Uncertainty and confusion surrounded the Bahrain Grand Prix on Tuesday, just four days after the International Motoring Federation (FIA) had reinstated it on this year’s Formula One (F1) calendar with a provisional date of Oct. 30.
F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone suggested a U-turn and change of date was probable, while former FIA president Max Mosley led a renewed chorus of objections to the controversial event taking place this year.
Mosley was supported by F1 teams and drivers, many stating that they do not wish the race to happen while human rights are still being flouted in the Gulf kingdom. However, the FIA made no comment and supporters of the race said it would be a step toward peace and reconciliation after last week’s lifting of martial law.
More than 30 people have died in pro-democracy protests.
Mosley, who ridiculed the use of non-English and non-Arabic-speaking FIA vice-president Spaniard Carlos Gracia as a fact-finding special envoy in Bahrain, told the BBC: “I will be astonished if the event goes ahead. I don’t think it will happen.”
The race was originally due to take place on March 13 as the season-opener, but was postponed on Feb. 21 because of civil unrest. It was reinstated on Friday last week.
Mosley said the FIA did not have the authority to reinstate the Bahrain race, or make changes to the calendar, without the written agreement of the teams, led by the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA).
“You need the written agreement of every team and I don’t believe that is going to be forthcoming,” Mosley said.
He said this was enshrined in Article 66 of the sport’s International Sporting Code.
By Tuesday afternoon, it was revealed that FOTA had written to the FIA and Ecclestone, who is responsible for the calendar, stating they did not wish to race in Bahrain on Oct. 30. They said they were open to discuss a possible date later in the year.
Ecclestone, who had planned to move the inaugural Indian Grand Prix from Oct. 30 to Dec. 11, was quoted by the Times in London saying that he favored moving the proposed reinstated race to Dec. 4. He also said that the US$40 million fee Bahrain pays to host the race “makes no difference” to his or the FIA’s decision.