The announcement came on Monday afternoon, an hour before the final day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya was due to wind down, with the country’s Crown Prince phone F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone to inform him of the decision.
“At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,” Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa is quoted.
“Although Bernie Ecclestone had graciously made clear that a decision on the race was entirely Bahrain’s to make and was not yet required, we felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting of Bahrain’s Formula 1 race to a later date.”
As yet, any decision on when to postpone the event to has not been made, although what is certain is that the Australian Grand Prix will resume its role of kicking off the 2011 championship season.
Quite where a rescheduled race could be slotted in the F1 calendar is quite another matter, with the 2011 season schedule already pretty crammed with events until the end of November.
Perhaps it would seem logical to slot the Bahrain race alongside – or after – the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it definitely won’t want a regional event eating into its ticket sales or publicity.
Furthermore, extending the race season into December (by scheduling the race after what is currently the season-ending Brazilian GP) won’t sit well with the twelve teams, who prefer to use the December off-season period to finalise the design and assembly of next year’s cars. Any delay to that would ramp up costs, which would rather go against the current cost-cutting modus operandi in the sport.
“I would like to extend my personal gratitude to Bernie Ecclestone for his support and understanding,” the Crown Prince continued.
“After the events of the past week, our nation’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.”
Ecclestone added: “It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country.
“The hospitality and warmth of the people of Bahrain is a hallmark of the race there, as anyone who has been at a Bahrain Grand Prix will testify. We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon.”
The decision to withdraw the event is a commonsense announcement for the Formula 1 paddock, with there being a growing reluctance among many in the sport to travel to the event, as well as the possible risk that – by going there – it could be perceived that F1 was actually condoning the actions of any parties concerned. Worse still, the risk that the sport becomes a political pawn in any ongoing action between the two parties renders the announcement even more sensible.
[Original image via Pilotoons]