Jean Todt 'Never Had Bahrain On His Schedule' After Attending Season's First Two Races
FIA President Jean Todt will not attend this weekend’s controversial Bahrain Grand Prix, but officials "played down the significance of his absence on Wednesday," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. An FIA spokesperson said that "the Frenchman had never had Bahrain on his schedule after being at the first two races of the season in Australia and Malaysia." F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone is due to attend the race, which is set to go ahead "despite calls for it to be cancelled because of continuing civil unrest in the tiny Gulf kingdom." Most foreign visitors to Manama during Grand Prix week "would notice plenty of publicity for the race at Sakhir and few signs of unrest, other than a strong police presence along the highways." Todt was "criticized last week by Britain’s 1996 world champion Damon Hill for failing to take a clear stance on the race" and to demonstrate that F1 was sensitive to the situation. Hill said of Todt, "He has not said anything that has distanced the sport from things it would find distasteful and upsetting, which I believe everybody in the sport would actually like to do" (REUTERS, 4/17).
TEAR GAS BREAKS UP BAHRAIN PROTESTERS: In London, Loveday Morris reported that security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters at a secondary school in Bahrain as calls grew for this weekend’s F1 race to be called off due to escalating violence. The skirmishes "came after the arrest of a student at the boys’ school, amid accusations that the government is arbitrarily arresting potential troublemakers ahead of the Grand Prix." The Bahrain Interior Ministry said that "'thugs' at Al Jabriya School in the capital Manama had been dealt with in line with the law" (INDEPENDENT, 4/17).