Red Bull driver Mark Webber offered a damning verdict Saturday of the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix into the current Formula One season and said he would be "highly surprised" if the race goes ahead this year.
The postponed grand prix was rescheduled back into the calendar for Oct. 30 at a World Motor Sports Council meeting in Barcelona on Friday. It had been called off earlier in the season because of the deadly turmoil in the Gulf kingdom.
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After the Spain summit, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said he was confident the race will go ahead despite protests from the teams at its reinstatement, Sky Sports reported Saturday.
But offering his "personal opinion" on his website, Webber said: "It’s obvious that the parties involved have struggled to reach a decision, but, sadly, I feel that they still haven’t made the right one. Like it or not, F1 and sport in general isn’t above having a social responsibility and conscience. I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually, but now isn’t the right time."
The decision by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, to race in Bahrain meant the season will now run into December, culminating in the Indian Grand Prix, which was moved from its original October slot.
Teams were keen to avoid racing in Bahrain, either from a moral standpoint or on the issue of insurance.
"As a competitor, I do not feel at all comfortable going there to compete in an event when, despite reassurances to the contrary, it seems inevitable that it will cause more tension for the people of that country," Webber said. "I don’t understand why my sport wishes to place itself in a position to be a catalyst for that."
But Ecclestone said the decision was legitimate after all the necessary assurances were sought and found.
"The FIA sent people out there to check on the situation," he said. "They came back and reported everything is fine."
Ecclestone said he accepted the concerns but vowed to press ahead.
"It’s obvious that everybody feels they need to be safe when we get there," he added. "In the end we’ll have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain. If there is peace and no problems then I suppose the teams will be all right. Of course they’d rather not be racing in December, but these are unusual circumstances."