Bahrain cancelled F1 season-opener due to unrest

16:47, February 22, 2011      

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Members of the Bahrainian Royal Arab Studs watch Ferrari's Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher of Germany drive past during the fourth practice session for the desert F1 Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, south of the capital Manama in this April 2, 2005, file photo. (Photo/Agencies)

Bahrain Grand Prix organisers called off Formula One's March 13 season-opener on Monday after a week's anti-government protests that left seven dead and hundreds injured.

While the authorities hoped for a possible re-scheduling of the country's biggest sporting event, a final pre-season test organised for March 3 at the Sakhir circuit was cancelled outright.

The 12 teams will instead return to Spain's Barcelona circuit between March 8-11 after wrapping up a session there on Monday.

The decision to postpone the race, already considered a foregone conclusion in F1 circles, meant the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 27 becomes the first event on what was planned to be a record 20-round calendar.

"The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) today announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain would withdraw from hosting this year's F1 Grand Prix race so that the country can focus on its process of national dialogue," said a statement by the Bahrain Circuit authorities.

"At the present time the country's entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain," Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the country's Crown Prince, told Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone in a telephone call.

"I hope that F1 and our friends around the world will understand our decision at this difficult time," said Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed Alzayani.

"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." Christian Horner, team boss of champions Red Bull, agreed.

Bahrain was the first race to be called off since the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida in Japan in 1995 had to be rescheduled due to a major earthquake in the region.

Source:China Daily/Agencies

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