With just over three months to go until the scheduled date for the Bahrain Grand Prix, a human rights group in the country has called for the teams and drivers to boycott the event.
Last year in the wake of protests in the country, the event was first postponed to later in the year and then cancelled after the F1 teams wrote to the FIA saying that they didn’t feel the event could take place.
That letter was signed by F1 Teams Association chairman Martin Whitmarsh, who took a significant personal risk in doing so as his team, McLaren, is 50% owned by the Bahrainis.
Now the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is calling for the teams to do the same thing again. However FOTA is no longer fully intact with Ferrari, Red Bull and Sauber leaving the organisation in December and HRT sitting outside it already, one third of the teams are not represented by the organisation.
When the 2012 calendar was announced, Bahrain was given a date of April 22, but there is still unease within F1 about the prospect of going there.
The FIA’s regulations state that if a race is called off three months or less before the scheduled date then it cannot appear in the following year’s calendar, except in a case of force majeure. The troubles in Bahrain could be argued to be force majeure, but that is for the FIA to decide. The three month deadline falls on January 22nd, less than two weeks from now.
“We will campaign for … drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal,” Nabeel Rajab, vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights told the Guardian newspaper in the UK. “Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn’t take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.”
A spokesman for the Bahrain International Circuit responded to the latest calls by saying, “The report (independent report, published in November) found evidence of human rights violations and made certain general and specific recommendations. The government has fully acknowledged the findings of the report and is acting swiftly and convincingly on the recommendations.
“The Bahrain Grand Prix forms a fundamental part of the local economy. It is supported by an overwhelming majority of people from all sections of society in Bahrain and represents a symbol of national unity. The independent report was a milestone for Bahrain and we will now work tirelessly to ensure the race is a great success.”