In a select briefing to media, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone offered a contrast to his recent comments on the Bahrain Grand Prix. Responding to a question about the protesters opposing the F1 and calling for democracy and respect for human rights, Ecclestone said: “We are extremely sympathetic to them,” adding that he could see both sides of the debate. He continued:
All I can say is the truth. If we hear about anything that goes on and it’s bad, for sure we don’t want to be in that country. Don’t forget when we had apartheid in South Africa, I was the one who pulled the race, so I’m the last guy to help out with this.
Last year I spoke to the people representing the protesters, and I spoke to the people we deal with. It was really difficult to decide who is right and who is wrong. And I’m happy to talk to anybody about this again, as I did before. I wish they could sort things out. If there are any problems, which there obviously are – people are not making trouble if there are no problems – then they could get it sorted.
You are always going to get people who are going to try and take advantage of any situation. And if you are going to do something you might as well do it when there is a lot of worldwide TV there. But I don’t think the people who are arguing about their position are bad people, and I don’t think they’re trying to hurt people to make their point. Just think we have all sorts of protesters. Look at the people complaining about Mrs Thatcher. It happens all the time. People use these things when there is an opportunity.
It should be positive. I said to the protesters if you are going to achieve what you are trying to achieve, which is having control of the country, you are better off having control when the country is strong and respected worldwide, than capture something nobody wants. Who wants to capture Syria at the moment? It’s a liability, not an asset, and it’s the same with Bahrain.
If they could get to grips with it, they would get more control of a country that is strong, not a country that’s weak. We are terribly selfish because we want to go there, have good racing and leave. We don’t want to see trouble, we don’t want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don’t understand, because we really don’t understand.