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Todt: Bahrain will not damage F1

NEWS STORY
21/04/2012

While some fear that the decision to go ahead with the Bahrain Grand Prix will do irreparable damage to the sport, FIA President Jean Todt insists otherwise.

Watching Bernie Ecclestone compare the situation in the Gulf state to Conservatives and Labour bickering back in the UK, one cannot help but feel that this could be a watershed moment for the sport, much like the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994.

If things do go wrong, and tomorrow's race is compromised Ecclestone and Todt's positions would surely become untenable. Whilst allowing the sport to be used by both sides in a bitter conflict some of the comments made, particularly by the F1 supremo, have bordered on crass.

Speaking to reporters at Sakhir, who for the last year has been almost as invisible as the Force Indias were on our TV screens today, insisted that it was right to go ahead and bring F1 to Bahrain.

"I am sorry about what has been reported. I am not sure that all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country," he said.

"I feel F1 is very strong," he continued. "I think it is a very strong brand, and I think all the people among the teams to whom I have been speaking are very happy. I was even told it would have been a mistake not to come."

With the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, a company owned by Bahrain, owning a significant stake in McLaren, and a number of other teams, including Ferrari, having strong ties to the Middle East, it might not come as too much of a surprise to see them backing this weekend's race.

"That is what I have been told by most of the team principals here," said Todt. "Unfortunately I did not see so many of those quotes in the media. I respect the media, I respect what they write, but it is not what I have seen and what I was told by a lot of people to whom I have been talking. All the recommendations are that it was absolutely no problem to be in Bahrain, so there was no reason to change our mind."

Asked why race organizers had been allowed to use the slogan UniF1ed which appeared to use the sport for political purposes, a situation that almost cost Turkey its place on the F1 calendar after just one year, Todt replied: "It is a sporting event, if the sporting event is helping to heal the situation it is very good for the sport."

Following claims by PR companies working on behalf of the Bahrain International Circuit that 77 percent of people in Bahrain support the race, Todt said: "Do we have to penalise 80 or 90 percent of the population because 10 percent are against? My answer is no."

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