Bahrain set for new F1 deal
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is ready to hand a new five-year contract to the organisers of the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix.
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This year's race again went ahead against a troubled backdrop as pro-democracy demonstrators staged marches and protests in their quest for reform given the country's miserable human rights record.
The more violent element, primarily the radical February 14 Youth Revolution, expressed their concerns and objections with the daily burning of tyres and clashes with police who responded with teargas.
Despite the problems, Ecclestone has confirmed his willingness to start negotiations on an extension to a deal that still has another remaining three years, but will run to 2021.
"I feel they do a super job and we're more than happy to give them a new contract for five years. I don't see any problems," said Ecclestone.
Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani feels talks will start soon, with the new contract signed before the end of the year.
"We're still contracted to 2016, but obviously we are willing to look beyond that," said Alzayani.
"We've not started negotiations yet, but we are happy to look at it. The intentions (for a contract extension) are definitely there.
"We're committed to the sport, we were the first race in the Middle East - we call ourselves the home of motor sport in the Middle East.
"We truly believe that in every sense of those words, so we are here for the long term, and we want to be known as the friendly race.
"Hopefully we can sign something this year."
Ecclestone has also indicated next year's grand prix in the Gulf island kingdom could open next season, as it did in 2006 and 2010.
In 2011, however, anti-government demonstrations that resulted in the deaths of a number of protesters, led to the postponement of the race and eventually its withdrawal from the calendar that year. Alzayani stated last week it was his desire for his track to again usher in a new campaign, and he added: "It's on the table.
"For us, we're ready any day of the year, but we will have to see how it fits with logistics, other dates, other countries hosting and if there are conflicts with any other events they may have.
"We've had the first race before, and by July or August we will get a better picture as to where we will lie on next year's calendar."
Ecclestone's one concern, however, is Bahrain hosting a test session shortly before the race, believing it would become processional as teams would be setting up their cars for the event.
Despite the need from the teams for warm weather ahead of a season, following complaints this year of the rain and cold that blighted running in Jerez and Barcelona, Bahrain is definitely on the agenda.
"That is one of the concerns, and that's his opinion, but I don't think that would happen," said Alzayani.
"With a change of weather the whole set-up can change, so you never know.
"I don't believe in that theory as much as he does, but we will take it into consideration.
"We are hoping to get an early race and a test session next year as well, so whether it's the first, second or third test, I don't know yet."