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Briefing: The problem with reinserting Bahrain GP this season
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Briefing: The problem with reinserting Bahrain GP this season
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 May 2011   |  6:37 pm GMT  |  107 comments

Another story to break today is the growing energy behind trying to run the postponed Bahrain Grand Prix on October 30, with India moving to the last race of the season on December 4.


It’s fair to say that the teams feel uneasy about this for several reasons. First the moral question, with the obvious difficulties of walking into a highly political situation and endorsing an event which is a creation of the ruling regime. Some are more troubled by this than others.

There is a security issue for the teams and drivers, but they would be likely to be well protected. However there are many hundreds of other F1 insiders who stay in very modest accommodation in the city’s back streets and who would be far harder to protect.

The ruling regime would like to put the race on to show that they are back in control, but faced with a determined opposition, there surely would be a significant risk of that impression being undermined by protest and problems at a time when the world’s attention would be on the country with F1 in residence. So it could be counterproductive.

Representatives of the Grand Prix were in Turkey last week, reassuring teams and personnel that the situation is under control, despite media coverage to the contrary.

Insurance is also a problem, which will need to be carefully considered as, for example, the UK Foreign Office is still advising against non-essential travel to the country.

The teams are also concerned with the idea of a race taking place in December. Most of them have been flat out since January building the 2011 cars, then testing them then racing them over an already record-length race season. To run to December, which would compress the winter, puts quite a strain on them and their families.

The reason India would be pushed back is two fold: to give them a little more time to get the new circuit finished, (not that it’s appearing to be a drama at the moment, like Korea was last year) and also to tie Bahrain to the Abu Dhabi race from a logistical and travel point of view. The Young Guns test would take place after the Abu Dhabi race.

Will it happen? There are people pushing for it, of course, and some are suggesting it’s growing in likelihood. But getting the race a secure slot on the 2012 may be the real end game.

A decision by the FIA is due to be made by June 3rd.

Photo: Darren Heath

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107 Comments
  1. Tom says:

    Bahrain is a powder keg waiting to blow sky high. It’s the focal point of a stand-off between Saudi Arabia and Iran which is on the verge of developing into a proxy war.

    Surely even Bernie and the FIA aren’t in so big a bubble as to risk this one – it’d end in a humiliating backtrack at best, and possibly much worse.

  2. Just let it go for 2011…why put so much strain on the season for no reason. I think F1 should aim for quality over quantity and peg them at 18 or 19 because so many races puts a lot of strain on the teams.

    “…and endorsing an event which is a creation of the ruling regime.”

    I get where you’re coming from but this regime has been there since well before F1 started racing there. I think they should not race there more to distance themselves from the actions of the monarchy rather then as an anti-monarchy sentiment. The difference is subtle but important in my opinion.

    1. Charlie says:

      The regime was there before, and the race was the creation of the Crown Prince, a moderate, and not the King.

      Since the uprisings the Crown Prince has effectively been removed from power and from administration of the race, which has been given to more hardline elements in the regime.

      So it is correct to say that the race is now the political toy of the regime and endorsement of the race is endorsement of the hardline elements of the regime.

      1. Thank you for your comment, I didn’t know that!

  3. Nevis says:

    It seems ridiculous that there should be any idea of returning to Bahrain this year. It has been well documented that the Bahrani government has been imprisoning members of the medical community – doctors, surgeons, hospital workers for speaking out when they have been faced with the many casualities and fatalities during the protests. Formula 1 depends on these people, both in Bahrain and worldwide, and now is the time to repay the debt.
    F1 owes them. Please don’t go.

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      Nicely put. Personally I can’t think of any reason at all why F1 should go back to Bahrain anywhere this side of regime change.

    2. leukocyte says:

      …and on a practical note, the Grand Prix requires the participation of a large percentage of the (relatively small) Bahraini medical workforce. If these medical professionals are busy with the aftermath of more protest actions, or even worse, imprisoned, then the race can’t go ahead.

  4. Lopek says:

    I really hope this does not happen. I think the whole handling of the Bahrain situation has been a joke from start to finish.

    Bernie likes to say that F1 should not be political – this race was political from day one (as are many others). F1 should not be allowing itself to be used by this nasty repressive regime.

    James makes an excellent point about those who follow the F1 circus from outside the inner circle that Bernie and his cronies always ignore.

    As well journalists etc there are also the F1 fans who have booked holiday & bought tickets and flights for India. Is FOM going to reimburse them if they make this late change.

    I have little doubt that Bahrain will happen as Bernie only cares about the bottom line.

    I for one would not watch the Bahrain GP as I think it is wrong in every way to go there. It would be first race I would miss for over 2 decades. It’s a small protest meaningless protest in the scale of things I know, but there is little else I can do from here.

    I hope FOTA take a stand and refuse to go, would be a great salvo in the upcoming Concorde agreement negotiations.

    1. prasanna says:

      lopek

      I agree with you on all things you have said. expect for a small protest and meaningless protest. The protest is much bigger than what is happening in libya . The bah goverment has brought army from outside from neighbring countries. The same human right abuse going on in LIBYA is also going on in bah. but NATO/USA turns a blind eye since bah is a key ally and the oil is a major factor. i am from neither libya/Bah. Bah is a like dictatorship country. people are protesting for democazy. the rules of middle east have are always dictator’s. middle and east of this world is a crazy. a tour through there make’s you understand. Seeing nice tracks on TV is like a oasis. go into the countries you will understand

      1. Lopek says:

        You misunderstand what I said. I am by no means calling the protests in Bahrain small or meaningless. I see them as the complete opposite and wish the people there every success in overthrowing this regime.

        The protest that I referred to as small and meaningless in the scale of things was mine of not watching the Bahrain GP if it does go ahead.

    2. ron says:

      Something that is also being overlooked by F1 – the weather situation in Delhi in the winter.

      From end of November onwards, the fog (smog) usually gets very very thick. On a bad day, visibility can be counted in tens of meters or less, making road travel dangerous. An F1 race in those conditions would be impossible. Seriously, foggy Shanghai would look like nothing in comparison. It also usually creates a nightmare with air travel, leading to frequent flight cancellations.

      It’s unfair and a poor decision, IMO, to move the Indian Grand Prix from its current calendar date.

      1. James Allen says:

        Any Indian readers able to shed more light on this?

      2. Alonso4ever says:

        I am from India though not from Delhi. It is true that Delhi, being in the Northern part of India gets very Foggy during December, which is the Peak Winter Season. But that normally happens mostly during early mornings and probably during Night time. I presume that the Race will happen in the Afternoon. So, i do not see Fog being a Problem. I think it might be a Blessing in Disguise as Indian GP Organizers will get some more time to get everything organized. If at all the Bahrain GP is to replace the Indian GP, i think a more better proposition would be to have the Indian GP in place of the Brazilan GP and push the Brazilian GP to Dec 4. Now, i dont know if restructuring all this is as simple as it sounds regarding to Travel Costs and other factors.

      3. Sethu M Pillai says:

        Regarding fog in Delhi – the major “fog season” start from the 2nd half of December and carries through till February. Visibility is very poor and flight cancellations are extremely common in that period – http://www.ndtv.com/article/delhi/cold-claims-one-life-in-delhi-fog-disrupts-air-rail-traffic-75043

        There are chances of fog in early Decemember as well (last year – http://www.zeenews.com/news672715.html), but I would say these are, mostly, of less severity. Still, it would be wise to plan flights with a buffer time.

      4. Charlie says:

        I was in Delhi in 2009 at the end of November, and the fog was so great the visibility was down to 30 metres or something. No long distance shots from the cameras then.

        The whole things smells really bad.

      5. tarun luthra says:

        fog in delhi is not that sever in late nov or early dec. it should be fine for the race, especially cause it will happen during the day and will not be a twilight race that we saw in australia 09.
        that can be a problem cause it starts getting dark after 5 pm in during dec. So you really wanna pack everything up by that time. but late nov or early dec should be fine. the major fog that sets is usually seen in around the christmas time. it will be a nice time for you folks to be there too. Winters are the time to be in Delhi.

      6. ron says:

        James, I’ve lived in Delhi for the past 12 years. What everyone says is mostly correct – the fog is not as bad towards the end of November and early December, but there is STILL a risk of heavy fog. From the end of November onwards, there is typically at least some fog in the mornings and late at night.

        Timing the race will be critical – it will need to be held, in my opinion, before 2 pm. On the flipside, the weather is much more pleasant in early December. Daytime temperatures are usually around 20-25 C (sometimes even warmer), and rain is extremely rare.

        My suggestion to the FIA would be to try and slot the Grand Prix after Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, and have it be penultimate race (end of November). This will be 1.) More convenient from a travel point of view for teams and 2.) Largely avoid the major fog concerns.

      7. James Allen says:

        Thanks for the input

  5. PSW says:

    Which teams are more troubled than others James?

    Shame on the one(s) untroubled. And on Bernie for even contemplating returning there at all, let alone this year. Don’t these people read the news? Do they sit inside this pathetic F1 bubble and not see out? Bahrain’s regime kills innocents openly in the streets and rounds up doctors who treated the injured. If the teams are truly, truly wanting to put on their circus for these scumbags to legitimize their hold on power, to show the world ‘everything’s back to normal’ (where ‘normal’ has never been normal anyway), they really do need to take a good hard look at themselves. I hope some of the drivers will refuse to race – they’ll be lauded around the world if the teams want to go but the drivers refuse.

    1. Alex W says:

      I agree on all except the drivers boycott, the drivers are 2 members of a massive team, so the teams should boycott, the drivers are not really in a position to do so if their team decides to go.

    2. frosty says:

      McLaren are 40% owned by the Bahrain rulers.
      They won’t vote against the race going ahead, and their drivers certainly won’t make a stand if other drivers even mentioned the idea of striking.

      I don’t blame them. That’s a lot of money and has to have at least some influence.

    3. CJ the 2cnd, probably... says:

      I love the subtlety of James’ assertion that ‘some teams will be more troubled than others’; but I suspect that ‘some teams will be less troubled than others’ may be the correct nuance. Of course teams have to think carefully about about PR and public profile (and how all of this relates to sponsors, business plans and so on) but they are there to race, primarily and above all else.
      Its been a while since I had any involvement in racing (and then nowhere near F1) but the folk I remember were pretty focussed, that is they had little interest in the outside world unless it threatened the next race. I doubt much has changed except the degree of spin and gloss, racers are still racers!
      For what its worth I would still watch the Bahrain GP if its run/broadcast. Morally bankrupt?
      Yep, years ago!!

  6. jonas says:

    Wrong, wrong wrong … they shouldn’t go there, not this year, and possibly not for a long time. F1 could really do without this.

    Have you spoken to any sponsors to sound out how they will feel – being seen to legitimatize the actions of the ruling regime in Bahrain, James?

  7. jonrob says:

    Was it not a Reuters reporter that got deported from Bahrain last week?

    There are stories of many nasty things, doctors in jail for treating protesters. Protesters have been labelled as terrorists to justify the harsh treatment being dished out in custody and in sentencing.

    Unless all overseas journalists are allowed complete free access, and the papers allowed to print what they like there can be no moral validity in ever returning to Bahrain.

    I am sure that the sponsors will make the decision for the FIA and Bernie by withdrawing their money and brands should the race be reinstated. All teams (who would by contract and the sporting regs be forced to race) could run in BIW (Body in White, an old car industry term) with only the obligatory number showing, I am pretty sure they could get away with that within the regs. Drivers could all wear white helmets and fireproofs too. Again I am pretty sure any sponsor on them would agree to this for the one race, else risk damaging their image.

  8. Bec says:

    They held a motor race at the circuit last weekend, why were the protesters not protesting about that?

    There’s a rugby tournament happening this weekend, why aren’t the protesters not protesting about that?

    And if ‘alleged F1 fans’ are so concerned about a race in Bahrain, why aren’t they concerned about McLaren being largely owned the Bahrain regime?

    Seems very hypocritical to me.

  9. Sebee says:

    I’ll tell you what the biggest problem with this is. We’ll like it, and then we’ll want a longer season.

    Based on recent comments, many don’t seem to worry about efficiency of engineering, fuel efficiency of cars, green efficiency of batteries and KERS, etc. Why worry about the political situation in Bahrain?

    We just want a show, right?

  10. Ambient Sheep says:

    They must not do this. If it goes ahead, I will not be watching, for the first time in many many years. Facebook campaign, anyone?

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      Hear hear, and yep.

    2. David Young says:

      agreed.

  11. Nick Hipkin says:

    James,

    How do you feel personally about going to Bahrain? And are there any teams still that would potentially boycott it?

    Am I the only one who would be thoroughly disappointed if Interlagos didnt host the season finale?

  12. Damian J says:

    A decision needs to be made well before the last few races otherwise FIA could be open to the accusation of trying to fix this year’s F1 WDC and WCC if it’s a close fight between drivers and/or teams.

    1. mtb says:

      The accusations will happen regardless.

  13. JonC says:

    They can go ahead and put it on. Compelling as this season’s been, I won’t be tuning in.
    I’d hope no one else does either.

    I don’t need the F1 is apolitical argument. I understand it perfectly well. However politics will force itself upon you sometimes.
    And all this comes from one with a rampant sense of humour whose insensitivity will land me in more trouble than I need one of these days.
    So if even I can see it’s too soon, those with dollar signs in their eyes should be able to as well. If they really want to put on the show, it won’t hurt to wait.
    This dollar might cost more to chase than to catch.

  14. Tyler says:

    Any support (which staging this race would be) for a regime that supresses the freedom and voice of it’s people is a bad idea.

    However money will mostly likely triumph over morality/decency as is the norm.

  15. Alan Dove says:

    The FIA are pretty confident the F1 will go ahead. They are still holding the Under-18 World Championship there in a few months.

    It’s not the same scale as f1, but if they weren’t sure about whether the security was up to scratch, I doubt they’d be sending over 100s of kids to race. Sorry to plug my own site James but there’s some more information here tp://tinyurl.com/karting1-bahrain

  16. Jo Torrent says:

    I was convinced the Bahrain GrandPrix will go forward since they pushed forward the ultimatum to June 3rd.

    Bernie is at least consistent, he not only doesn’t criticize dictators, he loves them : “they get things done” as he once said.

    What about the FIA. Is TODT so relying on middle-eastern backing that the removal of Bahrain means he won’t be able to run for another term or that some hurdles will prevent him from carrying out some of his ides. If there’s not such a thing, why the FIA doesn’t prevent the GP happening ?

    I don’t know why no one asks Jean TODT about that ? I looked around and found no interview of TODT or any FIA official tackling the core of the issue.

  17. DH says:

    Hope it does not happen. There comes a point when the rulers must feel ‘so what do we need citizens for, anyway??’… And shame on BE, after his jab at Silverstone with their new facility ‘should have done it ten years ago’. He’s been more respectful toward Bahrain than Silverstone.

  18. Jack says:

    There’s absolutely no way F1 can ever go back there, you can’t spray your own people with machine gun fire and then expect to host a global sporting event a few months later with no repercussions. We shouldn’t be in China either, but I accept that F1 is a business, and is therefore completely lacking in any moral code.

    1. mtb says:

      Should F1 be in a country that invaded Iraq for no particular reason?

      1. Peter C says:

        It’s getting very political. but funny, JA.

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        I don’t think we should blame UK. Their foreign policy is decided in washington since Suez

      3. Bec says:

        Or a country that kidnapped over 100 people from Europe, (according to an EU investigation), flew them to torture camps, tortured most and murdered many, and when Bradley Mannning provided evidence of war crimes in Iraq, he was the one arrested while the war criminals are still free to ‘light up’ innocent civilians.

        Bahrain in nowhere in comparison to the USA!

      4. mtb says:

        If the principles that are being promoted in many of the comments relating to F1 in non-Western countries were to be applied consistently then many countries would be deemed ineligible to hold a grand prix.

        Given the lack of comments on the issue, it would appear that most of these people are not bothered about sovereign wealth funds investing in F1 teams, and are not bothered about the prospect of these organisations owning a stake in the sport – the reality if the ‘teams’ were to own a stake in the sport.

    2. Barney says:

      “spray your own people with machine gun fire”?!

      Must have missed that, which is odd as I live in Bahrain. Got any credible sources for it?! If you’re going to criticise at least do it on the basis of established facts. (PS Bahrain isn’t Libya, Syria etc, sorry to disappoint).

      1. James Allen says:

        If you live there tell us what it’s like at the moment

      2. I agree with James; I would like to hear more about your view of the events.

        Everything I heard through Al-Jazeera (and other news media) seemed to point toward shooting sleeping protesters and jailing medical staff for helping wounded protesters.

      3. Jo Torrent says:

        All you read is true. This has not only been said by Al Jazeera but in French, English & US media (Lemonde, Liberation, Guardian, Telegraph, NYtimes, etc…).

        Not only that but AlJazeera (mainly the arabic one) has been very soft on Bahrain and almost quiet in the last weeks because the Saudi-led coalition repressing Shiia includes Qatar (AlJazeera is financed by Qatar prince).

        The lack of Western criticism is a consequence of Saudi considering the matter very seriously almost a vital one. 30% of Saudis are Shiia leaving in an oily region of Saudi Arabia and if their Bahraini cousins succeed in their revolution, it might give them ideas.

        Not only that but American 5th fleet the one watching closely Iran and fighting Somali pirates is based in Bahrain.

      4. Barney says:

        All you read is most definitely NOT true. Some of the opposition supporters have been very “creative” in their reporting of events (eg that Apache gunships were strafing the Pearl Roundabout! – manifestly false, and the helicopters concerned were unarmed police observation choppers).

        Unfortunately, these sort of things are often accepted wholesale by the Western media, on the stereotype that non-Western governments are repressive tyrannies, and opponents thereof are doe-eyed and naive pacifists. Of course, any opposition with even an ounce of intelligence will fully exploit this prejudice.

        That’s not to say all is rosy. Personally, I simply don’t have enough information to be able to judge. The government clearly went in quite hard in mid March, under pressure from the other Gulf countries to stop any contagion. That said, to my knowledge it has generally been civilain (riot) police who have been involved, while the army mans checkpoints and is generally just a very visible deterrent presence.

        Can’t find much on “shooting sleeping protestors” claims. Certainly, when the police went into the roundabout for the second time, there was some violence, the protestors’ story is already out there, the police claim they were fired on, and that protestors deliberately set fire to tents and exploded gas cylinders to slow them down. And arresting doctors never looks good does it? There is some suggestion that some doctors were faking/exaggerating injuries for the media, and reporting eg that live ammunition had been used when it had not. Without knowing all the evidence it’s hard to judge. Certainly there has been some pretty slick media work by the opposition, while the government has in general been predictably poor.

        My personal view is that the police have come down hard by western standards, but in a completely different (lesser) league to the other “revolutions” in the region. For example, they have already charged 5 prison officers with the death of a guy in jail, so it doesn’t look like they’re trying to sweep it all under the carpet. There has also been plenty of violence on the other side, eg molotov cocktails, exploding gas cylinders, kidnap of police etc etc.

        Do I feel safe? As a foreigner here, yes, generally, although obviously you avoid certain areas much as you would do in New York, Manchester or anywhere else.

        All that said, while the security situation is under control for now (though the test will be after the State of Safety ends on 1 June), the underlying political issues haven’t really been addressed. That’s what’ll be needed for lasting stability.

      5. James Allen says:

        Thanks for that. Very interesting

      6. Jack says:

        first story when you google ‘Bahrain Crackdown’ has reports of police shooting protesters

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12755852

  19. Jo Torrent says:

    The teams don’t care about Bahrainis and don’t have to, it’s not their responsibility. But from a selfish perspective is it worth it to go there. I remind you that by Bahrain Vettel will be world champion and all the talk will be around why, how, etc….

    I find it very unlikely that team members will face any threat unless Iran triggers something… Al Qaeda doesn’t like Shiia so no risk with them.
    The biggest risk though is if Bahrainis can organize new protests and for the GrandPrix to be cancelled the same week it should happen. That will be a huge shame for the prince and for F1 & FIA. Very unlikely as the leaders are behind bars tasting some local torture techniques but you never know…

    The only risk is to add another episode to F1 hall of shame with Mosley SM hobbies, Ecclestone Hitler sympathy, Ballestre leading the FISA-FIA after being an active French Nazi and last but not least organizing GrandPrix in South Africa under Apartheid.

    Team Sponsors might not like it but will live with it. McLaren situation is the most complicated as they’re owned by Bahrains and it must feel very uncomfortable for them… Hard to blame them, they didn’t know at the time.

    The situation is so uncomfortable that Webber, the smartest man behind a steering wheel, must have received orders to avoid sharing his thoughts about the situation.

    I wonder what people tell James off the record.

    1. I’d like to hear what Webber has to say; I am sure he is privy to a few more details than we are.

      1. mtb says:

        Christian Horner seems to be ready to go if Bernie gives the green light, based on what he said in an interview with Radio 5 Live on Friday night

  20. Tim. says:

    F1 needs to walk away from there and never look back.

    1. ZR Leigh says:

      I agree, if they decide to reschedule it, i won’t be watching!

  21. Neil Williams says:

    A good article James but it doesnt make sense to reinstate for several reasons.

    If there’s problems with security for the backroom F1 staff imagine what it could be like for the fans brave enough to attend themselves?

    On moral grounds due the human rights issue the whole of F1 should steer a course away from even entertaining the idea of going there this year.

    Logistics of having the GP close to Abu Dhabi is fine but what about the teams getting and planning from Brazil to India? A route never done.

    Finally, what about all the fans (myself and the wife included) that have worked hard for a year to save to go to India and have booked flights and hotels in advance to suit our budget?

    We all know money talks and this will no doubt happen for all the wrong reasons. Isnt it about time that the FIA, F1 community and Mr Ecclestone put the fans and the staff involved in F1 first for a change?

    I’d welcome a response from you on the issues I’ve put forward.

    1. James Allen says:

      All good points, especially about fans. Hard to see international fans coming in.

      Getting stuff out of Brazil isn’t a problem, it’s a well worn machine.

      1. bouke says:

        Also, any international fans that decided to check out the new India GP might not feel very happy about having arranged everything to be told to reschedule thing like their trip, stay, days off, for a December slot – in a lot of companies one of the busiest parts of the year, and all that just because some regime unrelated to the new race managed to screw up and have others clean up.

  22. Born 1950 says:

    Drop it, I say.

    I’m pleased that morality concerns some teams — pity it’s not every team. F1 should not be involved with politics — but neither should it ignore politics. There’s a difference. In particular it should beware becoming a pawn in the politicking of any ruling elite.

  23. MR SERIOUS says:

    It should not go ahead on moral grounds.

    But it will.

  24. negat says:

    i would be uneasy about f1 being used by the bahrain regime as a political tool to demonstrate that they are in control – whether true or not or if so for how long. F1 should stay out of it. I understand a lot of money might be at stake but neither party will suffer badly in commercial terms from simply standing back.

  25. Mark J says:

    This is totally unacceptable. Its purely driven by money associated with the TV coverage. For sure not the fans wanting to attend the Bahrain GP which if you look at what is still happening at the country right now, I doubt would even draw a crowd.

    I think this would do more harm than good for F1 if they went there after all the trouble the country has faced in the past 6 months. Even in 6 months from now there will be a question of sport and politics over lapping.

    1. Sebee says:

      F1 is a TV sport. It will be a VIP only event. The costs are covered you can be sure and ticket gate income is not needed in Bahrain.

      Football matches take place in front of empty grandstands, and so have F1 races (mostly empty China, Malaysia, Turkey, etc). Truth is that it’s a rare occasion where fans at an F1 event make a difference to the ability of the TV viewer to enjoy on-track action. They’re usually but a blur in the background kept at a distance. If you do decide to go, service will be perfect, security top notch, and no lineups at the WC.

      No need to lament about the fans that won’t be able to attend. And you can be sure, plenty will watch on TV. You will too, especially if the forecast will call for rain in Bahrain. Sorry to be the one bringing the reality on this one to the comments forum.

      1. Mark J says:

        I know right now I will not be watching this race if its a wet race, championship decider whatever. From what I am reading about Bahrain all these reality and commercial issues may be okay for some. But not for me, when its something like this situation has crossed the line. My point about the fans was; this event is supported by the government and I would personally view not by the citizens of the country. Usually meaning no one turns up just international followers of the sport and this is rather inappropriate at such a time like now.

  26. Mike says:

    I don’t know what it is, but something feels wrong with this insistence to wedge in the Bahrain GP. Is someone getting a very large kick-back for having this race on the calandar?

    You also make a very important point here James; no doubt the drivers and other top people will be safe but who’s going to take care of that multitude of regular Joe’s.

    We have a full season with some great closing races. Let’s just leave things and they for 2011 and get the calendar in shape for 2012.

    1. frosty says:

      They are one of the biggest shareholders of McLaren. They want to show off one of their toys in front of their adoring (cough, cough) public.

  27. Dave Roberts says:

    I don’t think it is fair on the authorities in India. I guess they would have the prestige of the final race of the year but won’t they have enough pressure of holding their first ever race without it being the season’s finale?

    Furthermore I am sure the organisers in India will have a plethora of arrangements in place that will not be easily altered. I think it is disrespectful to expect tem to alter things just to accommodate Bahrain.

    1. Simon K says:

      I don’t get what there is to discuss. How can an F1 race even be considered for a second in a country where you have much the same going on as Libya, Syria etc. It will be detrimental to the image of F1 if the race goes ahead as well as the extreme security risk. Simply a race should not be held under any circumstances in a country where the government fire at and kill their own citizens. Wrong on every level. Should be removed from the calendar permanently.

      1. Sebee says:

        What about China? You agree with that regime?
        Hungary? It was behind the iron curtain once.
        Let’s not be so righteous. Many GPs take place in places we wouldn’t want to live in.

      2. Simon K says:

        Point taken. Had sent another comment previously as replied in error to Dave Roberts.

      3. So that’s your excuse for continuing to go there? F1 should abandon all morality simply because they have in the past?

      4. Sebee says:

        My point is simply one I stated a number of times; Who or what is F1 to make political statements or have political preferences?

  28. mtb says:

    There is one issue that keeps getting ignored whenever the issue of F1 and Bahrain is discussed.

    A number of people who contribute to this site seem to be in favour of the ‘teams’ taking a share in the running of F1. If that were to happen, which organisations would own shares in F1?

  29. Mark V says:

    I’d like to see the Bahrain race replaced with another location, ideally a classic circuit or in a country that has hosted Grand Prixs before such as South Africa, Mexico or Argentina.

    1. Sebee says:

      If only that was an option! Imola gets my vote all the way.

      I’ll take it further – a selection of approved ready non-regular F1 tracks that could be presented for fans to vote on, promoted during first 5 races and scheduled later on in the season. Winner gets a discount on hosting license. Imagine if we fans had a say about where one race per season takes place? But now I’m just in dreamland.

  30. Jason C says:

    I’d agree with the majority of posters here so far, and say that F1 should not go to Bahrain this year, and possibly not again.

    Going there would give the Bahraini government a big propaganda boost showing ‘business as usual’ when it’s anything but. And more importantly, it would put people in harm’s way.

    Sport should not endorse repressive regimes.

    So for that matter, F1 should not be going to China, either.

    Lastly, it would be unbearable watching the drivers dodge any questions about the political situation as they always do when asked anything contentious.

    1. frosty says:

      I don’t see the problem. One of the biggest teams in F1 is 40% owned by the Bahrain rulers. We don’t boycott them, nor should we.

  31. Jonno says:

    There are many examples of despotic regimes using sport to give their country an acceptable face to the rest of the world. If F1 goes to Bahrain and then the government falls, F1 will go down in history alongside the rebel cricket tours of South Africa and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

    If F1 does return this year, I’d expect to see a lot of advertising & sponsorship leave the sport. It’s a pity F1 is run by a greedy, insular old fool, who should have learned to keep well away from politics, having got burned the last time he stuck his nose into it.

    1. bouke says:

      Of course, F1 has been going to South Africa during the apartheid years, so it has already been put alongside those; but it might still do better this time.

    2. Alan Dove says:

      McLaren is part owned by Bahrain and I don’t see any of their other sponsors leaving. I can understand why some would feel uncomfortable, but I highly doubt a mass exodus of sponsors and advertisers.

  32. prasanna says:

    James

    The real story i feel of trying to push the indian f1 to december is due to the track building back on schedule. Even though i live down south in india. But i guess the work of track is not with date. why is the FIA not giving the decmeber slot to Bahrain?. it will give more 2 months for the situation to improve there. There is also a major tendency here to finish projects way behind schedule. common wealth games 2010. up the stadium handed over 6 months behind schedule. hardly 10-15 days before the opening day. ANd also there is a new development happened in the last 1 week of a major fight between the political party ruling the country and the regional political party in who’s state the race is gonna be held. Indian politics is height of things. which no one can imagine. The state where the race is going to be held is the biggest stare of india. Election’s are going to be held for that state next year. and things are already very hot in one of the place’s in the state. the central goverment and the state goverment are at logger heads for last 4-5 days. and the fight is going on in greater noida only

  33. kenji says:

    i cannot believe all the moralising that is going on here. there are many other issues that could be used for similar examples of hypocrisy. this is simply a motor race. F1 should not be allowed to be used as a political tool. just go in and race.

  34. prasanna says:

    morality is nothing for FIA?bernie . all just need money. LIBYA/BAH same thing happening. ruler’s are killing there own people. Would f1 go into LIBYA now to race again in oct (taking hypotical situation of libya holding a race and got cancelled). Bah is a key ally for USA/UK/EU/NATO. so no one care’s of human right abuse. its a messed up world. this policy of double standard. FIA will go even to iraq to hold race if he get the money. No goverment in this world has imported troups from outside the country to kill its own people, even its now . USA and NATO has military base there . It imported military from saudi and UAE to kill the peaceful protest. In my opinion bah should never hold a race in its lifetime.

  35. nick says:

    It would be great to see some teams or maybe even drivers take a stand on this and say they won’t go to Bahrain if there is a race, due to the human rights abuses of the regime. I wonder if any have the guts for that.

    1. Jason C says:

      I know the answer to that: no, none have the guts. In any case, there would be little effect unless it was carried out en masse.

  36. Relativity says:

    Forcing Bahrain onto the schedule this year sounds inappropriate on several levels. As an F1 enthusiast with a conscience, pressing the issue smacks of conceit for all concerned.

    I, along with a handful of friends, watch F1 races together in the US and often talk about politics too. F1 gains nothing (except a few million dollars) from a Bahrain GP. What if F1 is not even welcome in Bahrain in the future by a new government of Bahrain, assuming that the sheiks are booted out of power?

    I can assure you that I (and my F1 addict friends) will not be watching the Bahrain GP, if it happens this year.

  37. Marko says:

    I see a lot of comments claiming that the race should not go because of Human Rights violations but i did not see any protests when the Chinese race was on considering China’s human rights record!

    1. Fnordsrus says:

      Agreed.

    2. Chapor says:

      That is the thing, I would in all likely hood watch the race, and qualifying, and the practice sessions if I get the time. And I am saying it because I am following F1, and that means following F1 through all its twists and turns, through good times and bad times. I am not watching F1 or not watching F1 because of the politics involved. I am following to see what happens.

      If the race is not held in Bahrain, I will be happy with the point score for humanity. If the race will be held, I will watch it with a heavy heart in the hope that it will not turn into something similar of the ’72 Munich games. So here is hoping…

    3. Simon K says:

      I agree having also commented earlier did not give China a thought. Bahrain has been a main headline in recent months which is why it will be at the forefront of peoples minds. Irrelevant of the ongoing issues in Bahrain would the race there be missed after last year? Boring and procession are words that spring to mind. The rules this year I am sure would help but even so wouldnt be right to hold a race there this year at the least.

  38. Rich C says:

    I don’t think it should happen.

    It would mess up the Indian GP, and could be a major security issue for the “regular” F1 people that don’t stay in guarded enclaves.

    But please, lets can the sanctimonious posturing over the “morality” issue!

    Until we see all you “protesters” saying the same sorts of things about China, Malaysia, and Brazil you are revealed as being very selective about “morality.”

    You could come up with that sort of nonsense about almost *every place if you tried. India is big enough, with enough people, that there’s probably something you could protest about that one too! Kashmir, anyone? The Caste System? Buying Jaguar?

  39. Ohm says:

    I can kind of understand Bahrain’s point of view. As a Thai who lives in Bangkok, I know that the foreign media always multiply the situation when there’s something like this happening. We had the coup, the protests, etc and it looked so bad on BBC world, CNN, etc when in reality that happened in a small part of the city and nearly everyone went to work and got on with their lives without even noticing the difference. Ok maybe the Bahrain situation is a little different, but I guess I’m saying, it’s almost certain for me that it’s safer than we think it is.

    Reinstated or not I don’t mind, just make Brazil the last race and I’m happy!! :p

  40. Nick says:

    Doesn’t Brazil have a special agreement to be the final race of the season? Would moving the India race be a problem with that?

    Also, what about all the people who have booked flights etc to travel to India? they’d be a little annoyed, I’d imagine

  41. Dale says:

    I guess this a test for the morals of F1, the FIA, the money grabbers & the teams.

    NO races should ever be held in a police state and IF the Saudi’s are still there to keep order then what else is it?

    Maybe if F1 does race their next we’ll be having a race in North Korea, yep sounds good to me……

  42. Kieran says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but didn’t F1 go to South Africa when Apartheid was still in place? Wasn’t that when there was a sporting boycott going on, as well?

    To be honest, as much as I don’t like it, there is a precedent here.

    I won’t be watching, because I have friends in Bahrain and they’ve given me details of what’s going on. It looks like the place is under foreign occupation, apparently.

    The danger for the Grand Prix is a) it’s morally indefensible and b) someone might use it to make a point. You’d only need one brave protester to throw himself at the starting grid and you’ve got a a massive international incident.

    We shouldn’t be going there, no.

    1. Dale says:

      Hear hear.

      On the South Africa reference, different times and the world (I hope) has learnt from it.

  43. Robert N says:

    James,

    what do the drivers think? Do they speak to you about this off the record?

  44. Chris says:

    I’m heavily opposed to going to Bahrain for the clear moral reasons. F1 shouldn’t be going this year full stop and the whole future of the event should be made contingent on political change. It’s not F1′s job to change regimes, but it should say where it does and doesn’t want to go.

    But aside from this, surely a race this year would be just pure reckless? It will either galvanise the opposition giving them a key international event to disrupt, or will galavnise even more represion from the regime as it seeks to ‘nip it in the bud’. Neither are great press for F1, which in either scenario would look like it is explicitly on the government side.

    Peace and goodwill to all those in Bahrain – I hope you get the change you want with as little bloodshed as possible. I only wish my country could have been bolder in at least speaking up for you.

  45. Paul says:

    Face fact. This is what happens with a WORLD championship. At times their will be unrest, or earthquakes, or weather issues. Skip it, move on and hope the following year that country can stage a race. I know Bernie wants the cash and a chance to shake hands with royals, but name one other country that has been given so many chances. Imagine if they treated USF1 like this 2 years ago? What would have been the outcome? (I am Australian by the way)

  46. Steve Rogers says:

    There should never have been a Bahrain GP in the first place. F1′s flawed practice of allowing rich governments to [get - mod] them to come to their tracks has backfired here, both in racing quality and political embarrassment. I’d wait until they rebuild the Pearl before even discussing it, but then I have an interest in human rights which F1′s [mod] management seems to lack.

  47. Martin P says:

    Presumably Bahrain and Bernie have a contract, and all the statements from Bernie seem to be motivated by not being seen to be the person to break his side of the bargain (as then he’d be open to legal action)

    So i’m not sure we should read too much into the statements on either side, this is all just a case of avoiding liability

  48. O.S. says:

    James,

    Today we read that David Cameron has welcomed the Crown Prince of Bahrain to Downing Street.

    My question is if Bernie and the FIA come to some arrangement with the government – what would happen regarding the teams who don’t want to go?

    Do you know if more teams are in favour of going or not? – and is a boycott likely?

    14. Tyler says.
    ‘Any support (which staging this race would be) for a regime that supresses the freedom and voice of it’s people is a bad idea.’

    The F1 circus travels to countries with questionable records on human rights (China especially) so the calendar would be much shorter if we boycott all countries who ‘suppress the freedom and voice of its people.’

    The most negative comment I heard over the race weekend in China was about the empty stands and that F1 hadn’t significantly ‘tapped’ the Chinese market as well as it might have.

    The Bahrain government used to own about 30% of McLaren, and one of Hugo Chavez’ concerns is funding Williams to the tune of a few million.

    I think if F1 started getting political a few newspapers would start revealing the amount of ‘tainted’ money there is in the sport.

    If teams want to boycott Bahrain out of fear for the safety of staff and fans, I’d agree with them and support them.

    But please let’s not make a moral stand over Bahrain, it looks hypocritical.

    I am ‘guilty’ of watching the Chinese race, I couldn’t boycott the Bahrain race on principle and not be considered a hypocrite.

    How many of the fans on here who are saying they will boycott Bahrain if it goes ahead watched the Chinese race?

  49. Adrian Jordan says:

    If F1 goes to Bahrain this season I will joing the ranks of fans who will not be watching the race.

    Also, it would be a real shame for Brazil to lose it’s place as season finale after only getting it back from Abu Drabi this season.

  50. Chas B says:

    It would be an utter disgrace, as well as a shot in the foot, for F1 to have a GP in Bahrain this year after the torture, kidnapping of medical staff, and death sentences that the regime has handed out there.

    Anybody still seriously thinking that it is worth it might want to watch this first:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_1A9G1LW6Q

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