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The Crown Prince of Bahrain has vowed not to call off the country’s Formula 1 race for a second consecutive year despite rising fears in the paddock on Friday. This follows two separate incidents on Wednesday and Thursday nights in which Force India and Sauber mechanics witnessed potentially dangerous situations on motorways.
In a press conference held at the Sakhir circuit, Formula One Management (FOM) head Bernie Ecclestone admitted that the royal highness has been 'a little bit silly' by putting the race on. The Englishman has continuously said that the event would not be cancelled unless the Bahraini authorities at the helm said that it should be.
As journalists gathered in the press conference, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa insisted that a cancellation would not be the right move.
“I would first like to start by saying that I hope by coming here, unlike what has been reported, we are not trying to say we’re perfect,” he began. “We’re a real country with real issues and we hope that you get a chance to see us for all our complexities and all our shades.
“I genuinely believe this race is a force for good; it unites many people from many different religious backgrounds, sexes and ethnicities, under the roof of Formula 1. All of them are excited that you’re here and I hope that you get a chance to interview some of these fans and see what they really think.
“I think this race should continue because it is indeed a very big event for this country, it’s important economically and socially. Political parties from across the whole spectrum, both conservative and opposition, have welcomed the race.”
On Thursday, British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said that Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative Party) should call the race off.
“As far as I understand, it was a few politicians who made those comments and it certainly doesn’t represent the entire British political spectrum,” the Crown Prince continued.
“I absolutely can guarantee that any problems that may or may not happen are not directed at Formula 1. It goes to show that there are people who are out to cause chaos; you had these problems last year in your country and there’s a very big difference between protesting for political rights and rioting. The attack that happened around Force India was aimed at the police, it was unprovoked and was quite dangerous, but at no time was anyone from Formula 1 in danger.
“I think cancelling the race just empowers extremists. For those of us trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having this race allows us to build bridges across communities and get people working together. It allows us to celebrate our nation as an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive. I actually think that having the race has actually prevented extremists from doing what they think they need to do out of the world’s attention.
“I guarantee that any protests are not against Formula 1. I am very confident that protests, which will happen at some point - there is a demonstration today - is part of the political process in any country. So why should we be any different? Why should our openness relative to our neighbours be used against us? I think it’s part of the political fabric of this country. The race is the race, we are here the celebrate that and, frankly, I’m here to go racing.
“If we admit that we have problems, if we hold internal investigations with external investigators and we say that we’re not perfect, then I hardly think we’re trying to gloss over real issues that exist in our country. What we’re trying to do is to use any positive event for the benefit of our people and our nation and I will not be ashamed about that, at all.”
The sun set in Bahrain at 6pm (BST +2); today is feared to be the worst for protests as masses of demonstrators are expected to take to the streets following Friday prayer. F1 personnel continue to travel from the race track to hotels in capital city Manama; a selection of villages where protests take place lie between the two locations.
|2012 Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix|
|26 Apr '12||Ricciardo not yet refreshed after disappointment|
|25 Apr '12||Di Resta hails Force India’s best performance|
|25 Apr '12||Interview with Force India’s Paul di Resta|
|23 Apr '12||No doubts about Grand Prix, says Bahrain boss|
|16 May||Ecclestone welcomes Honda to Formula 1|
|15 May||'German prosecutors charge Ecclestone'|
|14 May||Ecclestone slams Pirelli|
|29 Apr||Only top ten teams to receive prize money|
|Salman al Khalifa|
|20 Apr '12||Hacker group ‘Anonymous’ takes down F1.com|
|20 Apr '12||Crown Prince: We will not cancel the race|
|20 Feb '12||Bahrain Grand Prix tickets now on sale|
|8 Mar '11||New deadline for Bahrain Grand Prix|
|20 May||Mallya targets double top ten in Monaco|
|20 May||Hamilton enjoys Le Mans MotoGP visit|
|20 May||Lowe to complete Mercedes move in June|
|20 May||Maldonado confident over Monaco chances|