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SPORTS
13 Apr 2012
BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX TO GO AHEAD AS PLANNED, FIA CONFIRMS

Formula 1's governing body has confirmed the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead on 22 April.

The decision comes after speculation about the event in the Gulf state, in which civil unrest has continued since protests in February 2011.

The FIA has been under pressure to call off the race amid security concerns.

But a statement said it was "satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula 1 world championship event".

Protesters in Bahrain have called for the race to be cancelled. It is closely tied with the ruling royal family, who are being pressured to improve human rights and make reforms by the majority Shia population, who accuse the minority ruling Sunnis of discrimination.

Pressure has built in recent weeks as riots have continued in Shia neighbourhoods.

The FIA statement pointed to a "fact-finding mission" undertaken by the organisation's president, Jean Todt, in December last year at which he is said to have met with "a large number of decision-makers and opinion formers" from both sides of the debate.

It added: "All expressed their wish for the grand prix to go ahead in 2012 and since then the FIA has kept in close touch with all these stakeholders.

"Away from the public eye, the FIA has received regular security briefings from the most senior diplomatic officials based in the Kingdom, as well as from other independent experts."

The statement emphasised that the FIA's responsibility was to ensure "the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during the event."

Senior F1 figures have refused publicly to get drawn into the debate, but privately many question the wisdom of sending several thousand people working on a race into a potentially volatile and unpredictable situation.

On Thursday, Red Bull driver Mark Webber was the only leading figure to speak extensively on the subject.

"There is no beating about the bush," he said. "It is sensitive out there, we get lots of view points from there, both sides.

"Obviously we are putting an immense amount of trust into the FIA - I'm not talking about the drivers, I'm talking about you guys (the media), photographers, catering everybody going to and from that track each day, competing at that track and having a normal grand prix weekend is what we would all love to see.

"Clearly there are some massive decisions to be made and it looks like they are being made and let's hope it goes well."

The Australian added: "We want it to go down smoothly and we don't want to be involved with the situation that's out there. The people who support our race are on one side and that's why it's so sensitive."

On Thursday three-time world champion Jackie Stewart said : "I'd be disappointed if F1 allowed itself to be threatened in such a way."

"It's negative for the sport in general to cancel an event. And where would it end then - the Olympics, the World Cup?

Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani has insisted the Middle East island state was ready to host the race and criticised "scaremongering tactics" saying they helped create misconceptions about the situation in Bahrain.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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