LONDON, Feb 15, 2012 (AFP) - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has played down the outbreak of fresh unrest in Bahrain, insisting the violence posed no threat to this season's Grand Prix.
Bahraini police fired tear gas and birdshot at pro-democracy protesters in clashes early Wednesday as the kingdom marked the first anniversary of a Shiite-led uprising.
The violence revived memories of last year's unrest, which ultimately led to the cancellation of the 2011 race, which is due to take place this season on April 20-22 at Sakhir.
However Ecclestone told The Guardian on Wednesday that the clashes were unlikely to lead to another cancellation.
"I expected there was going to be a big uprising, with the anniversary," Ecclestone was quoted as saying. But I think what happened, apparently, was that here were a lot of kids having a go at the police.
"I don't think it's anything serious at all. It doesn't change our position in any shape or form. If the people in Bahrain (the government) say, 'Look Bernie, it wouldn't be good for you to come over here,' then I would think again. That is what they said last year."
Motorsport's governing body the FIA meanwhile backed staging this year's race in Bahrain.
"The FIA, like many in the diplomatic community in the kingdom, the main political opposition, as well as the UK-Bahrain All-Party Parliamentary Group writing in the Times, believes the staging of a grand prix would be beneficial in bridging some of the difficulties Bahrain is experiencing," a spokesman said.
"The FIA is not in a position to influence political matters in a sovereign country such as Bahrain and we can only wish for a long-term peaceful solution."
A spokesman for the Bahrain International Circuit told CNN: "We are entirely confident that the race can be and will be an excellent event. The FIA has said that there is no reason why the grand prix should not go ahead. Jean Todt [FIA president] has been visiting Bahrain himself, keeping in constant contact. The FIA has said that there is no reason why the grand prix should not go ahead."