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GP Week : Issue 150
Formula One fans were aghast on Saturday afternoon, when coverage of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix failed to show any footage of the Force India team, even when drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta were the only men out on track. The lack of TV coverage followed the team’s decision not to run during FP2 on Friday afternoon, in a move that led to raised eyebrows in the paddock, not to mention a series of heated discussions between senior team personnel, the FIA, FOM, and the race organisers. Force India’s decision was seen as a reaction to the team’s involvement in a Molotov cocktail attack on Wednesday evening, in which four mechanics were driving back from the circuit when their car narrowly avoided being hit by the home- made incendiary device after a clash between protesters and police spilled out onto the highway. The team’s official press release called it a “logistical decision” , and deputy team principal Robert Fernley denied that there was any political motive behind their move. “I don’t think it’s [a protest] at all,” Fernley told the F1 press corps on Friday afternoon. “I think that what you have to accept is that on Wednesday evening there was a very unfortunate incident for members of Force India, and there is no question, it de-stabilised the emotional element of our team. “I have to say that Sheikh Abdulla, Bernie, everybody has been enormously helpful in our process, but we have, as a team, to make sure that we gel that together properly and it’s nothing whatsoever to do with... It’s an internal matter that just needs stability, we provided that stability and we’ve stuck with the programme that we’ve had to put in place. “It’s not a slight at all on the event, it’s just about an internal structure of Force India. We’ve had to do that, we’ve done it with pleasure and we’ve supported our team in that process and as a result of supporting the team, the whole of our programme is now secure for going forward for the Bahrain Grand Prix,” the deputy team principal concluded. When asked if the Silverstone-based teams had been deliberately snubbed following their decision to withdraw from FP2, the FOM boss – as ever – had the perfect answer to hand. “I was busy and didn't notice Force India were not on,” Ecclestone told reporters in the Sakhir paddock. “I will look into it. “It could be technical, but I suspect it was more to do with the Bahrain laws on no alcohol advertising. They have a whisky company prominently on the car. They should have taken it off. TV could not show that.” It is worth noting that the McLaren team, who count Johnnie Walker among their sponsors, had all branding for the liquor label covered up – on the car, on race suits, and in the team hospitality suite – for the duration of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. FORCE INDIA WITHDRAW FROM FP2, DISAPPEAR FROM QUALI 8 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS