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Spare a thought for the poor Formula One followers

india Updated: Jun 10, 2011 00:36 IST
Steve Slater

Last Friday's decision by the FIA World Motor Sport Council to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix and reshuffle the calendar to accommodate it, has created at best confusion and, quite likely as the teams assemble in Montreal's paddock, rebellion. It has also bizarrely left us doubting when the Indian GP, a highlight of 2011 season, might take place.

Well, ahead of last week's meeting of the sport's governing body, there was disquiet about a return to Bahrain, which was postponed from its original March 13 date due to civil unrest in the Gulf kingdom. Not only have ethical concerns been voiced, there are practical considerations too.

Despite the Bahrain government's guarantees and tour of inspection by FIA vice-president Carlos Gracia, insurance companies remain reluctant to insure either equipment or personnel if they head to the Kingdom. That could be the showstopper for Bahrain.

When you think of the millions of dollars of kit that Formula One teams ship to a race, I cannot believe that the teams will gamble on it being uninsured. On a more personal level, there would be no way I would travel to any overseas destination without valid medical or travel insurance.

We can expect some heated meetings between the team's organisation FOTA, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone in Montreal. Already Bernie and Jean Todt seem to have stepped back from their advocacy of the Bahrain race, and I suspect the teams may complete their U-turns for them.

That is perhaps precisely what the FIA are secretly hoping for. It may be that they are saving face by publicly supporting the ruling royal family in Bahrain who are a major supporter of motorsport in the region, while waiting for the teams to rebel and force a final cancellation of the 2011 event.

And the Indian Grand Prix? Last week, the race was moved from its October 30 slot to accommodate Bahrain and New Delhi became the season finale on December 11. That isn't much use to race fans who had booked vacations, flights and hotel rooms ahead of the October date. If Bahrain is cancelled, the question that will be asked is, will India drop back to its original date? Nobody knows.

Indian GP spokesman, Vicky Chandhok, has confirmed that construction work is ahead of schedule. He is 100 per cent confident that the New Delhi track will be ready to host Formula One, whether in October or December. The decision lies solely with the FIA.

Right now, fans wanting to attend the Indian GP have to make a blind guess on which date to make their bookings. The FIA is supposed to provide leadership, but so far for fans in India, it has proved sadly lacking.

Steve Slater is an F1 race commentator on STAR Sports' coverage of Formula One