Force India knocked off on TV in qualifying

© Ubaid Parkar, 21 April 2012
© AP Images

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone denied claims that Force India was punished for skipping the second practice session on Friday for the Bahrain Grand Prix due to safety concerns.

It has been speculated that the British team was given scarce television coverage during Saturday's qualifying session, robbing the team the opportunity to expose the brands on its cars to audiences across the globe.

Neither of the two drivers, Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, appeared much on TV screens driving around the Bahrain International Circuit during the hour long outing.

On Friday, the Silverstone-based squad had packed early and left - despite Ecclestone's persuasion to continue with assurances of safety - owing to the troubles it faced on Wednesday night when a few of its mechanics got caught up in clashes on the way back to the hotel.

"Maybe people are targeting them for some reason. I don't know," Ecclestone had told Reuters then. "None of the other teams seem to have a problem. So maybe they've had a message that they are being targeted for something. Maybe nothing to do with being in this country, maybe it's something else."

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley nevertheless had said that the decision was justified as the incident had "de-stabilised the emotional element of our team".

Whether Force India bore consequences of an irritated 81-year-old billionaire the following day was a theory expectedly dismissed.

"Not at all," Ecclestone replied when asked by Reuters. "I asked them (the TV people) to go and have a look. They missed two other people. It was simple. They are interested in who is going to be on pole. Nobody cares if someone is 9th or 11th, only the people that are watching a particular team."

Autosport however revealed that a member of Force India described the limited coverage as "payback" for the team's decision to withdraw from Friday's session.

Di Resta indicated that he was aware of what had unfolded but remained evasive on the matter.

"I have seen some stuff on Twitter but I was sat in the car driving. So I saw my car," the Scot said.

 

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