Bahrain Grand Prix called off after anti-government protests
Gulf kingdom "must focus on immediate issues of national interest", says Crown Prince
Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix has been called off after a week of speculation amid violent political unrest in the Gulf kingdom.
The race could yet be rescheduled for later in the season but the 2011 F1 campaign will now begin in Australia on 27 March.
“At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,” said Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
“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.
“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.”
No decision has yet been made on a potential new date for the race, which was due to take place from 11-13 March.
F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone said: “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 final pre-season test, due to take place in Bahrain from March 3-6 has also been cancelled, with teams now returning to the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona from 8-11 March before heading to Australia for the first race.
The decision was made following discussions between the FOTA (Formula One Teams’ Association) on Monday.
The Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne on 25-27 March will now be the opening round of the 2011 season.