Bahrain is our table cloth

40 million dollars. That is how much it cost Bernie Ecclestone for the lost race in Sakhir, but we will get to that in a moment.

Twilight in Bahrain 2005 © The Cahier Archive

As far as the level of excitement goes during the off season, all a fan looks forward to (besides any testing dates in Barcelona and Abu Dhabi) is the season opening race date. This year, and many years before it, Bahrain was the source of that excitement. As that weekend drew closer, everything would slowly begin to piece itself together: “X” has the best pace, “Y” is the most consistent, and “Z” is the strongest of the new teams (Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT).

But just like that, the Bahrain GP has been snatched away from us, as quickly as a professional pull-table-cloth-from-table-full-of-utensils man snatches away the white table cloth. Bahrain was our table cloth and we are the utensils.

First reactions are always going to be the same: I don’t feel comfortable without my white table cloth. Sitting on this cold wooden surface is not right. But as soon as it settles and we begin to understand why the table cloth was snatched, cold wood slowly begins to feel like home.

The Australian GP has now been promoted to season opener and I suppose the Aussie’s in charge worked up a smile or two.

“The grand prix may have been a good deal in 1996, when it cost the government only $1.7 million; but, with falling crowd numbers and taxpayers footing a $50 million-a-year bill, the government should cut its losses and walk away,” Michael Danby, parliament member responsible for activities at Melbourne Ports and Albert Park, told parliament according to Reuters.

Bernie Ecclestone would be happy to talk about having the race canceled before their official contract together ends in 2015. That, however, is for another post.

And just like that, Bahrain is off the calendar. All F1 teams and organizers fully support the Crown Prince’s decision to cancel the Grand Prix. After all, F1 is about entertaining a people’s country and if those people are not at ease – be it mentally, physically, financially, etc – that should be resolved first before tending to entertainment. The Bahrain GP could just simply not coincide with the country’s protests. The level of safety was the main concern.

“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 bin Isa 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.

Ecclestone gave an interesting analogy to the conflict in Bahrain with its relation to F1. It is like if an earthquake had hit the country – nobody could have foreseen that a month ago. And so, looking at this strictly from a sports perspective, Bahrain didn’t get to host the race and will not be getting paid by ticket holders or teams, which in turn would have made up the cost the country would have needed to pay Ecclestone. Ecclestone is not going to charge them $40 million for a race that isn’t going to happen. So for that, the Formula One Management will handle that tab.

Looking to the teams, having a race axed in such short notice is quite troublesome. The majority of them had already began shipping their cars and equipment for the Bahrain test (a small thorn in the side compared to the people of Bahrain, but still). And Bahrain are strangely hoping to squeeze somewhere in the 2011 calendar somehow.

“That would be very complex. The sea freight schedule is very tight, with the equipment moving from one race to another and then another, with very little flexibility in this area. So putting the race back on the calendar later in the year would be very difficult, while replacing it with another event in Europe, to restore the calendar to 20 Grands Prix, would be more straightforward,” Scuderia Toro Rosso team manager, Gianfranco Fantuzzi explains.

As much as I’d love to see Bahrain return this year, seeing as I had put together some sort of a plan to fly there in March, I don’t think it would be inserted smoothly. The calendar is already tight as it is.


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