Todt: Only a minority against F1

Jonathan Noble

FIA president Jean Todt remains adamant it was the right decision for the Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead - and thinks it would be wrong to call off the event because a minority are protesting against it.

Despite widespread international media coverage questioning the merits of Formula 1 going ahead this weekend amid safety concerns, Todt said on Saturday that the protests that have taken place are not justification for considering its cancellation.

"I would be very annoyed if it was a majority of people," he told selected media during a briefing about the ongoing protests. "But, at the most, it would be 10 per cent of the people who would be anti. So do we have to penalise 80 or 90 per cent of the population because 10 per cent are against? My answer is no. My answer is that it is a strong majority of people [who want the race].

"Unfortunately there is much more media attention, again rightly or wrongly it is not for me to judge, on emphasising this minority. I am sure in your community it is the same: you have a lot of people who think some people are fed up, so they say let's go and concentrate on the sport. That is democracy, but most of the people are in favour of having life moving on, the sport moving on, and they enjoy the sport."

Despite Force India withdrawing from practice two because of safety concerns about getting back from the track after dark, and some F1 personnel getting caught up in clashes between police and protestors, Todt says he had had no indication that competitors are generally worried about the situation - which he likened to football violence.

"To say that there has not been some controversy around the happening of Bahrain would be the wrong allegation around my side," he said.

He added: "I sympathise with people who have some emotions but we have to deal with facts. I spoke with Peter Sauber this morning and I don't want to betray his words, but he said he felt as comfortable here as he would at any other place in Europe. So, that is where we asses our judgement to be at the moment."

Todt also dismissed any suggestion that the Bahrain authorities had politicised the event by promoting it under the slogan 'UniF1ed'.

"I really want to be away from any political consideration – because I said it is not the job of the FIA nor any international federation," he said. "You saw that with the Olympic games in 2008 in Beijing. It has happened in FIFA, with the football games.

"We have to be out of that, and everybody should be out of that. It is a sporting event. Then, if the sporting event is helping to heal the situation it is very good for the sport. I saw some fantastic quotes from Nelson Mandela talking about how good is the sport to cure problems around the world. And if we do that, I would be honoured and proud that F1 may have contributed to that."

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