The Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead this year after Formula 1's ruling body, the FIA, voted in favor of reinstating the race for Oct. 30. The season will thus comprise a record 20 races.
The race was scheduled to open the 2011 season in March, but was postponed due to the unrest in the country. A decision was expected on May 1, but the FIA decided to give Bahrain until today before making a decision on the future of this year's race. On Friday, the governing body's World Motor Sport Council met in Barcelona to vote, and gave the green light for the Bahrain Grand Prix to take place this year.
The Oct. 30 date for the race is likely to mean the Indian Grand Prix moves to Dec. 4 or Dec. 11, the latest finish to a season since 1963, although the FIA did not confirm the date for the race. Indian GP officials said they welcomed the season finale slot.
The FIA said in a statement that the WMSC had "unanimously" agreed to reinstate Bahrain.
"Following a fact-finding mission undertaken at the request of FIA President Jean Todt, FIA Vice President Carlos Gracia visited Bahrain on May 31, 2011 to assess the situation in the country," said the statement. "Meetings were conducted with the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Bahrain Motor Federation and Bahrain International Circuit, as well as other national and international organizations including Mr. Tariq Al Saffar at the National Institute of Human Rights. It should be noted that the recent announcement by the King of Bahrain has established a political dialogue and reconciliation process.
"After considering all the factors and taking into consideration all stakeholders' concerns, the WMSC unanimously agreed to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix in the 2011 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. This decision reflects the spirit of reconciliation in Bahrain, which is evident from the strong support the race receives from the Government and all major parties in Bahrain, including the largest opposition group, all of whom endorse the Formula 1 and motorsport in the country.
"The WMSC feels that reinstating the Grand Prix is a means of helping to unite people as the country looks to move forward, and also recognizes the commitment made by the Formula 1 teams, their employees and families, and personnel associated with the Championship including the local team of volunteers who are so vital to the event."
The Bahrain International Circuit welcomed the FIA decision.
"This is welcome news for all of Bahrain," said Zayed R. Alzayani, chairman of the track. "As a country we have faced a difficult time, but stability has returned; with businesses operating close to normal, the State of National Safety lifted and countries removing travel restrictions. "Collectively, we are in the process of addressing issues of national and international concern, and learning lessons from the recent past. By the time the grand prix arrives we will be able to remind the world about Bahrain at its best.
"The Bahrain Grand Prix has always been a source of national pride and it is an event than transcends politics. Not only does it receive strong support from the Government, but also from all major parties in Bahrain, including our largest opposition group, Al Wefaq, who yesterday endorsed both the BIC and motor racing in Bahrain.
"Importantly, it will also offer a significant boost to the economy. The grand prix attracts 100,000 visitors, supports 3,000 jobs and generates around $500m of economic benefit. Its positive effect will be felt throughout the country.
"On behalf of Bahrain, I would like to thank Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt and the FIA and the rest of the motorsport community for the support and understanding they have extended to us this year."
Mercedes GP boss Ross Brawn revealed earlier this week that Formula 1 teams had informed Bernie Ecclestone that a Dec. 11 finale was "totally unacceptable."
"I think it is unacceptable and we've told Bernie that and he knows our opinion," said Brawn. "If we continue to take those sorts of approaches then we will run into problems because our people cannot be expected to work in that environment and situation, so I think it is totally unacceptable."
Red Bull said in a short statement that the Formula One Teams' Association would discuss the decision internally.
"Red Bull Racing has acknowledged the FIA World Motor Sport Council's decision to go ahead with the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix. We will go through the correct channels and discuss this decision within the appropriate forum with the other F1 teams and our fellow FOTA members."