Organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix have cancelled the March 13 event, due to continued civil unrest in the country. The race which was due to start the 2011 Formula One season may now be scheduled for later in the year, but organisers said that no decision had been taken yet.
Six people were killed and hundreds injured last week as security forces used deadly force to quell protests demanding more say in the Gulf Arab kingdom. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who was instrumental in bringing F1 to his country said in a statement, “At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,”
“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 One race to a later date,” he added.
Ecclestone said in a statement, “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,” he said.
The F1 teams were scheduled to test at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit from March 3-6, one week before the season-opening grand prix, but several teams already spoken out to say they would prefer the race be cancelled.
Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber said last week, “When you hear of people losing their lives, this is a tragedy, it’s probably not the best time to go there for a sporting event. They have bigger things, bigger priorities.”
Bahrain hosted its first grand prix in 2004 and has become the season-opener of the F1 season since 2006.