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Bahrain GP 2012
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Apr 2012   |  9:24 am GMT  |  117 comments

There is a Grand Prix this weekend in China, but it’s the one the following Sunday in Bahrain which is dominating the headlines and looks set to dominate the agenda in Shanghai this weekend as well.

One of the leading opponents of the Bahraini ruling regime yesterday predicted “violence” on the streets of the country if the Formula 1 Grand Prix goes ahead next week.

Speaking in a discussion on BBC Radio 4′s PM programme, in which I also took part, Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said, “I’m afraid that it will turn to violence.. You see growing anger against the F1 here, it’s become a symbol of the ruling regime here in Bahrain.

“Some people say ‘Let’s separate politics and sport’, yes you can do that in the UK but not in a repressive regime where everything is in the hands of the rulers.”

You can hear all of the eight minute discussion on the Bahrain GP, starting at 14 mins in, here BBC Radio 4 PM programme

This threat is precisely what the teams are afraid of. In the last 24 hours one unnamed team principal told the Guardian that most of the teams want the race cancelled, or at least postponed, as they are profoundly uncomfortable about going there.

Damon Hill broke the ice last week on this subject when he said, “It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for Formula One, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race. That is not what this sport should be about. Looking at it today you’d have to say that [the race] could be creating more problems than it’s solving.”

And now the unnamed team boss has said, “I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain.

“If I’m brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lockdown there. And I think that would be unacceptable, both for F1 and for Bahrain. But I don’t see any other way they can do it.

“We’re all hoping the FIA calls it off. From a purely legal point of view, in terms of insurance and government advice, we are clear to go. But what we find worrying is that there are issues happening every day.”

According to Gazzetta dello Sport today 10 of the 12 team principals are in favour of the race being called off. One team sent its team manager over there to recce the situation last week and he reported back to other teams that things don’t look particularly unusual, but the situation is evolving quite quickly and what is clear is that there will be intense meetings between Bernie Ecclestone (who will be attending his first race of the season), FIA president Jean Todt and the teams during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.


Ecclestone has always maintained that the protests are small in scale and that there is nothing for the teams or other F1 personnel to worry about. In the first sign that he’s softening his position on this matter, Ecclestone has told the Times today, ‘If the teams don’t want to go, then we cannot make them.”

The teams have hitherto said that they are leaving it to the FIA to make the decision on this matter as it is their role to ensure the safety of the event and its participants. But the Guardian article is a sign that some teams are now trying to force the issue. The Bahrainis have quite a bit of influence within the FIA, including a seat on the World Council. They also have a major share holding in McLaren, which makes team principal Martin Whitmarsh’s position awkward, in light of his role as FOTA president, which requires him to reflect the views of the seven teams still involved in that organisation.

I think the point is that F1 teams are keen to race in Bahrain, but only when the country has stabilised again after the 2011 uprisings and when the teams can be sure that their personnel are not at risk and the race will be played out against a backdrop of calm.

Although the authorities in Bahrain want to use F1 as a symbol that the country is well advanced down that path, the continuing protests and threats indicate that it’s not as far down that road as it might have hoped to be.

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117 Comments
  1. Alex says:

    Interesting that a team sent a manager. What sort of assessment would they be able to make? A general question: Do teams employ experts in to consider risk overall?

    1. Davexxx says:

      Quite. It had to be a token gesture. He could only have seen a ‘normal pre-race circuit set-up’, but not the violence that could erupt, at any time, in any place, in the city, so he would never get a true image or feeling.

      1. dufussy says:

        Actually, if there is protest “violence that could erupt, at any time, in any place, in the city” (which I believe is generally the case) then even a two or three day recce in country would enable them to “get a true image or feeling” of the civil unrest.

        Nobody is pretending that an F1 team boss is at the same level of expertise as HRW or MSF staff, but on the basis of James’ story alone we should give them some credit for their initiative, and the potential findings.

    2. hero_was_senna says:

      Would be like Hans Blik going to Iraq looking for “weapons of mass destruction”
      The Bahrainis would hardly leave him to look around any danger spots, would they?

      F1 is a joke politically.
      They really do live in a self important little hub, where nothing going on in the world matters to them.
      F1′s continued love of money places human rights and freedom of speech into the bin marked indifferent.

      I’d be fascinated which 2 teams haven’t voiced an opinion about going. Mclaren may be in an awkward position because of their backers, but who else?

      1. Kevin Green says:

        They wont be going, Im pretty certain on that and doubt there will be a return to Bahrain now either.

        Its all wrong anyway somewhere pretty to watch the F1 cars drive around due to some oil rich tycoon’s with too much money to splash about funding it whilst persons in absolute poverty serve it and live around it whilst unable to afford race day access!.

        Really what is going on??

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        Somewhere pretty?
        I don’t remember that of Bahrain to be honest, just a desert.
        In fact, apart from Malaysia, I don’t feel any of the Tilke snore-dromes makes any use of the land around the tracks.

        China has some great architecture on the start line, or at least that’s some opinions.
        Turkey has the mosque-like parapets around the pit lane.
        Even the changes to Hockenheim have removed what was distinctive about that circuit.
        It seems Tilke goes to http://www.what-cliche-sums-up-this-country.com and incorporates it into his design.

        Thank God that the Belgians redesigned Spa to what it is now. Can you imagine what Tilke would have butchered the “old” Spa into??

      3. Kevin Green says:

        Don’t know Hero it is quite an attractive fresh different background if you like when they are racing. Spa?? best out and out “racing” circuit in F1 in my opinion.

        Anyway my point being F1 should not be going to these places where there’s such places of poverty at the level it is but there’s spare cash to host a F1 race??? something is well wrong never mind the civil unrest which is a reason in itself!

  2. Peter Abatan says:

    Since it is looking likely that Bahrain will be unable to host the Grand Prix again this year, I wonder if Abu Dhabi can come to the rescue and host the Grand Prix. It could be called “Grand Prix of the Middle East”. I know it takes almost 1 year to prepare for this event, but it does not seem impossible to host.

    I think it is doable.

    1. DB4Tim says:

      Not in two weeks

      1. Peter Abatan says:

        Why not. It is possible, I am sure Bernie can make it happen.

    2. Keith Read says:

      The solution is so obvious. Move the venue south to the Losail International Circuit, Qatar. Purpose built at a cost of $58m just six years ago it has everything Bernie needs. Millions of gigawatts of lighting, huge run off areas, only one grandstand (avoids troublesome racing fans), no infrastructure and the ambience of Mars. Perfect for the new, fan free style of Formula One. When I watched the opening round of the MotoGP season I could not believe what I was seeing. The one grandstand seemed to be full of Europeans (actually it was only half full). Because it was dark I (mistakenly) thought that other grandstands were out of sight. I’ve just checked it out on Google Earth and it really is devoid of any viewing areas away from the pit straight. A typical petrodollar folly.

      1. Lewis says:

        Losail doesn’t have the required FIA rating for it to have F1 cars on the track.

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        … and probably wasn’t designed by design God, Tilke either.

      3. Paul says:

        Replace a race in a repressive Arab dictatorship with… another race in a repressive Arab dictatorship?

        Better to have another race in Europe, real tracks, real races, real fans, and not just some oil-rich dictator trying to present his medieval regime as ‘modern’.

    3. DMyers says:

      If they are to stage a race that weekend, holding it in neighbouring Qatar might be better. I’d love to see F1 cars pounding round Losail, although there are bound to be logistical problems given the short notice.

    4. Andrew Halliday says:

      As well as the race they host towards the end of the year? One race per year at that track is more than enough.

    5. Kevin says:

      What about qatar? They hosted the moto gp last weekend so they might have some infrastructure in still in place. It’s a great track, I’d love to see an F1 cars racing into turn 1. Oh and the multiple lines off the last two turns to set up a run down the straight would be exciting too!!

  3. beastfromtheeast says:

    Easy rule: no democracy, no F1.

    Simples. No more Bahrain, no more Abu D, no more China. Three rubbishy Tilke-inspired bore-fests off the calendar. F1 wins, the fans win. Bernie can replace them, if he wants, with races in better places, though I’d support a reduction in races so not bother to replace. Unfortunately, we’d still have the crap-fests at Valencia, Hungary and Korea…

    1. azac21 says:

      Not so easy rule…. there are different flavours of democracy e.g. Bernie’s flavour of democratic Bahrain which tastes a bit of petro-dollars.

      1. wolf says:

        It was hilarious in Australia earlier this year when Bernie was demanding that an elected member of parliment be sacked for calling his daughter a cashed up bogan.
        Seems to indicate a mindset which would be happy in a country where dissenters are imprisoned.

    2. if only F1 was a simple as that .. shame money comes into it :)

      but then Money makes F1 as well …

      Matt

    3. Wu says:

      Well, USA, UK, Germany… basically all ‘democratic’ countries are not real democracies. They are republics. No proportional representation doesn’t help matters either.

      You say Valencia; the Spanish denied the Basques freedom. Should we revoke their right too? What about USA’s Guantanamo Bay? What about Texans’ use of death penalty? I find it distateful, yet I’m still going to watch the first race.

      It’s a slippery slope when an organisation like F1 chooses which countries are worthy due to their own idiology.

      1. Andrew Woodruff says:

        The UK is not a republic and it is a democracy. The USA and Germany – to take your examples – are both republics and democracies, but let’s not turn this into an undergraduate politics essay.

        This is a tricky subject for an F1 chat forum because it takes the readership quite some way (to say the least) from its area of expertise!

        As I see it, Damon Hill’s statement is a completely sensible and dispassionate assessment of the situation. I would not be at all surprised if, behind the scenes, he was selected by the various F1 stakeholders to voice the common sense view of all from a position of some authority, but without the political and financial ties of any of the teams, the FIA, or Bernie.

        F1 cannot go to Bahrain in 2012, nor possibly ever again whilst the country remains under its current regime, because of the lightening rod effect it will always carry for opposition groups. The sooner everyone accepts the reality of that situation the better.

      2. Rob says:

        UK is not a republic…. being a republic doesn’t preclude being a democracy either.

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        Good points, just that in those other countries you have mentioned, F1 personnel are not at risk of attack.
        I don’t know Brazil’s history, but there seems to be attacks on team personnel and even Button a couple of years back, yet we don’t here any objections to go there.

      4. Wu says:

        If it’s a matter of safety then fair enough. The track should be safe for everyone there.
        What happens to staff and fans outside the circuit is another matter, but no country is ever safe when it comes to crime or even protesters, like Prince Charles and his wife found out last year during out very own riots.

    4. DMyers says:

      That comes down to how you would define ‘democracy’. I’d argue that the UK isn’t exactly a paragon of democracy given the fact that there is the House of Lords and the level of corruption and vested interests that still exist here. OK, it is light years ahead of Bahrain and China, but we are in no position to be lecturing anyone.

      1. PeteH says:

        The House of Lords was able to hold The Commons to account before liebour filled it with all their cronies and lollipop ladies.

    5. James Clayton says:

      China a bore fest? I don’t remember the last time I had the chance to pop out for a pee without worry of missing some action in Shanghai!

    6. Wayne says:

      I agree with your assessment of the quality of the races but not with your ‘rule’.

      Who is F1 to say what type of Government is right and therefore endorsed by F1, it’s teams and all their sponsors? F1 is a sport not the United Nations or Amnesty International.

      1. Brisbane Bill says:

        Correction – F1 is a BUSINESS that loosely aligns to a concept of sport as one of its outputs. Just look at the role that the lawyers play in proceedings and that should tell you all you need to know about their view of “sport”. The notion of competition is merely a filtering device to determine who gets the biggest share of the money pot, which is more important to the teams than a cabinet full of silverware. Yes, I am old, grumpy and cynical.

      2. Wayne says:

        But you are also correct in every regard.

      3. Wu says:

        F1 is a sport for a few hours during GP weekends, the rest is politics, business and PR.

      4. Kevin Green says:

        Bit like Football and so many other sports costs go over the top and its well no longer a sport arguably???

    7. Andrew Halliday says:

      Valencia and Korea I’d agree with however Hungary has provided some great racing over the years and in terms of attending races is one of the greatest events with a fantastic atmosphere.

    8. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Nonsense. This about security and not politics or human rights.

      Bahrain is a small country and an outburst by a few thousand is amplified greatly. Last year’s London riots would have never had any effect on the British Grand Prix taking place.

      By your standards there should never be a grand prix in China, Russia, Israel, the USA, the UK….and many more.

    9. Michael says:

      I don’t think it’s quite that simple but there certainly should be some ground rules and a free press seems like an obvious pre-requisite for an F1 event.

      Also, the support of the local population and a strong expectation that the event will pass peacefully and not be exploited for political ends are surely needed.

      Then there’s a requirement for effective, measured policing. “Militia shoot protester” and “F1″ should not be appearing in the same headline. In this case, it’s the government bringing F1 into disrepute.

      Ideally, it should be reasonable safe and welcoming for both the teams and spectators travelling to, staying in and passing through the country.

      Bernie doesn’t seem to have considered anything like these sorts of issues in selecting locations.

    10. abashrawi says:

      I’d say the simple rule should be stability + political neutrality. If the situation is danger and/or some parties want to use F1 for political gains then no go. And yes, this should be written in contracts with circuit owners.

  4. Wayne says:

    “One of the leading opponents of the Bahraini ruling regime yesterday predicted “violence” on the streets of the country if the Formula 1 Grand Prix goes ahead next week.”

    Disgraceful behavior, a political player in the country predicting this violence is tantamount to inciteing it! How very sad indeed that the opposition feel they can make statements like this to further their own ends!

    1. Wu says:

      Yup. Too bad both sides, and certain people in F1 want to use this race as a political football. It’s abhorrent to me.

      1. David Young says:

        I think it’s abhorrent that certain regimes trample on human rights.

      2. Wu says:

        I agree, but what does it have to do with sport?

      3. David Young says:

        If you can use the sport (i.e. boycott) to bring about positive change, or bring world attention to the situation, why not? Then it (sport) achieves the ideals that the Olympics is supposed to be all about. If the world says to Bahrain, you can have your race but you must cease your human rights abuses, and this brings about change…

    2. alexbookoo says:

      Nabeel Rajab has gone through arrest and torture at the hands of the Bahrain regime. I think he’s sacrificed enough to have the right to make a prediction.

    3. DB4Tim says:

      Maybe this is the best thing that could happen, FORCE F1 to make a decision…and quit waffling !

      1. Wayne says:

        Yet it really is not that simple. The commercial rights holders have a contract with Bharain, they can’t just turn round and say “we’ve changed our mind” when even the Foreign Office is not recomending agianst travel to the country. It would be a political statement even if it is not meant to be.

        F1 is absolutely dammned if they do and dammned if they don’t. Why do we all expect Bernie to make this decision when the Bharain Government isn’t even willing to? Bernie should not be put in this position in the first place,.

        I do agree that the race should be cancelled but the Bharain Government should be the ones to make this decision, they have bigger fish to fry right now and the race should be cancelled on the grounds of plain old common sense.

    4. Dmitry says:

      If you are desperate and there’s no other way to change the situation with totalitarian regime, then it is absolutely understandable.

      And even if the regime is not totalitarian, just imagine if someone would try to bring F1 to Greece right now – the outcry will be very heavy.

      1. Wayne says:

        Then we absolutely should not go to China either. China is one of the most opressive nations on earth where they make even artists enemies of the state and mow down students with tanks.

    5. Simon says:

      Totally agree with you, you can’t make these predictions up, its a cheap shot at the ruling government, but possibly a costly blow for country as a whole if the F1 does not go ahead

      1. stu says:

        Really? You think that the money from F1 gets anywhere near the people protesting. It affects the ruling party (minority) only. People really should make an effort to actually find out what the whole conflict is about before getting into this- unsurprisingly it stems from different religious groups (again!) and is only really political because they are a dictatorship. I keep hearing people say “don’t mix f1 with politics” yet the whole thing was setup by the royal family/ ruling party. F1 has already taken sides, how can it not have in a dictatorship.

    6. Sebee says:

      Are we now OK with a military lockdown around the circuit if needed? I’m OK with it. Hijacking a GP is not the answer to this cause. It’s misguided and wrong. And two wrongs do not make a right.

      1. alexbookoo says:

        What that means is that you’re OK with people dying so that you can happily watch the race on a Sunday afternoon, because in Bahrain “military lockdown” means death. And you’re “OK with it”.

      2. Sebee says:

        FOR THE LAST TIME…

        WHAT IT MEANS IS THAT ENDANGERING THE WELL BEING OF THOSE CONNECTED TO F1 SHOW, IS NOT A WAY FOR THESE PEOPLE TO GET MY SYMPATHY.

        And I hope there are some logical people here who feel the same way.

        Bernie says it well. You visit a country, you follow the laws. It’s not up to F1 to make a stand. Lock it down, and let’s race.

      3. alexbookoo says:

        Sebee, F1 is making a stand. It’s making a stand for the Bahrain regime. The race is and always has been a vanity project for the Royal Family. It’s not as if F1 is a neutral presence in Bahrain. Ecclestone himself said on March 28 he has no problem with F1 being used by the Bahrain rulers, which at least is honest.

        Whether you like it or not the Bahrain Grand Prix is a political event. The race is a symbol for the regime, bought and paid for. It exists to boost the prestige of the Sunni minority government.

        The protesters, who have the sympathies of the majority Shia population, know this and oppose the staging of the Grand Prix not because they are against sport, or racing, but because they are against the regime and it’s symbols.

        And they aren’t trying to gain your sympathy, Sebee. This isn’t Comic Relief – they want nothing from you. They’re in a revolution, risking their own lives for their own future.

        They haven’t threatened to endanger the well-being of those connected to F1. They have predicted there will be violence. By violence they don’t mean protesters attacking F1 personnel. In Bahrain violence generally means people standing up for their rights and being shot down by their government.

        The likely scenario isn’t that F1 people will be endangered, although obviously it’s understandable that they would be anxious. It is that the Bahrain government, desperate to give the appearance of safety, will do precisely what you suggest and lock down, meaning kill, wound or arrest and (on past evidence) torture anyone protesting. Since it’s just a fact that people will protest, as there’s a revolution going on and there are protests every week, the Grand Prix will cause the government to over-do it, to lock down, meaning people will be harmed because of the Grand Prix being staged.

        Damon Hill got it right second time round. It’s morally indefensible to place a motor race above human life, when it’s obvious that staging the race will lead to people dying. Formula 1 shouldn’t want that on its conscience.

      4. Sebee says:

        Look, I hear what you’re saying. I just think this “keyboard/social media” generation means well, but they are too knee-jerk on their storm in a tea cup reactions without giving it a real thought.

        I can comprehend the challanges in Bahrain. But I said it many times, it’s not the only race on the schedule with challanges, be they political, economic, social, environmental, etc.

        Bottom line – If they put the people connected with F1 event in danger they will instanly lose my sympathy and I hope that of everyone else watching. So for sake of safety – if they are intent on disturbing the event, I think the event organizers are in full right to ensure safety of participants, fans, protesters and law enforcement and lock this thing down like a can of tuna.

        And I’ll tell you what else – if this Bahraini elite is that determined to keep them down as you say, wouldn’t disrupting a major event with huge cost give them greater resolve to not be open to discussion? “You” cost me hosting fees and race track I haven’t used in 2 years, “I” may be inclined to “pay you back”.

        As for the event, FOM, FIA, FOTA – they are not cancelling it this year. There will only be one party who can cancel this event, that will be Bahraini organizers – and along with that cancellation notice will be the hosting fee check and transportation fees check. Because at the end of the day, F1 is a business, and it has caused no end of drama for F1.

        Finally, I’ll say again, Bahrain and middle east contributes (read: pays) for a good chunk of the sport you and I enjoy. It would be interesting to have an article on JAonF1 outlining interest, ownership/investment in teams, partnerships, sponsorships, etc. of this region in F1. Ferrari World is not in Italy, and neither is Williams Technology centre last I checked. McLaren, Williams, Ferrari all get mid-east money. It’s not a black and white issue and I am 100% with Bernie on this one. Let’s say Rhianna goes to Bahrain to do a show, she does the show and gets paid – end of story. Not her job to comment on the politics of the country. F1 is no different.

    7. DMyers says:

      How naive. I’d rather someone was honest and said what they thought was likely rather than Bernie and the Bahraini government trying to downplay the scale of events. Pop on to Joe Saward’s website and you’ll see a few Youtube videos of just how big these protests are. People are already dying in Bahrain (again), and the powers that be are trying to make out that there are only fringe protests of a dozen or so people at a time. The evidence shows that there are hundreds upon hundreds of people out protesting. It has gone too far in that country and F1 has stupidly allowed itself to become the focal point. The race needs to be cancelled once and for all, and permanently removed from the calendar. Once they’ve sorted the situation out, then we can think about returning; but this is something that can only happen in the long term.

    8. JAG says:

      Maybe you should read the article…… This isn’t fox news where “predicting violence” means “planning to instigate violence”.

    9. David says:

      Hardly.

      It seemed to me to be a level-headed assessment, given that many protestors will view the race as an endorsement of the current regime and its policies.

    10. Quercus says:

      I don’t think warning of violence is any more disgraceful than the denial being exhibited by the leading elite. They want to pretend everything’s under control; no dissent and “let’s all unite under the F1 banner”. Well, sorry. Despotic leadership suppressing mass protest is exactly what started the trouble in Syria.

      The Bahrain GP should again be cancelled. Don’t let our sport be used by anyone to generate political capital.

    11. Dan Orsino says:

      I will not pretend that I know, or care, about the political declarations of the various factions of this saga
      [unlike some here]

      My only concern is safety of F1 personnel and madia folk, incl James of course.

      It would be better if this event was cancelled. Doesn’t look like it will be. Damon Hill’s been saying a ‘military lockout would be unacceptable”
      I don’t see why. It will keep people safe, and that is all that should matter, since we ARE going.

      1. alexbookoo says:

        By definition, a military lockdown won’t keep Bahraini people safe, since it will be achieved by killing and wounding them. But maybe you think Arabs don’t matter?

      2. Dan Orsino says:

        not at all
        I did say the event should be cancelled
        but since we are going, it is only common sense to have a military lock out and keep our f1 people safe.

        Bahrain people should also be safe, unless they decide to confront the military.
        WHAT OTHER POSSIBLE PLAN IS THERE?

    12. stu says:

      Firstly, you’re cherry picking quotes now, he was asked if there would be protests, violence etc and he said “i’m afraid so, there will be violence on the streets”- not quite the same as the propaganda you made it out to be. Secondly if he can’t say what is more than likely 100% true why is it ok for the minority ruling party to completely lie about the situation. Some peoples views scare me……..

      1. Wayne says:

        Firstly, I’m cherry picking the reference of the HEADLINE of the article for goodness sake!

        Seondly, if this guy wants to be a political player he needs to learn to exercise restraint and ensure that his comments are in the public interest – ALL of the public that is, not just the % he represents. Predicting violence is never in the public interest.

      2. stu says:

        And the headline was originally cherry picked and you just repeated it, does that mean the comment wasn’t cherry picked (you get my point).
        So he needs to exercise restraint even though the ruling party doesn’t and ignores most of the populations wishes. The man and the people he represents are desperate (for goodness sake!).
        Should he have lied about what he thought would happen, or say it only that it might happen? If the ruling party plays tough (physical force) you think he has no right to say those words when he represents more than 75% of the population- and that there will be voileence (there’s violence there now!). I do see your point, but you seem to conveniently ignore the other side of the argument. I’d 100% agree with you if there had been no violence from either side up to this point, but there’s been plenty so i 100% don’t!

      3. alexbookoo says:

        Would you rather people like James turned up in Bahrain completely unaware that there was a chance of violence and unprepared for it, because everyone had censored themselves “in the public interest”? I tend to think the truth is more useful.

  5. Alex H says:

    They shouldn’t go ahead with it, but this website is awesome. glad I found it, I like James Allen.

  6. Tone says:

    Bahrain has never particularly given up any great races anyways (and that’s from a Ferrari supporter!), so personally, I wouldn’t really miss it from the calendar, so would rather see it cancelled. Permanently, so that this situation never arises.

    “Ecclestone has always maintained the Bahrain protests are ‘Small in scale’ and ‘Nothing To Worry About’ ” that’s because all he sees is MONEY being given to him by the Bahrain government and organisers! I hope the FIA sees sense and canels this race.

    There is also another difference that the Chinese GP isn’t being used as a political football in this way… granted situation there isn’t much better but it IS different.

    1. PeteH says:

      It’s “anyway”, not “anyways”, by the way.

  7. Dave says:

    I can’t see this race going ahead this year. With unrest and violence and death on a daily basis I believe F1 should stay away this year and if they do I believe F1 will never go back to Bahrain. Bernie already stated another race would not fill the gap if I remember rightly, so after a 3 week gap between Malaysia and China it looks like a four week gap after China until Spain!

    Better that than go to Bahrain and put on a show amongst all the unrest!

  8. Rob Newman says:

    What else can you expect from an opponent?

  9. goferet says:

    Oh boy, this doesn’t look good, not good at all.

    When you have teams against the idea of doing this race, not even Bernie can force them to go.

    No doubt, the teams and personnel are scared for their safety and also wouldn’t want to have the guilt on their conscience if some Bahrain people get hurt during the race weekend.

    So yeah, I can understand where these 10 team principles ( with the exception of Mclaren & HRT) are coming from and more so because with Bahrain not happening, this means these teams will have more time to develop their cars.

    Yes Mclaren have decided to opt out because they lead the constructors table + out of loyalty to their Bahrain business partners whereas HRT have nothing to gain or lose.

    Anyway myself, am really sad I won’t get to watch the Bahrain Grand Prix and am not exactly thrilled over the idea of a four week break but those hardline protesters should realize they have lost their ace card (i.e. Formula 1) for at the end of day, it will be back to business as usual for not only does the Bahrain regime have Saudi Arabia’s backing, but the USA’s fifth fleet is also anchored in the principality.

    So basically, this drama, this chaos, has all been a waste of time for it’s a lose – lose situation when the dust settles.

    P.s.

    True, Bernie isn’t liked by many (mainly because of jealousy) but I can’t help but admire the geezer’s courage and resolve and if it were only up to him, we would be in Bahrain –> No doubt about it.

    And oh, that Bahrain opposition leader isn’t predicting violence in my view but rather inciting it through the BBC.

  10. Edouard Valentine says:

    This is one example of where “any publicity” is not “good publicity”. I love F1 and would like to see as much racing as possible but on this occasion the race should be called off – no question about it

  11. captainj84 says:

    It was interesting to read a comment on here the other day from a Bahraini who was all for the race and seemed to suggest the western media putting a spin on the story to make it worse. I suppose someone like him is best placed to give his opinion on wether or not it should go ahead. Though if this report is accurate I honestly don’t see how Mr E can give the go ahead to this race with the uncertainty and threats of violence towards it. If one team member be it driver, mechanic or lorry driver gets injured or worse then it’s on him, it’s not as if there was no prior warning of potential violence. I also agree with the poster no 3, it’s time f1 took an ethical stance rather than focussing purely on the cash.

    1. Jim says:

      Don’t forget that many people on the internet are trolls. I have also read posts from “people from Bahrain” heavily against the race. Even if it was a real Bahraini, there is no way to tell if he isn’t part of the ruling class of people.

      Internet 101: Take everything with a grain of salt.

      1. captainj84 says:

        point taken Jim, if that is your real name :)

      2. James Clayton says:

        Plus, of course, the writer could or could not be working for the government.

      3. Wu says:

        Hah… you should read some of the comments on Have Your Say on the bbc news website. The middle eastern ones especially. Never seen so much propaganda spewed by regimes or rebels, or whoever with an agenda.

  12. Cabby says:

    “Un1fied-One Nation in Celebration”?

    If that is a real F1 ad/poster for the race, that clearly is a sign the Grand Prix is used for political purposes by the Bahraini ruling regime.

    They want to show the country is united, this makes it a great opportunity for the opposition to show that the country is not united at all.

    1. Gene says:

      Yes, the press conference (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSAf3ioaqec) avoided any political dealings, but the slogan couldn’t be a more clearly crafted message intended to depict a situation that has been “resolved”.

      Its very difficult for any outsiders to truly know the state of the country, and the feeling of it’s people. Race or no race, I just hope everyone is safe. I think most fans would gladly give up one race out of the F1 calendar to ensure the safety of the participants and the attendees.

  13. lee saunders says:

    i think its worth pointing out the 180 degree turn around by Damon Hill who reported back in December that everything was honky dory , now he has doubts ? The teams need to stand up to Bernie and make it clear , these new venues offer nothing to drivers,cars and the spectators/viewers .The only people to gain are Bernie and F1 corp. with their licenses to hold races.Wouldn’t it great to see F1 back at Le Mans and not loose Spa to a bi-annual race rather than Bahrain ,China and Abu Dhabi ?

  14. Stinkfoot says:

    The Bahraini opposition are using the media to get their message across – how much coverage has the mainstream media given to the situation in Bahrain since last spring? I don’t blame them for it either – their voices need to be heard.
    Whining about the possible cancellation if a motor race is nothing compared to the struggle for life and liberty.

  15. Matt W says:

    I thought the whole reason Turkey got in trouble for the Greek Cypriots podium debacle was because the FIA didn’t want to be used for political machinations. Why have they suddenly changed tact and seem happy to be used to show the situation in Bahrain is resolved?

    1. Wu says:

      I completly agree… so much I was going to write the same thing just now.

  16. franed says:

    If “Todt the invisible” is actually going to wake up and do something he has already left it far too late to assume any position of moral integrity. He along with the rest of the FIA have “dragged their heels”, turned a blind eye” , “sloped their shoulders and generally shown all the leadership and backbone of a rice pudding. Not one of then dare stand up to Bernie, and now Bernie himself is trying to shirk responsibility by saying “we can’t make teams go” “yes you can and do, they are contracted to go by both the rules and the Concorde agreement. The former may be bent but the latter is cast in lawyers, tens of metres thick.

    1. Craig in SG says:

      I’m not sure about this, but 2 years ago when the new teams were being brought in and there was doubt some of them would be ready in time, it was stated that any team can miss up to 2 races in the calendar. If this is correct then it is possible that a team could simply refuse to atten Bahrain.

  17. Sam Duncombe says:

    Meanwhile in China ……… Tibetan Monks set themselves on fire.

  18. Andrew Halliday says:

    Goodbye Bahrain – perhaps time for a return to San Marino?

  19. CarlH says:

    Is that advertising poster a p***-take? Are they actually trying to antagonise people?

    From an F1-side, the fact that this situation has been allowed to happen is absolutely ridiculous. We’re two weeks away from the race and still in limbo over whether it will go ahead. This should have been dealt with months ago by simply removing it from the calendar for as long as it takes until everybody involved was 100% confident there would be no problems.

    The fact that Bernie has, I believe, pushed this through shows that in this instance he is putting what’s best for himself ahead of what’s best for F1 and the Bahraini people. He’s been brilliant for the sport on the whole but this is far from his finest hour.

  20. LAH says:

    two weeks out from a major international sporting event, and yet a decision to run the event or not hasn’t been reached.
    astonishing.

  21. Dougel says:

    They should just pull the race and never go back again. This will keep happening every year.

  22. Alexis says:

    Can’t they squeeze in another race later on in the season instead? The Nurburgring shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe they can do a one race special deal?

  23. Troy says:

    “It’s really not up to me to decide whether it should go ahead or not. It’s up to the people in Bahrain to decide. At this time, they are not cancelling the event, so presumably they are happy.” – Ecclestone quote from BBC article.

    What a monumentally disgusting point of view/thing to say.

  24. Andy says:

    “Bahrain is dominating the headlines”!
    I haven’t heard or read anything recently in the media about the problems in Bahrain OTHER than F1 related media. I may be mistaken but it appears that any problems in Bahrain are not considered to sufficiently newsworthy to make the news in their own right.
    BE is quoted by the BBC as saying that a team representative had been to Bahrain and told BE today that “there’s no problem”
    Ignoring the politics, rights or wrongs etc, my question is why is this column, as good as it is, the BBC etc continually raising uncertainty about the situation in Bahrain, when Bahrain’s problems are not making the general news?
    The protest groups in Bahrain must be rubbing their hands at the amount of coverage they are receiving due to coverage such as this, because they are not getting publicity from anywhere else.
    If you don’t go to Bahrain then you have to question the participation in other countries.
    If the teams are so much against going, are they, their sponsers etc still trading in Bahrain?

    1. Martin says:

      Great comment well pointed out. If things are so bad why are we not hearing more in the general media like we do with syria? F1 reports make it sound just as bad if not worse. Yet not mentioned anywhere. It is being used by a bunch of antagonists to try and get their way. Think what troubles we have had that have made the media here in the last year with evictions from travelling camps, student fees, london and city riots, and the st pauls camp. Not exactly great here. So if a student groupl said they would disrupt the British Gp to show their dissatisfaction would it still go ahead?

  25. Richard D says:

    Apart from my general aversion to GPs in odd locations where there is no fan base, I don’t think the political climate is roght for any major sporting event to take place in Bahrain.

  26. Tom says:

    James,

    Presumably there will need to be a decision prior to teams debunking from China? The sight of teams and media entering & setting up in Bahrain could well inflame the violence prior to the race weekend even starting.

  27. Bill Nuttall says:

    So, any chance the team principals will grow some balls and say in public what they’ve been discussing in private – that they don’t want to go?

  28. Bastosman says:

    Any speculation on who the unnamed team boss is? From the quotes he sounds like a native english speaker.

  29. F1Fan4Life says:

    I say bring on the GP. Whether or not the GP takes place, it won’t fundamentally effect politics there. The only issue is whether or not the F1 circus will be safe, and I think this risk is being blown out of proportion, including certain groups that use the media to better agendas. also, its been a tough 3 weeks and I’ve been looking forward to two races in a row :(

    1. Peter says:

      Surely not? So what about the inevitable violence between anti government protestors and state security which will occur if the Grand Prix takes place?

      Quite simply by hosting this Grand Prix in two weeks the sport will be hosting the possibility of sparking a monumental demonstration/protest which will surely escalate into violence and possible deaths which won’t only forever damage Bahrain’s future as a Grand Prix venue but will forever damage the image of Bernie Ecclestone and probably f1. The Bahrain Grand Prix has to be cancelled.

      1. F1Fan4Life says:

        Forever damage Bahrain’s future as a GP venue? Their future is already forever damaged. You speak with such certainty on a topic that is based on possibilities. The Bahraini government if anything will look to demonstrate good behavior during an international sporting event, and certainly not crackdown on innocent people should there be cameras around. They will be on their best behavior.

        The only fear is the opposition, and I don’t believe violence toward a sporting events teams or even fans benefit them at all either. The only demonstration that would benefit them is the generally peaceful kind. Does F1 give the oppositions a chance to demonstrate to a broad audience their feelings and draw a closer look at Bahrain? Yes. Would violent demonstrations gain them favor? No, it would reinforce what the Bahraini government has labeled them as. So I think Formula One racing there has more positive effects than negative, given that it will inevitably help the Bahraini economy (infact that is the only true thing you can be certain of).

    2. Davexxx says:

      The ‘circus’ will be safe, but a large number of people (fans, media, lesser team members) are outside the ‘ring of protection’ – usually in hotels downtown and within range of attention-seeking protestors …including our own James Allen I believe! This is what the teams are concerned about. (Remember Jensen in Brazil?)

  30. devilsadvocate says:

    I will forward a perhaps unpopular position, everyone is whining about violence this and violence that… why dont they just go and prove that htis is nothing more than a bunch of hot air. My bet goes that if the race happens next weekend, no violence, no protests, nothing. This, to me, is just a bunch of posturing by the opposition, they even said so muchlast year, that they would bring the issue back up this year. They arent going to do anything. More people get killed in gang/ criminal violence in the major cities every day around the world than in these protests.

    1. rgvkiwi says:

      Yes Mr devils advocate. BUT if you were actually going, would you be prepared to “bet” on it…..

      I would think not. Certainly a little cavalier to presume others would even if you do…….

  31. Fredrik says:

    Well if we would need to apply criteria such a humans rights etc. to approve locations where F1 races are held I think we need to cancel quite a bunch of them. China must of course be cancelled. Had it not already been run, the Malaysian GP would need to be cancelled. Turkey would need to be cancelled. India likewise. South Korea must go, etc. Or maybe we just have to accept Bahrain like we accept all of the others.

  32. PeteH says:

    When was the last interesting race in Bahrain?

    Any excuse should be used to avoid racing there.

  33. JohnBt says:

    Feels like there will be violence from the reports. What an uncomfortable situation. People at the top level will have the highest security but what about the mechanics, chefs and other lesser employees, I’d be looking over my back for sure.

    How dare Bernie claims of democracy for the people of Bahrain by staging an F1 race, when blood, torture and killings are happening right now.

    James I’m sure you don’t want to be there.

  34. abashrawi says:

    What about the fans that booked tickets, hotels, etc.? It’s really weird to think about canceling the event just NOW! They should really thought about canceling it way before now or they should proceed with it anyway. I meant it’s not like the current situation wasn’t obvious, we’ve been talking about it for months now.

    1. James Allen says:

      Good point. What about all the people who work in F1 who have return tickets from Shanghai via Bahrain?

    2. Sebastian says:

      I agree!

      And how different is this from holding an event in China, a major violator of human rights?

      Or Sao Paolo, where members of the Sauber team were robbed at gun point. Button only got a way from armed assault with AKs thanks to quick thinkning by his driver.

      I have no idea what legitimacy or how strong this opposition is in Bahrain, but had the same threats been put forward in Brazil or China, we would probably see the military stepping in.

      I think we need to accept that Formula 1, just like the Olympics, is not about changing political systems. We should welcome protests as log as they are peaceful.

  35. Daniel says:

    As we discussed here, ultimately the teams have the largest influence here, if they don’t turn up, then there will be no race, but they may face undesired consequences, not only with the FIA/Bahrain/sponsors/media etc but with its current fan base who are still eagerly awaiting the news.

    There is a heck of a lot to consider with this highly volatile situation, and it’s not something your grandma is going to decide over a cup of tea and a scone chatting to Dorris down at the Bingo Hall.

  36. olivier says:

    Bahrein should be replaced by Paul Ricard next year. This way we could have back to back races:

    1. French GP (Paul Ricard)
    2. Barcelona
    3. Monaco

    … and Spa could remain on the calendar :) It is always nice to kick off the finale with a classic GP after the Summer break!

  37. Kevin McCaughey says:

    “Some people say ‘Let’s separate politics and sport’, yes you can do that in the UK but not in a repressive regime where everything is in the hands of the rulers.”

    That says it all really for me. And it is the perennial argument to sporting events of this kind. History has shown us though that the correct decision is to show moral courage and not attend events which are so succinctly described above in the quote.

  38. Martin says:

    How come other sporting events are not affected?? The golf last year and again this weekends Inaugral Bahrain invitational. It really seems that in terms of population a small group is out to soley use F1 for political means. There will be no violence unless those who wish to shoe Bahrain in a bad light cause it. Unfortunately i think by the sounds of it they have made their minds up to cause confrontation in the hope that the police have to use force.

    Recently we were calling on our police to use more force against rioters is there a difference in the case of guarding the GP?

  39. tim says:

    FYI: F1 is already having an effect in Bahrain, and the race hasn’t even started.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/04/2012411134042367377.html

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