The Formula One season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled to be staged on 13 March, has been called off because of internal troubles in the nation.
It means that the season's first race will be the Australian Grand Prix on 27 March. The decison was made after talks between Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
We must focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting to a later date, said the Crown Prince. After the events of the past week, our nation's priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.
However, the race is not cancelled as such, and could be rescheduled when the unrests have died down. The FIA, F1's world governing body, said in a statement, The FIA is responsible for the international calendar as well as all matters of safety relating to the stakeholders involved in Grand Prix racing. We support the decision.
Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One boss, said, It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country. The hospitality and warmth of the people of Bahrain is a hallmark of the race there, as anyone who has been at a Bahrain Grand Prix will testify. We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon.
It was believed that the cancellation would cause huge disruptions in teams' preparations, but Red Bull driver Mark Webber believes it wouldn't be harmful and supported the decision to call the race off.
He told BBC Sport, They (the authorities) know what's going on, so the right decision is made. I made my decision yesterday which was pretty clear - read the papers. They know what's going on out there and they've made their call so let's go to Melbourne. It would have been nice to go to Bahrain but we have to wait a bit longer to have our first race and that just happens to be my home race. Back to the good old days.
He added, I don't think the extra two weeks will make a huge difference. It's the same for everybody. We are always prepared to race in two weeks.