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The Crown Prince and the Comedian: When Salman met Bernie

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Yesterday, we saw some eloquent PR spin from Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa as he took a leisurely stroll around the Sakhir circuit paddock with F1's boss, Bernie Ecclestone. Both were mobbed by reporters naturally hungry for comment on the political-cum-social-cum-sporting situation (or fiasco depending on your point of view) in the kingdom, but only one of them really made an effort to answer the questions and offer valid thoughts on Bahrain's problems.

That person wasn't Bernie Ecclestone. Whilst the Crown Prince talked hopefully about 'forces for good' and 'celebrating our nation', F1's leading figure took the opportunity to dismiss what's going on in the kingdom and present F1 as a sport that operates in its own world and to hell with everyone else.

When asked about the protests that have intensified as Sunday's grand prix nears, Ecclestone compared the differences of opinion there to those that exist between Labour and Conservatives in the UK.

With Ecclestone, it's often the nuances surrounding how he says things rather than what he does or doesn't say and when he talked about our two main political parties, there was a faint curl of the lip as though he was finding what he said really rather amusing, but to liken deaths on the streets, violent demonstrations and hunger strikes with the knockabout politics of a liberal parliamentary democracy is beyond belief.

Carefully prefixing his next comment with 'I don't mean to be rude', he then told the Crown Prince he thought he'd been 'a bit silly' by staging the race. That implies that Ecclestone has not broached the subject before with him. Is that really the case,? Have no words been exchanged about whether or not the race should be postponed (last year's original proposal) or cancelled? I very much doubt it, so is Ecclestone again just saying something for publicity value, throwing in a line for a bit of shock value: "Oooh, Bernie's just told the Crown Prince he's a bit of a wally, isn't he a joker!"

Abdulhadji al-Khawaja told the Bahrain government what he thought of it and ended up with a life sentence after what many commentators regarded as a dubious trial based on dubious evidence. He is now more than two months into a hunger strike, in hospital, refusing water and described as critical. How he must also be chuckling at that hilarious Ecclestone chap.

Once again, Ecclestone dredged up the idea of team safety as thought that was all that mattered, citing the case of Force India, whose personnel had been caught up in protests. 'I don't know if people are targeting them for some reason," he pondered, "I hope not because none of the other teams seem to have a problem." So, Force India - and now Sauber, some of whose team also witnessed trouble and had the temerity to tell the media about it - please stop rocking the boat.

Ecclestone also told the journos they should be reporting on Syria, saying that was 'more important'. Basically guys, if you're not going to report on the racing, get lost!

The FIA must be furious. Wonder what Jean Todt thinks? Jean, Jean? Hello, anybody there....?