F1 - Teams Look To Ecclestone For Guidance
By Alan Baldwin - Reuters
LONDON, Teams left the fate of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in the hands of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Friday after police again fired on protesters in the Gulf kingdom.
The renewed violence forced Ecclestone to tone down a short-lived note of optimism that the March 13 race, the biggest sporting event of the year in Bahrain, could remain on track despite the unrest.
After telling Reuters on Thursday that the race would probably have to be cancelled if the situation in Manama had not improved by Wednesday, the 80-year-old told the BBC on Friday that he was more hopeful.
But as reports of more shooting and more civilian casualties emerged, he changed his position.
"I don't fear anything, I just think things have changed and that we should wait and see over the weekend exactly what changes there have been," said Ecclestone.
Team bosses meeting during testing at Spain's Barcelona circuit said they had faith in Ecclestone to make the right call.
The 12 teams are also due to take part in four days of testing in Bahrain from March 3.
"It would be a great shame to lose the race but it's not the teams' decision -- it's down to the promoter. Bernie and the FIA (International Automobile Federation) will have much more information than us and we will trust their decisions," said Christian Horner, principal of world champions Red Bull.
Horner said the teams had considered alternative venues for the final pre-season test.
Earlier, Ecclestone said it was not for Formula One to run Bahrain and side-stepped questions about whether the sport should contemplate going to a country where protests for democratic change were met with bullets.
"It seems as if people thought it was democratic a few weeks ago," he said.
"We have never, ever been involved in religion and politics. We don't make decisions based on those things," Ecclestone added.
"I hope we don't have to do anything and can carry on as normal."
Four protesters were killed and 231 wounded when riot police drove activists from a makeshift camp in Bahrain's capital Manama on Thursday. Dozens were detained.
Several thousand mourners turned out on Friday for funerals of three of those killed in what the island's top Shi'ite cleric called a "massacre" ordered by the Sunni ruling family to crush street protests.
Races scheduled for the Sakhir circuit this weekend have already been cancelled.
"We pulled the GP2 race, it's the Asian series so it's not terribly important," said Ecclestone. "We don't want to take any chances.
"Let's hope this all just blows away. In these parts there have always been skirmishes. This is perhaps a bit more than that."