Todt denies favouring grand prix races in Middle East

 Jean Todt with Bahrain Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Isa Hamad Al Khalifa and Bernie Ecclestone

Jean Todt with Bahrain Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Isa Hamad Al Khalifa and Bernie Ecclestone

FIA president Jean Todt has denied that Formula 1′s Middle Eastern races are receiving preferential treatment.

Two of the three pre-season tests were held in Bahrain, the troubled island Kingdom, and after the Grand Prix is held there next weekend, teams will stay in the Gulf for a post-race test.

Todt, however, argues there is no reason Formula 1 should not call Bahrain home.

“All over the world there are political problems – in Asia, the Middle East and even in Europe,” he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“We have to be careful not to mix that with sporting matters. Our task is to organise a great motor sport event there,” Todt insisted.

As for why so much testing has been taking place in Bahrain this year, he answered: “We didn’t force the teams to test in Bahrain.

“In fact the initiative came from them, because they believed it has ideal conditions that are representative of the conditions of many races this season,” Todt explained.

“They like the track, the facility – the FIA can hardly say they can’t go to Bahrain to test,” he added.

Compounding the impression of a Middle Eastern preference, however, is the fact that nearby Abu Dhabi will hold a highly controversial ‘double points’ season finale in November.

Asked why Abu Dhabi is suddenly worth more than any other race, Todt answered: “There is no extra value of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“This is just an attempt to make the season finale even more spectacular. I like it when people come to me with ideas – shall we award points for Qualifying, should the points be distributed differently?

“We agreed with all of the teams to try this model for the last race. At the time, I was not even aware that it would be Abu Dhabi,” he said.

Told that the ‘double points’ idea has not been popular, Todt responded: “Even teams that agreed with the idea suddenly decided to criticise.

“Everybody can have his opinion. To be honest, even I am uncomfortable with singling out one race out of 19, but if it gives us an unforgettable season finale, I will be the first who is happy about it.”

Asked if the idea could be expanded for future seasons, Todt answered: “Well it makes no sense if every race is double points! But yes, if it works this season, why shouldn’t we have some more?” (GMM)

Subbed by AJN.