not want the Bahrain race to be added in on the new date - 11 December - the FIA gave India last week.

A Fota spokesman would not officially give details of the contents of the letter, saying simply: "The teams expressed their views in a letter."

But BBC Sport understands that Fota - which represents all the F1 teams bar back-of-the-grid Hispania - has expressed its objections to Bahrain being rescheduled on logistical grounds.

The letter says that the idea of adding a 20th race in December would be "unbearable to our staff".

The letter does not register any moral or ethical objections to the idea of a race in Bahrain, where human rights groups say abuses are continuing following a crackdown on unrest.

But sources say the teams do have such concerns.

Nevertheless, the letter emphasises how much the teams have enjoyed racing in Bahrain since 2004 and that they appreciate the circuit and the efforts the country has made to welcome F1.

The FIA effectively has no choice but to accede to the teams' demands - although its World Council voted through the date changes last week, it did so without the full written agreement of the teams, which is constitutionally required.

The FIA based its decision on a report written by one of its vice-presidents, Spaniard Carlos Gracia, who visited Bahrain. The report has now been leaked online.external-link

MPs used a debate on the situation in the Middle East on Tuesday to criticise the FIA's decision to reschedule the race.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dems' former foreign affairs spokesman, said the decision was "simply shameful".

Foreign Secretary William Hague added: "Formula 1 has not done itself any good by what has been announced. The important thing is to encourage all sides to get back into a real dialogue."

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Max Mosley, the former head of world motorsport, said he did not think the Bahrain race would take place in October and that the sport would suffer enormous damage if it did.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "I will be astonished if the event goes ahead. I don't think it will happen."

The FIA agreed unanimously on 3 June to restore the race - which had been scheduled to be the season opener - to the 2011 calendar.

As a result, the Indian Grand Prix, originally due to take place on 30 October was moved to 11 December.

But Mosley continued: "One thing that everybody seems to have overlooked is that the teams have to agree a change of calendar.

"You can't simply move the Indian race from one point to another without asking all the people who have entered.

"You need the written agreement of every team and I don't believe that is going to be forthcoming."

The current FIA president Jean Todt said on Monday that the decision to reinstate the Bahrain race had been taken after a report claimed the situation in the country had stabilised.

And the head of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al-Khalifa, stressed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme said the Grand Prix would help unite the country.

Sheikh Mohammed, who was instrumental in taking Formula 1 to Bahrain in 2004, said: "There is a long way between now and then [30 October] and we're confident that by the time the race comes around we'll have addressed a lot of the issues.

"The Grand Prix is a uniting force and that is the view of the majority of people in Bahrain, including the opposition and we look forward to this race helping Bahrain deal with the issues it went through."

However, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes the Gulf state is not as stable as the FIA suggests and he is trying to overturn the reinstatement of the race.

Ecclestone, F1's commercial rights holder, has called for a new vote to cancel the 30 October date and give Bahrain a conditional date of 4 December.

"Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go," he told the Times newspaper.

"If they are not, then we don't go and there are no problems. We can change this 30 October date by having a vote, by fax if necessary."

Former world champion Damon Hill, chairman of the British Racing Drivers Club, said F1 had missed a chance to voice its concerns over the ongoing situation in Bahrain.

He told the BBC's World Update: "I think the trouble with Formula 1 is that it's a bubble. It goes around the world and people live in this bubble and they seem to feel they're immune to everything else that's happening."