Bernie Ecclestone says Bahrain GP will go ahead despite fresh unrest

By Andrew BensonBBC Sport in Sao Paulo
Ecclestone confident 2012 Bahrain GP will go ahead

The Bahrain Grand Prix will take place in 2012 despite ongoing concerns about civil unrest in the country, says Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

An independent report about a crackdown on protests in Bahrain has accused authorities of "excessive force" and listed a raft of human rights abuses.

But Ecclestone said: "It's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us."

He added that he did not expect the race to become a magnet for protests.

This year's Bahrain Grand Prix was called off after pro-democracy protests in the kingdom degenerated into violence, and more than 40 people were killed.

A report into the unrest by the Bahrain Independent Commission was published on Wednesday and detailed instances of torture. The Bahraini king has vowed to introduce reforms to protect freedom of speech and other basic rights.

This year, the race was at first postponed in February and then finally called off altogether in June after Ecclestone repeatedly tried to reschedule it.

Asked what he would do if trouble flared up again next year ahead of the race, which is scheduled for 22 April, Ecclestone said: ""I'd wait and see what happened and then decide. Up to now they've done everything they said they were going to do."

And questioned on the risk of F1 being drawn into another long-winded saga over whether the Bahrain race would go ahead, he said: "Maybe we should have gone this year."

He added that he had no concerns about the Bahrain regime, saying: "They have internal politics and I doubt very much whether they'd use international matters to sort out internal politics."

There is also uncertainty over the future of two other races on next year's calendar.

The US Grand Prix is scheduled to return as the penultimate race of the season on 18 November, but is under threat because organisers have not paid Ecclestone the fee to host the race.

And the organisers of the Korean Grand Prix have said they want to reduce the $50m fee they pay for the race as they can no longer afford it.

Organisers of the race in Austin, Texas said on Thursday that they have made a counter offer to Ecclestone to ensure the 2012 event goes ahead.

Circuit officials agreed to make an immediate cash payment for the race fee but offered the F1 supremo an alternative contract to the one he had tabled.

"We have been ready to send Mr Ecclestone a fee for some time," said Bobby Epstein, one of the founders of the Circuit of Americas which is being built near Austin.

"He hasn't received it yet because the new contract presented to us two weeks ago contained unrealistic and unfeasible demands.

"We have signed and returned a contract similar to what we anticipated receiving. This race should be a reality, but if we are going to make the 2012 race date, we must receive a counter-signature in the coming few days."

Ecclestone said in Brazil that he thought the US GP was "most unlikely" to happen.

"The biggest problem they've got is a shortage of funds," he added.

When asked by BBC Sport whether the Austin race could return to the calendar in 2013, Ecclestone replied: "Absolutely."

Asked about the future of the Korean race, Ecclestone said: "We're having a look at that with the promoter because it isn't working for them. We'll try and find the reason it isn't and try to help them."

Coulthard goes off-road at Austin circuit