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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Feb 2012   |  10:07 am GMT  |  106 comments

The last couple of days have seen some robust defence of the F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain.

The sport’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has briefed some of the Fleet Street (UK newspaper) journalists that the teams are 100% behind it and the FIA has also said that it thinks the event would help to heal tensions in the country. This is despite a return of violence to the streets of the country, on the anniversary of the Day of Rage. So what are we to make of it, with two months to go to the event?

Attention now focusses on the teams, to see whether their appetite to race in Bahrain is as strong as Ecclestone suggests. All eyes will focus particularly on McLaren’s team principal Martin Whitmarsh who put his signature to the letter last autumn telling the FIA that the teams would not attend a rescheduled 2011 event. McLaren’s main shareholder is the Bahraini investment fund Mumtalakat and Whitmarsh’s actions did not endear him to his paymasters last time.

This time things are different on a number of levels: the F1 Teams’ Association, of which Whitmarsh is also chairman, now represents only 8 of the 12 F1 teams. And the Bahraini regime believes that it has done enough with an independent review of the troubles of 2011 and some implementation of its findings, to set the country on the road to change. Opposition groups disagree and are still protesting. So who are we to believe?

There is clearly good and bad on both sides.

Tuesday marked the first anniversary of the ‘Day of Rage’, when pro-democracy demonstrations in the country begun and which prompted a bloody crackdown by the authorities.

On Monday night there was a fresh flare-up of hostilities between protestors and security forces in villages on the outskirts of the capital Manama. Youths were reported to have thrown petrol bombs at police cars, with the police responding with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The kingdom’s response to the trouble was to deploy armoured vehicles in Manama and the surrounding areas for the first time since martial law in the country was lifted last June, although further clashes were reported near the focal point of last year’s protests, the former Pearl Roundabout.

Although the renewed violence hasn’t been on the scale of 12 months ago, the events of the last two days have not gone unnoticed at the UN whose Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement in which he voiced concern over the latest escalation of trouble and called for restraint from both sides.

The response from the F1 authorities to both the action on the streets and to the letter from Members of the UK parliament calling for the FIA to call the event off – has also been firm; both Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA say that the April 22 Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled.

Ecclestone told the Guardian: “I expected there was going to be a big uprising today, with the anniversary. 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.”

Meanwhile, the FIA, who were criticised for its handling of last year’s situation when the season-opening race was postponed, reinstated and then eventually cancelled altogether following opposition from the teams, said in a statement that it “like many in the diplomatic community in the kingdom, the main political opposition…believes the staging of a Grand Prix would be beneficial in bridging some of the difficulties Bahrain is experiencing”.

That viewpoint had also been made by an all-party group of UK MPs in a letter to The Times, which was contrary to a letter written by members of the House of Lords to the same newspaper last week which urged F1 not to return to Bahrain yet.

Given the state of play at the moment, it’s inevitable that the opposition will take the opportunity to make its point when F1 comes to town, not by disrupting the event because it will be easy for the authorities to secure the circuit, but downtown, where the teams, media and sponsors’ guests stay. It’s a prospect that few relish.

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106 Comments
  1. DH says:

    His words ring hollow for me, anyone really expect BE to walk the walk and stay where the teams, media, et al will be living for their time there?

    1. James Allen says:

      The high end players will be closely guarded at the Ritz Carlton, which has a beach along one side and very tight security. The smaller teams and media etc will be in normal 2, 3 and 4 star hotels dotted around the city.

      1. Peter B says:

        Maybe all the mechanics of all the teams should get together and say “protect us”

        As always its the underlings who go out and take one “for the good of the team”

        It s a sport led by the oldest fart around, and has no moral concience except money

        Disgusted I am.

      2. RickeeBoy says:

        I’m just shocked no one ever complains about one of the richest men in the world getting there on our backs so he can give all the lucre to his [mod] daughters.

        We pay vastly inflated ticket prices because of BE – and the only reason he wants to go there, irrespective of ANYBODY’s safety, is for the outrageous deal he did with the Bahrain’is.

        It’s disgusting that the King of Bahrain is now using the GP as a possible tool for political gain when they cannot guarantee safety.

        The Bahraini protests were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and equality for the majority Shia population, and expanded to a call to end the monarchy of King Hamad. So therefore we have BE supporting the Dictator King and democracy isn’t for them as BE is shovelling money into his pockets.

        Sound similar to USA/UK did with a Coup and installing the Shah of Iran in 53.

  2. Sebee says:

    This story sure has legs. Like the Energizer bunny, keeps going and going and ….

    I hope that’s what F1 does with Bahrain this year – keeps going there and once and for all puts an end to all the drama by just holding the race, which is now sure to be an anti-climax, as they will lock down the track and hold a peaceful routine event.

    You would think this is the most important event on the calendar from all the attention it gets. It’s not. Let’s go, race, get this race behind us. Who wants a 4 week break start of the season? That’s what I thought.

    1. KGBVD says:

      Yea, who cares about democracy and civil liberties when it comes with a four week break in an F1 season?

      The circuit will be locked down, maybe. But how will dear Lewis or Fernando get to the track when there are piles of burning tires blocking the roadways?

      1. K says:

        So that’ll really test their driving skills LOL

      2. Sebee says:

        Helicopter.

        I covered my points on this before. Let’s not be mighty and righteous. Our civilized countries often have a spoted record on this. Bahrain needs to work things out themselves. Look at Arab Spring to see the chaos which precedes hope and hopefully democratic rule in some of these countries. We’re yet to see if they succeed, but what is certain they have to do it themselves.

        Don’t fool yourself into thinking F1 has anything to do with it one way or another. Just a bunch of expensive cars with well paid individuals going in circles. Not a UN delegation.

      3. KGBVD says:

        You’d need a Berlin air lift magnitude effort to get everyone and everything needed at the track by helicopter. Absolutely ridiculous. Bernie gonna shuttle the 100′s of team personnel to the track in his private copter?

        A UN delegation no, but F1 does have something to do with it. The ruling minority has used it as a showcase for the country. They made an issue of it, but F1 needs to deal with it. And putting your hands over your eyes and ears isn’t going to change the fact that the Bahrani people do not want the race (or anything else to do with the ruling minority).

        If this race was in Libya or Syria there would be no discussion. But since the Saudi Army did a pretty decent job quashing the protests last year, no one seems to care.

  3. goferet says:

    Good!

    I say we should race in Bahrain for F1 has nothing to do with the political dynamics in the country.

    This is simply a poly by the opposition & general population to take a shot at the regime for F1 is seen as a hobby for the elitists & 1% in the country & hence lets take it out on their play toy mentality, for I can’t see this kind of farce happening over an International football game between Bahrain & a foreign country.

    Having said that, I wish the Bahrain people get their grievances heard & made right but they shouldn’t take advantage of the F1 spotlight just because they aren’t die hard petrol heads for the rest of the world wants to see the Bahrain Gp especially with the prospect of what DRS can do to liven up this track.

    P.s.

    After Bernie & the F.I.A’s willingness to make the Bahrain race happen especially last year, this just proves to me that Bernie & the F.I.A are afraid & kiss royalty’s boots any day, any time.

    E.g.

    Monaco – Isn’t charged to hold their race

    Spain – Has two Gps even though both are snoozefests (with Barcelona 2011 being the exception)

    1. StallionGP F1 says:

      I so agree with your first paragraph since when did F1 become a political tool to reform a country, or like people argue for it to be a poverty alleviation tool.
      I for one think get on with the race so long as people can be safe guarded.

      1. alexbookoo says:

        Do you think the Bahrain Grand Prix is anything other than a political tool for the Al Khalifa family? It’s ridiculous to pretend it’s not political.

    2. the_rh1no says:

      It would be nice to state and believe that F1 does not have anything to do with politics, but it does. It’s the nature of any (popular) sport, especially one which relies on so many companies that are international economic powerhouses.

      Like it or not F1 will have a political impact on anywhere it goes, what kind of impact though is dependent on who’s eyes you look through. You may be right about a populist attack on a hobby for an elitist minority; it is also worth noting though, that an element of this population has significant grievance with this minority and so view anyone or any organisation as something legitimising their oppressors.

      I don’t really know enough about what it is actually like as an ordinary person in Bahrain beyond what I can reach in the media, but if I saw an organisation like F1 with it’s huge entourage of political leaders, celebrities, big companies, media etc… fraternising with people I saw as my oppressors, then I would be angry.

      To reiterate: F1 should be free from political forces, but it would be too idealistic to say that it is. It is a lamentable situation, but it is the reality of such a big, popular and successful sport.

  4. CTP says:

    james, do YOU think it should go ahead, and do you feel that the teams do or don’t want it to go ahead as things stand now?

    1. James Allen says:

      I think it’s quite finely balanced. As things stand I’m concerned about going there but I’ve got a contract.

      1. Tom Johnson says:

        ‘finely balanced’

        I think that’s right. John Yates is over seeing a revamp of the police force, the inquiry held into last year’s unrest seems to have been genuinely independent and was very critical of the regime, retrials of the medical staff, disgracefully convicted, last year are taking place. It’s a question of is the glass half empty/full. Not that any of this concerns Ecclestone: it’s all about the bottom line I’m afraid, human rights can go hang in the face of hosting and TV fees. That’s F1 for you.

      2. Erik says:

        hear hear

        Some of us sitting in cushy first-world countries may argue that the uprising has nothing to do with F1, that the angst of the general population there has nothing to do with the race. Let’s go racing.

        Wrong.

        To hold an F1 race there, which the vast majority of the population can’t even dream of attending due to their quality of life is quite frankly disgusting (Remember that an F1 race is supposed to be held so people can attend?.. you know, fill the grandstands?.. By more than just a bunch of elite barrons? It’s supposed to be about the fans?..)

        Imagine that all you wanted was equal rights, democracy, freedom of speech, basically a fair go. To which your leaders say – stuff all that, let’s hold an elitist motor race, blow a tonne of cash on that. Yeah, not a slap in the face at all to the general public there who are screaming to be heard.

        F1 is an elitist sport, let’s all just face it, only participated by those who can afford it. Bahrain has a lot of fundamental issues to sort out (like basic human rights), before it can ever morally afford an F1 race.

        Not a good look Bernie…

      3. KGBVD says:

        I wonder how many people saying “screw the ppl, let’s have a race” are the same ones that complained about the Sky deal…

        What people want seems to matter in UK, but not in Bahrain.

      4. Egal says:

        And there lies the rub.

        “I’ve got a contract”.

        Everyone is so bound by contracts and so scared to break them.

        Perhaps they should go but all the sponsors should insist that their products/names aren’t associated with this by insisting that their logos are removed from the cars. Wouldn’t that make a point. Cars with no logos.

      5. HFEVO2 says:

        I would be concerned, as well.

        Are you one of the “High End” Players in the Ritz Carlton or in a less secure hotel dotted around the city ?

      6. ACx says:

        So you are going because you have a contract? Ok, then so should every one else with a contract, right? That’ll be the teams, drivers, F1, etc.

        And this, IMHO, is how it should be. To change plans is a political statement.

        The main thing here is safety. If the F1 thinks it unsafe then, no, it should not go. If it is safe then it should go because F1 is not in the business of meddling with internal politics.

        A few things I would like the nay sayers to realise is that

        a) Bahrain is not Iraq.
        b) the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is not a human rights organisation, its the opposition party. They are clearly as cynical as any one else. Just imagine if the Labour Party in the UK was called The British Centre for Human Rights.
        c)I have heard people say that local doctors are great witnesses for what’s happening in Bahrain, simply because doctors are some how intrinsically honest. Please remember the professions of some of the London bombers. Sadly, two were doctors.
        d)If water cannon, plastic bullets etc are too abhorrent to use on protesters, then please oppose the British GP, as the UK police are now authorised to use such measures to “police” protests right here in the UK.

        Lastly, if F1 is really concerned with Human rights, then it should consider that before signing contracts, not once it gets dragged in to internal politics. Which, if we are being consistent, leaves a lot of gaps on the calendar.

      7. KGBVD says:

        I don’t think ‘fairly balanced’ comes into it.

        An F1 face unto itself is not political, but when a ruling (tyrannical) minority uses the race as a marquee event for the country, then it has been made political.

        The race is a focal point of the opposition (through no fault of its own), and should be considered as such. Going to the race and participating is therefore a political act, and in this case, it’s an exoneration of the ruling minority’s atrocious actions over the past year.

        I hope F1 goes to Bahrain, and I hope it’s a disaster. Let them give Jean, Bernie, Damon and Jackie something to think about before again dismissing the actions of ‘troublesome youths’.

  5. Dmitry says:

    To race or not to race – that’s a question without clear answer.

    Last year I was totally for “not to race”, but this time… I am not so sure anymore.
    This is not because I think everything is normal in Bahrain, absolutely not, and not because I think F1 will bring peace there, no. It’s because it doesn’t matter.

    I’ll try to explain (though I already anticipate this message to be heavily reviewed before posting).
    In a span of only 1 year I became so disillusioned with all this “revolution” movement, that now I am completely sure there will be no difference between racing or not. F1 in Bahrain won’t change anything, exactly as all these people still trying to fight for their rights also won’t change anything.
    In countries like Bahrain, Libya, Egypt… even Russia (though we have some different kind of mentality) – where all the power is concentrated in the hands of military, politicians or some other powerful group of people, there’s simply no point of “revolutions” because either the power will shift to another “powerful group” or the new regime will create even greater number of unhappy, because it will lack the ability and will to rule and bring peace.
    We can clearly see it now, after all these “revolutions” happened.

    So, the question is – should F1 try to connect itself with politics, countries and all these unhappy people to try and change something in troubled counties? I think not.
    F1 should not be made into a tool for politic games, it should remain neutral, promoting itself as the unity of minds, passions and free people all around the globe. And it’s up to these troubled countries to live up to the expectations of all F1 followers as countries supporting same ideals.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s interesting; Bernie says F1 doesn’t do politics, but FIA says the race can heal divisions, which means accepting that the race has a political function.

      1. K says:

        Bernie says that because all he cares is the money he gets, no? =)

  6. RandomPerson says:

    I have to say that I’m in two minds about this. Clearly, Bahrain is still a country in turmoil, and whilst they seem to be making small steps in the right direction, stories still continue of protesters being tortured, and attacked with tear gas / stun grenades. Doctors and nurses are still in prison for caring for the wounded, and I think for F1 to be seen to legitimise a regime associated with such acts is simply disgraceful.

    Having said that, having the event in the country could be a good opportunity for the protesters to draw attention to their issues, knowing that any violence towards them would attract more attention from the world’s press than usual.

    Obviously, the only voice that should matter in any of this is the voice of the Bahrainis themselves, but I doubt we’ll be allowed to hear that.

  7. nick says:

    It’s just not morally acceptable for the race to go ahead. It isn’t just about safety – holding the race is implicitly supporting the current regime. The FIA’s comment that the event may help to heal tensions gets to the heart of it. That’s exactly what the regime wants – heal tensions, sweep things under the carpet. Healing tensions isn’t always a good thing. Should we have healed tensions and defused the egypt democracy protests, or the protests that resulted in the end of the USSR? Of course not. When governments are undemocratic and corrupt, and people are starting to protest against them, we should be fanning the flames of protest, not trying to damp them down.

    1. David Young says:

      couldn’t have said it better.

      1. David says:

        here, here!

    2. Quercus says:

      Well put. I agree.

    3. ACx says:

      Surely its was the case when the contracts were signed. Bahrain didn’t suddenly get nasty last year. I don’t recall anyone complaining before things kicked off over there. It was all fine and moral. Then a minority kicked off having decided they wanted their bit of the Arab spring. Except Bahrain is not Libya.

  8. Rich C says:

    I know there will be the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth here over this.

    But I still say if you really want to change the situation you need to go race there with all the usual media attenetion. You can’t change things by ignoring them.

    Ofc if you’re afraid, you can stay home in bed and just tweet about how horrible it is instead of doing something about it.

  9. Rich C says:

    And, way, way off topic, here is something we were discussing several months ago.

    Nevada begins regulating self-driving cars

    Published February 16, 2012

    Associated Press

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/02/16/nevada-begins-regulating-self-driving-cars/#ixzz1mZlf1AV2

  10. db4tim says:

    Sad that Martin W cannot speak of the safety of his and many teams without coming under the gun of the folks that own them….safety is above all.

    …Bahrain is NOT safe, no matter what you believe is going on politically

    1. jpinx says:

      Other circuits are not “safe” – as in the local area where teams have to camp out. Remember Jensen Button escaping from an attempted heist a while ago in Sao Paolo? It’s the FIA playing politics that is a real worry. Are we now going to have an F1 race in Iraq to “ease the tensions”. James — who are the political players in the FIA playing games with F1?

      1. James Allen says:

        The approach to Interlagos is in a city. Bahrain track is at the end of a long road in the desert. Easy to put a ring of steel around it. Only way through would be a helicopter

      2. K says:

        Not if the ring of steel has AA guns =)

        Or maybe the F1 cars should equip themselves with some armory and weaponry? I’m sure the MI6 can assist quite a number of teams here :D

      3. jpinx says:

        I was thinking more about the places everyone has to camp out. Securing the actual circuit is probably not an issue in most places, but securing the guesthouses where you’ll be staying would be all but impossible. I have been part of the support for many events including F1 GP’s and I know what the “after hours” can be like — just impossible to really secure everyone. OK in most european situations depending who you party with, but I have some scary stories about events in India and Egypt.

        I am fascinated by the duplicity of the FIA playing politics with the event and trying to get a seat on some forum by promoting the F1-GP as a peace maker. Who is behind this and what is their agenda?

  11. Dan says:

    If the race goes ahead, I will boycott it.

    It is ridiculous to believe that the underlying problems in Bahraini society have been resolved.

    I love this sport. But the arrogance of the people at the top is disgusting.

    1. David Young says:

      agreed!

    2. StallionGP F1 says:

      Like anyone would notice.

      1. Dan says:

        yeah, i know.

        I have to do what little i can though. If people did boycott watching it, then tv earnings for that race wouldn’t justify the cost.

  12. Davexxx says:

    So James, where do YOU stay during your Bahrain visit?! :-) And is that place convenient enough for a quick exit to the Airport if you need to?

    1. James Allen says:

      I’m not going to publish that info!!

      My BBC Radio contract says I have to go.

      1. Davexxx says:

        Sorry James I wasn’t serious about revealing SPECIFICALLY where you’d be! Just generally.. Now you’ve explained, the Media etc will be in hotels around the city. Just hope you can get to the airport easily from there! Meanwhile an earlier storyline suggested if the Govt advise no travel there, then getting insurance would be the problem that would stop teams/people/media going. If that happened to be the situation at the time, would your BBC contract still insist you go anyway?
        Separately, thanks for your comments in general, it’s interesting to gauge from them what the feelings are.

      2. James Allen says:

        UK Govt currenty say “No Travel Restrictions” but take care

      3. jpinx says:

        I’m sure you have a “force majeure” clause in there – and your travel insurance will probably be your best yardstick.

      4. James Allen says:

        But is it force majeure when the event has already been called off twice in 12 months?

      5. Dave Aston says:

        Just call it from your living room, but remember to say ‘over here’, not ‘over there’, a la James Hunt blowing their cover while calling the South African GP from an English studio… If you don’t feel authentic, maybe sprinkle some sand on the carpet.

      6. Quercus says:

        I remember those days when the commentators would commentate on the flyaway races from the BBC studio in the UK! It was interesting to watch because the commentators were in exactly the same position as the viewer.

        More than once Murray would say, “he’s slowing down!” and I’d find myself saying, “yes, Murray; his wheel’s fallen off”… then on the telly James would repeat, “yes, Murray; his wheel’s fallen off”!

        Happy days!

      7. Femi Akinz says:

        Lol. Nice one James

  13. Dominic J says:

    I wish they would just switch it to Turkey. Give Bahrain until the summer to sort things out and kick them off the calendar permanently if things haven’t calmed down by the time the calendar is finalised

    1. Persi says:

      I admit I quite like the Turkey track…

      1. K says:

        at least better than Bahrain. Never been fond of this circuit.

  14. Brent McMaster says:

    James, When the FIA makes a statement, who decides what to say? Is Jean Todt’s sons race team not supported by Bahrain?

  15. Jamie Cottage says:

    Funny how no individual team has come out and backed Bernie’s comments. He said exactly the same this time last year. I can see this being cancelled within the month.

    1. James Allen says:

      I think this time may be different. My sense of it is 60/40 but it’s very hard to know for sure what they’ll do when it’s put up or shut up time

      1. Nigel says:

        But… “Bernie Ecclestone has briefed some of the Fleet Street (UK newspaper) journalists that the teams are 100% behind it.”

        Does anyone believe anything Ecclestone says anymore ?
        (I gave up quite some time ago.)

  16. Haydn says:

    If there is even the slightest doubt that the safety of the teams and anyone associated with the event cannot be garuanteed then the race should not go ahead. That is despite the fact that to go ahead would give an implicit thumbs up to what seems to be a brutal and illiberal regime. However, cancelling the event implies support of the ‘rebels’ and F1 should, imho remain apolitical in this matter. Security should be the only grounds for the decision to be made.

    1. Baktru says:

      Then Brazil should be cancelled as well shouldn’t it?

  17. milkboy says:

    Shameful! The way the powers that be in F1 treat the public is just pathetic. Stop thinking that we are bloody stupid and behave like responsible, grown up people and be honest. A little decency would be nice too. Love the sport, but the way F1 gets itself into trouble just about every year (spygate, crashgate, threats of split at the end of Moseley’s reign, etc., etc., etc.) makes me sometimes wonder if I should really be supporting people like that.

    That they are getting themselves into the same muddle as last year is just beyond me.

  18. Quattro_T says:

    A sad day, not only for the pro-democracy protesters that were killed by government forces (and their families), but also for the worlds’ 2nd biggest sport. Money win…sport comes in 2nd.

  19. franed says:

    Ironic that on top of many of us F1 fans not approving of the circus going to Bahrain, it is one of the races being televised by the BBC, so that we are going to have to boycott the whole race instead of just highlights.
    Even more annoying that the BBC now announce that having cut our F1 tv coverage in half, they are going to provide 3D coverage of parts of the Olympic games for the few hundred viewers with 3D tv sets, which I suspect includes all the BBC directors.

  20. Gary Taylor says:

    Really think the event should be cancelled until the situation is completely resolved. Berne can’t see past the $$ and for me it’s another one of many misjudgments of recent times. If the race goes ahead, it’s bad for the already tarnished image of f1

  21. Dan Orsino says:

    I don’t pretend to speak for other fans but i’m guessing that like me they regret the way F1 has developed over the last decade or so in taking itself out to the far ends of the earth.

    Anyone who thinks they can pick out who’s right and who’s wrong in these conflicts is being simplistic…
    Seems like a lose lose situation, even if you take NATO along to guard the hotels and restaurant, ..or maybe that would make things even worse….

    1. James Allen says:

      I think that’s a valid point about a lose/lose situation.

  22. Dan Orsino says:

    James, if I may go off topic, why is Merc allowed to test at Silverstone?

    1. James Allen says:

      Shakedown tests are allowed, low mileage. Force India did it on launch day, Ferrari wanted to in Fiorano but snow stopped them

  23. PasqualeMendiza says:

    F1 should be having nothing to do with Bahrain. Ecclestone yet again has made an unbelievably crass comment. The sooner he’s gone, the better the sport would be.

    How many people actually like the Bahrain GP anyway, politics aside?

  24. Awesome Commando says:

    Before people chime in with the “as long as F1 is in China – also not a human rights champion – why should the they pull out of Bahrain” argument:

    Two wrongs don´t make a right. Perhaps the sport should stay away from all dictatorships. You know, countries that lock up people only trying to exercise free speech.

  25. Rishi says:

    Agree with most of the comments here that this is ostensibly not like 12 months ago (when the decision should unequivocally have been to cancel) and is an awkward one.

    Game theorists may like to think of my stance as a sequential Nash equilibrium game between Bernie and the teams. Going into the autumn, I’d have advocated not going in 2012. Turkey can pick up this year’s race if you want 20 of them, let’s hope the Bahraini Govt start implementing some of the reforms advocated in the independent report (or some more of them) and that the situation stabilises.

    But with Bernie having decided back then to put it on the calendar, I think the teams have got to go along with it and the race should go ahead UNLESS there is a drastic change in the atmosphere. I don’t think we have reached this latter stage yet. However, if some people associated with F1 start getting death threats, or if unrest ramps up in the build up to the race, and Embassies worldwide start strongly discouraging travel then one’s thought do tip back in favour of cancellation.

    I think as James says it’s finely poised at the moment, so we’re going to have to see how things develop. I think whatever your view there is sympathy for the teams & media and discomfort about the uncertainty the future holds.

  26. Michael says:

    Channel 4 News and Newsnight have been reporting the torture of teenage prisoners and the arrest of doctors for treating protesters. If F1 goes there, these sorts of stories will hang over all the coverage. We’d become part of the political battlefield, no matter how secure they make the circuit.

    1. Webbo says:

      And the US are torturing in Guantanamo, shall we call off Austin then? And How about China? And the future race in Russia? All very democratic non-torturing contries, or not?

      1. Michael says:

        You miss my point. The world’s media have moved on from Guantanamo and engagement with China is generally viewed as a positive way of bringing the light of Capitalist Democracy to the heathens. As for Russia, no-one knows what to think – it is still, technically a democracy.

        Anyway, my point is about how the media will cover the race. I guarantee there won’t be a single mention of the event without referencing the associated political strife. Opponents of the regime will want to use the event to raise their profile and they’ll succeed, given the extent of sympathy for the rebels within the world’s media, who have faced major restrictions in reporting from Bahrain.

        Indeed, from a public relations standpoint, it’s just mad to stage an event in a country that won’t even let most journalists across the border!

  27. Paul J says:

    I think it should be avoided – at least for this year. Give Bahrain some time to sort it’s own political and social problems out before we try and fix it with a motor race.

    Aside from the slightly selfish reason of it generally being an extremely boring GP, it seem like it would also unnecessarily endanger too many peoples lives.

  28. Darren says:

    The FIA are sorely out of touch if they think a Formula 1 grand prix is going to heal the rift between the pro-democracy movement and the establishment….

  29. Bayan says:

    James, as you mentioned in an earlier post, BE and FIA are sending mixed signals regarding F1 being political.

    Also, in giving the trophies, aren’t the trophie presenter at the end of the race usually princes or something in Bahrain? Wouldn’t that be interepreted as picking a side no matter who presents the trophies?

    1. James Allen says:

      Good point – podium protocol is very strict in F1 and they are very sensitive about messages being sent out via who’s on podium. There was a problem with that in Turkey the first year, as I recall

      1. Panayiotis says:

        Indeed there was a problem in Turkey which the FIA should have seen coming and avoided.

      2. Bayan says:

        Yes I remember. The organizers were fined if recall correctly.

  30. Liam in Sydney says:

    OT – James… a quick request. Is it possible to get a “feedback/requests” box on the site that lets us make comments to you? Stuff that doesn’t involve the blog stories? We would understand that you have no obligation to respond or even read them, but sometimes I feel there are great ideas that we can funnel through to you but don’t know how to ask?! :)

    1. James Allen says:

      Well over the last three years people have just posted them in comments section of current posts and I respond and/or note them for future.

      This site is probably the most interactive out there – that’s where the Fans Forum concept came from – so I’d prefer to keep the interaction in one place

  31. Persi says:

    I don’t like the dismissive tone of Bernie’s words.

  32. Meeklo says:

    I’m suspecting that if the event proceeds it might be a closed gate race with no spectators.

    1. john g says:

      barely worth it – you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference…!

  33. Ahmad Al-Bashrawi says:

    Actually, I don’t care anymore if the Bahrain GP takes place this year or not. I think it’s wrong for a sport to support either side of the conflict especially when you have such reports around:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZCFQm4dQVY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    I think that the best action in such cases would be to cancel the event if it would benefit any side directly because in that case, that side will be the only winner and the sport as a whole will lose in the long term. However, I do realize that protesters will benefit as well by being exposed to foreign media and definitely government won’t be harsh with them as long as the media is watching.

  34. Red5 says:

    With the vast media coverage surrounding F1 I’d say it’s impossible for the sport and teams to distance themselves from current events. The moment they land in the country the dividing line between sport and politics will become invisible.

    Whilst the facilities are exceptional the races typically do not generate as much excitement or entertainment as say Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Spa, etc. Bahrain could/should be dropped from the calendar.

  35. Andrew Kirk says:

    Hi James can you recall something similar happening in the past of F1 regarding is a country in a fit state to have a race? While it is no where near as bad all I can think is Munich and the olympics which naturally should never had carried on.

  36. Chris says:

    The race may well go ahead, but will play to empty Stadia, is that an advert Bahrain wants to show the world?

    Watch People and Power on AlJazeera English for an update on the situation:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZCFQm4dQVY&list=UUNye-wNBqNL5ZzHSJj3l8Bg&index=21&feature=plpp_video

    And make up your mind if things have changed.

  37. F1Cam says:

    Clearly, no one wants to be the one
    that upsets the Bahrainis’ and who
    can blame with their current
    investment in F1. Jean Todt is
    compromised by his sons involvement
    with the crown prince in Lotus, so the
    FIA stance is predictable. It will be
    interesting to see who’s left holding
    the baby this time when the music stops
    if the race doesn’t go ahead.

  38. K says:

    Obviously BE thinks the $$ he gets from hosting the Bahrain GP worth a few drivers or team personnel having possibility of getting shot. @_@

  39. S. Butts says:

    I wont be watching it, thats for sure.

  40. Grayzee (Australia) says:

    Hmmm…..I don’t get it!
    There are so many countries vying for an F1 race that are much safer to travel in than Bahrain. Some of them might even have genuine race fans.
    So why is the FIA even contemplating Bahrain?
    Oh yeah….I forgot….the other countries don’t pay as much!
    This whole debacle has NOTHING to do with politics, or safety, or anything else.
    It’s has EVERYTHING to do with greed and MONEY!!
    And it STINKS!

  41. Rob Newman says:

    Bahrain is not the only country which has issues. Just before F1 went to India, farmers were protesting. Brazil has always been dangerous. China has different problems. Every country will have some issue or other.

    F1 is a sport and people should not use a sport for political gains. I don’t see any reason why the race in Bahrain shouldn’t go ahead.

    1. Awesome Commando says:

      Every country has problems, but not everyone practices torture.

  42. Zane says:

    What grinds me about this whole situation is this.Leaving aside the financial and political factors,the fact is that there are all kinds of civil unrest happening in Bahrain.Foreigners have been targeted,and it is a volatile and unpredictable place to be.It is unconscionable of the FIA and BE to demand teams place their personnel and property in harms way,purely for the sake of profit.Ask BE if he would demand that his daughters go along and travel incognito,without bodyguards or special arrangements being made,and see if that happens.

    1. Rob Newman says:

      @Zane, “Foreigners have been targeted …” … Can you please confirm from where you are getting this information? In case you didn’t know, there are large number of expatriates from many different countries living with their families and working in Bahrain. No one is living in fear. I don’t think you are getting information from reliable sources.

  43. Chris R says:

    Well Bernie’s laying down whats going to happen, I think it puts the smaller teams in a difficult position and makes me wonder, how many will pull out?

    Who in their right mind would accept the dangers of staying in regular accommodation, when the risks are clearly there.

    Unless all teams have decent security for the weekend, I dont see how Bernie can force them to go. Makes me think he knows this, and is probably being political.

  44. G Hill says:

    I hope the race does go ahead. Really I do.

    I also hope the race is disrupted by the people and the world gets to see what an undemocratic state Bahrain really is.

    This actually may benifit the country. F1 in town brings the media and so the plight of the people would be hard to ignore.

    James, if you are there and people protest and disrupt the race, then please report whats happening. Please don’t sanitise it.

    I just hope no one gets hurt… which I think isn’t realistic given the news stories.

    :(

  45. Godfather says:

    Didn’t our very own Damon Hill visit Bahrain recently and give a thumbs up? I am sure the situation is not that bad … unless he too has become a puppet of the FIA …

    1. Webbo says:

      Isn’t the British Army stationary in Bahrain and could help if there is a problem? And probably the US as well, or not?

  46. Simon Donald says:

    I think it is naive to say that F1 has no political role and is outside of politics. F1 makes political statements knowingly or unknowingly not that infrequently, whether it be stopping racing in South Africa at the height of Apartheid or going back for the 1992 and 1993 races after the ends, whether it be having the first race behind the iron curtain in Hungary or whether it be the first race in China. F1 can be used for political means as well by others for example what happened in Turkey a few years ago with the president of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey) presenting the winners trophy. F1 always has and always will be political. They could make a good political statement by stating that they will not race there in the current political climate. However, seeing as Mr E’s bottom line is always the money, then that won’t happen now will it.

  47. Ade says:

    I’ve got a much simpler reason for not heading up there from Dubai (where I live)to see the race. They’re holding it too late in the year this time. Late April!! The temperatures will already be fierce by then! Sitting in 40+ degree heat watching the most boring race of the year. Forget that. Lunacy, even if there weren’t the political issues. Maybe though there is method in the madness. Maybe the organisers hope that a serious bit of heat will sap the energy of any would be protesters…..?

  48. Trey says:

    Sky and the News International Publications will be doing what they can for it to go ahead. The BBC TV are not doing this one live and there’s already a great story building around it. This is a scoop for Sky and they’ll want it to go ahead however risky.

    I expect the papers will sing from the same him sheet and ignore or refute any opinion that it should be cancelled.

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