The worst is behind us now, claims Bahrain chief as under-fire race gets green light
07:43 GMT, 29 March 2012
Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani believes the return of Formula One to the Gulf kingdom will bring new hope to the region.
In three weeks' time the teams will have arrived in the country which again stands on the brink of playing its part in F1 after last year's race was cancelled in the wake of anti-government protests that resulted in a number of deaths.
No to F1: A protester hurls a petrol-bomb at police
Despite suggestions the event will be targeted, Alzayani can see no threat to the race, although concedes efforts to promote a positive message have been 'a challenge'.
Despite that, he said: 'Whatever story we have tried to put out has always been overshadowed by conflict or political issues in the country, with people getting arrested, killed or injured, or whatever.
'But the worst is behind us now. There's a genuine move towards progress, getting the country back on track.
Protest: A Bahraini anti-government demonstrator wielding rocks and wearing a “No to Formula 1” t-shirt
'Everybody has suffered in Bahrain – the citizens, the businesses – and it's time we find some hope, build on it and move back to where we were.'
In an effort to promote a “life as normal” scenario, Alzayani has confirmed there will be no increase in security the week of the event.
That may come as a concern to some teams, prompting Red Bull boss Christian Horner to confirm there will be extra security of their own on hand.
The fear is just one incident involving anyone in F1 will cast a shadow over the event and the country.
Red light: The race was last staged in 2010 after last year's grand prix was scrapped
Alzayani, however, shrugged aside such concerns as he said: 'I've been mugged in New York twice and I still go back.
'My brother was mugged outside Harrods. Somebody stuck a knife to him and took off his Rolex, but he still comes to London 10 times a year.
F1 supremo: Ecclestone attended a lunch on Wednesday hosted by Alzayani
'These incidents can happen anywhere. It's not going to stop our grand prix.'
There is also the prospect of peaceful protests taking place and doing enough to stop the race from going ahead.
It is a possibility previously suggested by Ecclestone as a way for the demonstrators to get their message across.
'I asked Bernie why he said that, and his response was that he doesn't believe they can do that, that there are not enough people to do it,' said Alzayani.
'He also said it would be the wrong thing. Why would you sabotage something that's good for the country'
Ecclestone attended a lunch yesterday hosted by Alzayani and BIC chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa al-Khalifa, with team bosses Horner, Martin Whitmarsh and Sir Frank Williams in attendance.
Ecclestone has no concerns as to the race's prospects as he said: 'Of course it is going to happen. No worries at all.
'What I don't understand are the negative statements being made, people catching them and continuing them. They're saying things they don't understand.
'People say to me “There's not going to be a race.” And I say “Well how do you know” And they tell me they saw or read something, but it's all nonsense.
'These people (the Bahrainis) were brave enough to start an event in that part of the world, and that's it. We'll be there as long as they want us.'