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FIA sends out message that Bahrain is safe for F1 as US government speaks up
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Apr 2012   |  7:57 am GMT  |  101 comments

[Updated] In the paddock at Shanghai today the talk is all on one subject: the Bahrain Grand Prix and whether it will take place next week. Although an emerging protest into the Mercedes front wing looks like it will soon take some of the spotlight off the politics.

The Bahrain situation is now acquiring an acute feel to it, with many team members and media due to fly from Shanghai to Bahrain in little over 72 hours time. The teams are clearly very concerned about the event and looking to the FIA for leadership.

FIA president Jean Todt will arrive in Shanghai on Friday night and will come into the circuit on Saturday, while Bernie Ecclestone arrived today and will meet with the 12 teams at lunchtime on Friday. Ecclestone told Reuters this afternoon that the race is on, unless the Bahrainis themselves decide to call it off.

Although he has said nothing on the matter in public, Todt has today issued a letter from former Metropolitan Police chief John Yates, who was heading the security operation at the London 2012 Olympics and is now on a short term contract with the Bahraini Government on a security brief, following the BICI enquiry into last year’s uprising. The letter is intended to show that the FIA’s assessment is that it will be safe for F1 to race in Bahrain next week.

Yates, who has been living in Bahrain since January, says that the situation on the ground in Bahrain is not as is being portrayed in the media and that trouble consists of a few small protests involving youths and that there is no security risk to F1 teams and personnel. What he calls “the real picture of life in Bahrain” is being distorted by the opposition messaging and this is leading to an inaccurate picture being portrayed in the media and to the teams. A report by Lotus following a recce last week also found the situation relatively normal, but the teams’ fear is that once the F1 circus sets up at Sakhir, things could quickly escalate.

Yates’s letter says the protests are from a “very small minority – often groups of 15-20 young men. These are criminal acts being perpetrated against an unarmed police force who, in the face of such attacks, are acting with remarkable restraint.

“These people are intent on causing harm to the police and the communities in which they live. They are not representative of the vast majority of delightful, law-abiding citizens that represent the real Bahrain that I see every day. Along with my family, I feel completely safe. Indeed, safer than I have often felt in London.”

Yates is a credible figure to a point, he is after all being employed by the Interior Ministry; he was forced to resign from the police over the way he conducted the investigation into the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World. Yet despite his intervention and the British Government’s ongoing advice that travel to Bahrain is not restricted, the teams’ own risk assessments indicate that there are potential risks from isolated incidents and even a kidnap risk. They are also concerned about protestors getting hurt whilst making their voices heard against F1′s presence in the country, as everyone feels is inevitable.

So far however, there has been no focal point for calls to abandon the race, rather a general fear and unease. However a statement from the US Government on Wednesday may provide the start of such a rallying point. White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “The United States continues to be deeply concerned about the situation in Bahrain, and we urge all parties to reject violence in all its forms.

“We condemn the violence directed against police and government institutions, including recent incidents that have resulted in serious injuries to police officers.

“We also call on the police to exercise maximum restraint, and condemn the use of excessive force and indiscriminate use of tear gas against protesters, which has resulted in civilian casualties.”

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101 Comments
  1. Craig in Manila says:

    Sooooo…..
    Mr.Yates says that that local Police are showing remarkable restraint.
    On the other had, the US Government says that they are using excessive force.
    Once again, we see completely different perspectives from non-Bahraini sources.
    Sigh.

    1. Davexxx says:

      Yes, James this is an opportunity to (yet again) ask for a Local’s perpective please?

      1. Erik says:

        Yes well James has been asked by quite a few readers now about showing the opposite side of the fence as far as this is matter is concerned.

        James, you publicise John Yates’ comments (a clear ally of the Bahraini government). Someone who has a clear axe to grind as far as making sure the Bahraini govermnet is seen in the best light possible, and someone who resigned over the phone hacking scandal last year due to his failings to investigate the matter.

        Yet you continually fail to mention the other side of the fence as far as all this is concerned. Like the poor Bahraini bloke on a hunger strike, and where is the info on the protester who was shot a few back by so called ‘unarmed’ police?.. I’m sure his family was well pleased when he saw the statements issued today.

        What’s the go here James? I’m sure you have seen all the videos we have seen as far as the attrocities go. I thought this site is supposed to be straight down the middle? Where’s the other viewpoint?

      2. James Allen says:

        You clearly didn’t bother to read this story from last week:

        http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2012/04/bahraini-opposition-leader-predicts-violence-for-gp-weekend/

        or to read this one from April 6
        http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2012/04/spotlight-intensifies-on-bahrain-gp/

        Which features this quote: “According to AP, an activist called Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is in prison following his part in last year’s uprising, has been on hunger strike for more than 50 days. This situation provides a very uncomfortable backdrop for F1 teams to be arriving in the country and doing press conferences where drivers will be challenged for their views on the man’s plight and on what they are doing there.”

      3. Wayne says:

        I’m not even sure we all want the same thing from this website. JAF1 is the best FORMULA ONE centric website in the world. The site covers F1 topics that most other sites no dot even recognise, appreciate or acknowledge. This site does not regurgitate, plastic, sterile marketing propaganda like the official F1 Website. It does not induce or condone squabbles between its posters for the sake of hit count like ‘Planet F1’, which is linked to Sky TV (surprise, surprise). The site offers competitions for which prizes are awarded that real F1 fans cannot get anywhere else. What’s more, the author actually responds to the articles that are posted and engages with the community.

        What right have you to demand that a sports broadcaster, journalist and presenter delves into geo-politics to the extent that all possible angles, interpretations and view-points are covered. And covered to the satisfaction of a viewer-base that in reality, knows very little about the topic of Bahrain internal affairs but likes to spout on about it because it makes them feel good and mentally negates the need to actually go out into the world and DO something about injustice.

        I even heard someone call for James to boycott the race and then another poster derided him when he made the point that he has contractual obligations to fulfil. I very much doubt that anyone out there would sacrifice their livelihood in support of their uninformed ideals – much easier to rant here about morality and injustice from the safety of our homes.

        This is a sport and technology based website, you are not owed an in-depth analysis of the security of the Bahrain state. The articles posted here about this situation are exclusively about how the situation has the potential to impact on F1 and are based on facts – they convey information and do not attempt to speculate or ‘juice’ the situation up to increase readers as much of the mainstream media is criminally guilty of.

        I would suggest that we all confine our comments to the relationship between the situation in Bahrain and Formula one, and leave the sensationalist political analysis, self-serving promotion of ‘mob’ intelligence, kangaroo-court, media trial and in tellectual execution and greed-inspired hype to Sky News where it belongs.

    2. Justin says:

      Nooooo, they are calling on them “to exercise maximum restraint” and “condemn the use of excessive force”. USA did not accuse anyone of anything; they merely condemned violence in general.

      1. Craig @ Manila says:

        Hi Justin,

        My thoughts are that the use of the word “has” in the final sentence implies that the US Govt is saying that excessive force and indiscriminate tear gassing has indeed been used by the Police and has resulted in civilian casualties.
        I acknowledge though that the US Govt did not specifically state “has resulted in civilian casualties in Bahrain”. They may well have been meaning “has resulted in civilian casualties in places other than Bahrain”.

        Cheers,

    3. Wayne says:

      The riots in the UK last year involved huge numbers of scumbags and wilful destruction, thievery and public unrest – no one has suggested cancelling the British GP.

      1. James Allen says:

        They weren’t protesting about F1, as they are in the Bahrain situation. It is already a focal point for dissent

      2. alexbookoo says:

        They also weren’t being killed by the British government, which is why the situation arises.

      3. Wayne says:

        James, they’re not REALLY protesting about F1 in Bahrain either are they? F1 is just an expedient public event they can use to make a point.

        F1 is being manourvered into a position (by various groups of self serving individuals) where it is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Any action F1 takes will be portaryed as being in support of position X or Y when it is nothing of the sort.

    4. For a sport so precise in its detail analysis what is very clear is that when it comes to Bahrain there is very little fact checking or precision of detail.
      1] The picture portrayed by the irresponsible opposition leaders is wholly false. Bahrain is not living in a police state as Bahrain Watch suggest. A police state would simply not allow them to communicate as freely as they do, protest and demonstrate as they do; and allow the clergy from the pulpit to call for Islamic crusades. On 9th March a lawful opposition march attracted 100,000 people according to opposition estimates. The facts are – this march went off peacefully, that if the figures are correct then over 80% of the population did not take to the streets; moreover Shia clergy had placed a religious obligation on attendance.
      2] The fact is we are living in society which is now camouflaging civil disobedience with political clothing; which is manipulating youth to a situation of juvenile delinquency which will undoubtedly lead to a conflagration of social issues that many of us have experienced in UK and Europe .
      3] The so-called comparison of what is happening in Bahrain to Apartheid is an affront intellectually and emotionally to what happened in South Africa. The Apartheid Government of South Africa did not subsidise fuel to a retail market price of 30cUS a litre for all its population; nor provided low cost housing for nationals with maid’s quarters under request from its downtrodden masses; nor free education up to school leaving age and university education in South Africa; nor free medical care; and nor continued to pay state salaries to its “black/ Shia” employees while they protested to bring down the government. By allowing such a comparison is a disgrace to the many who died in the struggle to topple Apartheid that started with Mahatma Gandhi and ended with Nelson Mandela.
      4] F1 will be called upon to make future political statements if it views what is happening in Bahrain as such a high profile issue and in factual context. If this is not done then is it not fair for us to assume similar conclusions from the US with the death of a black teenager as part of the long standing apartheid racist attitude of parts of America ; or the killing of Dalit villagers in India; or the issue of the systematic extermination of Tibet by China and the self-emollition of monks in protest at this. These parallels must be drawn across the globe to put the fixation with issues in Bahrain in proportion
      Damian Hill is right that F1 should rethink its position on Bahrain, but this should be to take politics out of the F1 Grand Prix and return it back to the sporting arena of precision engineering rather than the world of twitter and falsehoods. If it is democracy that we are interested in then over 1 million people living in Bahrain do not agree with the image portrayed by a privileged few of a country that simply does not exist. We need to be careful because the precedent that we are opening on Bahrain could easily be applied to other present and future F1 countries.

    5. alexbookoo says:

      John Yates is the least credible player in the whole situation. I’d believe the Bahrain Royal Family before I’d believe him, after all he’s paid to say what he said in this letter. If he said anything different he would have to resign.

      And you have to wonder about the psychology of someone who, having left the Met police in some disgrace, immediately went to work for a police force that has been found even in the official report to have committed terrible acts.

      Just today Yates was on Channel 4 News over findings by the Independent Police Complaints Commission that he showed “poor judgement” in helping his News of the World friend’s daughter a job at the Met. All he could do was rail against the IPCC (which isn’t exactly known for its biting criticism of the police on other occasions). This man is not credible on any issue.

      The US Government statement is unremarkable. They’re stuck in this ludicrous position of paying lip-service to the democracy movement while the US 5th Fleet is docked in the port in Bahrain.

  2. Emile says:

    An interesting move, but I understood that the teams had wider concerns. I dont think saftey was ever an issue. Bahrain is, and always has been, MUCH safer than Brazil (for example).

    The sad thing is that AGAIN, this discussion is taking place very late in the day….

    1. Paul says:

      I have been to Brazil many times, never had a problem. My wife is Brazilian. The people are lovely, they love to party and they love sport. They’re also rather good at sports too. You will not have a better time ANYWHERE than you will have in Brazil. And I live in the middle-east myself, so I have a little experience here.

      Brazil is a country with a great F1 history, a great track and people who are passionate about F1, and a few who have been rather good at driving in it too. But more importantly, it is a free country, the race is pure entertainment, not some political tool – it is an automatic fixture because of the huge number of fans out there, not because some rich dictator fills Bernie’s pockets.

      Do not compare this with the bore-fest of the Bahrain GP, the lack of passion, the lack of any sporting achievement by that country whatsoever. And the fact that their race is a tool of the ruling dictators to try to whitewash over the unpleasant aspects of their dictatorship.

      1. Andrew Carter says:

        I think your missing the point that armed gangs target the F1 teams every year when the race rolls around, I’ve heard about plenty of incidents over the last 10 years alone.

      2. James Allen says:

        Things were a lot cleaner and more secure in Sao Paolo last year for the GP.

      3. franed says:

        And yet it was in Brazil the year before last that some team members were actually mugged and attacked and two drivers cars were set upon in the slow moving traffic by would be kidnappers.
        There was an undeniable danger yet the GP went ahead again last year without it even being considered.

  3. jpinx says:

    This has more spin than a car doing doughnuts. The noise of F1 engines is drowned by the sound of axes being ground. No-one really knows what the situation is like on the street on a daily basis. Even the ex-pats there live in a bubble. The real risk is that the F1 event will provide both sides with international publicity and things will very easily go from a bit of flag-waving and chanting to tear gas and rubber bullets. Not to mention the very real risk of a publicity stunt like kidnapping – ask JB how that feels…

    1. Justin says:

      this is exactly what i think will happen.

    2. Erik says:

      And in all of this the real tragedy is that the focus is being put on the threat/possibility of violent acts when the real issue is why they are occuring in the first place.

      The problem with racing in Bahrain is not whether there will be violence but why the people there are upset with their government. That’s the real reason why this race would be a disgrace if held.

  4. goferet says:

    Glad to see sense and logic prevail at the end of the day.

    Yes it has been clear from the start that the majority of Bahraini people aren’t trouble makers nor are they all up in arms like the opposition would like us to believe and what’s made this story worse is the lies people do tell on social media sites on a daily basis for the simple reason human beings are crazy.

    The true Bahraini protester not only got satisfied with the little changes the regime made but they also quickly realized they lost the battle & war last year so saw no point in disrupting the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    Well done to the former Metropolitan Chief John Yates for being a voice of reason during this storm and it’s very telling that he says he feels a lot safer in Bahrain at this moment in time than he would have in London.

    As for the F1 teams, it’s becoming clear that they’re just clutching at straws not to race in Bahrain more so after one of the team personnel gave a candid interview to a journal saying that deep down everybody in the paddock hopes it doesn’t happen so they can get an extra week of rest before the European leg of the season gets underway.

    Anyway glad this problem has been resolved and have to send out a big thank you to the Bahrain authorities for showing restraint by refusing to get provoked by the yobs who are still hoping for a riot as an excuse to loot malls.

    P.s.

    Fingers crossed Jean Todt is still nursing his grudge against Montezemolo after he was kicked out the team.

    Last thing we need is Todt caving in to the Ferrari pressure to skip Bahrain which fact would keep Alonso still leading the drivers’ standings (or there about) just in time for the B spec monster supercar.

    1. MISTER says:

      [mod]

      In regards to Bahrain..well I don’t think the race should be cancelled if the incidents are minor and isolated. But it is interesting that we are 7 days away from the event and the teams do not have a definitive answer if they’re going or not.
      Someone should’ve made a decission around 2 weeks ago.

    2. randomperson says:

      Thanks for your contribution John Yates, but I don’t think that is going to change the minds of the people on here.

  5. AuraF1 says:

    Yates is a credible figure? Did you just write that? So a police officer forced to resign over corruption allegations and a cosy relationship with a media outlet involved in illegal phone hacking and hiring of ex members of that media outlet on public money counts as credible?

    The same John Yates who was hired by Bahrain to help enforce the kettling technique for mass crowd control?

    If he is a credible figure then F1 is even more hilarious than I thought.

    1. Kevin Green says:

      +1

      This is all a disaster waiting to happen who knows if there’s not something disasterous planned?? they (terrorists/extremists) have had a yr to plan it whether it be on or off track side and even if not i wonder what the local human count figure is going to be simply due to the time period F1 is going to be there this yr???

      It will be interesting to see the average daily human count loss during the F1 3-4 day stay!

    2. LD01 says:

      Sky TV want their race, whatever the cost.

      If only they had a direct line to John Yates…

      1. Kevin Green says:

        that’s pretty much the price of it all, figures in and around F1 taking into account of getting paid/dodging personal hastle over the head of the health and live’s of others, its disgraceful!

  6. Matt W says:

    If things go pear shaped when the race goes ahead I hope Bernie and Todt would have the decency to resign.

    1. Kevin Green says:

      +1 like i said monitor the average lives lost per day against the days that the F1 circus is in town, I think it could well make for very disturbing facts and for what an apparent sporting event/race? or was that multi million profiteering event for certain figures?. Everyone’s a winner at any cost right??

  7. S Quilter says:

    “Yates is a credible figure.”

    Hmmm, this is the Met Police Chief who resigned over the phone hacking scandal, who had close links with the News of The World and who also “arranged” jobs for friends within the Met Police force….

    No wonder he took the job in Bahrain…

  8. Richard D says:

    Much as I dislike the whole concept of a GP in desert location where there is no fan base, I have to say that it sounds as though things in Bahrain are safer than Brazil where there have been actual security incidents including an attempted kidnapping of Jenson Button. I bet nobody would talk of not taking F1 to Brazil on security grounds!

    1. Leali says:

      You ppl are all missing the point. F1 can not allow itself to be a political tool for either side. You know saying “its allways calm before the storm”. As for fhe trouble in Brasil it wasnt politicaly motivated and they zhould be forced to provide better security against the crims. Now we all know there isnt democracy in bahrain and they simply shouldnt go there and let themself be used as a propaganda tool but F1 is weird since they I believe went to Argentina in years gone by. So bernie wants his money Bahrain wants free propaganda material and I just think it isnt worth the risk of lives of any team members period. After all there are plenty racetracks that deserve the right to be on the calendar, itz boring no hiztory

    2. Kevin Green says:

      And your view now with Force India staff being put in a life threatening situation??

      1. Richard D says:

        My view is that we have been misled with the reports that it would be safe. The regime should not be allowed to use F1 towards their politcal ends. This will no doubt fuel the protests and encourage the protesters to target F1. Race race should be cancelled even now when the teams are there ready to race.

      2. Kevin Green says:

        It will be after today’s practice sessions, I will be amazed if it makes Qualifying far too risky!. gather data and get out for good i would think.

  9. Justin says:

    I’m not sure the race will happen, but if it doesn’t it has to be good for ferrari in that they will have a 4 week break in which to develop their pig car.g

  10. SK Anand says:

    In all probability it will go thru. It is becoming a prestige issue for Saudi Arabia, and they would want a global audience to show that they have negated the iraninan influence in Bahrain.

  11. Paul says:

    Some background on Yates:

    In mid-2009 Yates conducted a review of the 2006 Police inquiry into the News of the World royal phone hacking scandal, which had led to the imprisonment of two men in January 2007. In light of the new allegations in The Guardian, in July 2009 the Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson asked Assistant Commissioner Yates to review the original investigation for new evidence. In one 8 hour meeting, Yates reviewed the investigation, but did not take any further action. In a later public statement, and in a July 2009 appearance at the Home Affairs Select Committee, he announced of the initial investigation that he “found it to be satisfactory.”[11] Yates then passed his findings back to the Commissioner, and in agreement with lawyers and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service Keir Starmer, agreed that no further action need be taken, and the case was not reopened.[12]

    In 2011, dramatic developments in the scandal led to the closure of the News of the World newspaper, Yates faced allegations of wrongdoing, including from MP Chris Bryant, who called for his resignation saying “a very dirty smell” surrounded the Police’s conduct in the matter.[13] The main accusations relate to having misled Parliament, having repeatedly reported that there was evidence of only around 10–12 cases, whereas it later emerged that police had evidence of “a vast number” of victims.[14] John Yates later said that he was of the belief that he should refer only to cases where voicemail messages had been shown to have been intercepted prior to them being heard by the intended recipient. He also claimed to have ensured that four major mobile phone companies had informed around 120 people that their messages had been hacked – a claim disputed by the companies involved, two of which wrote to Scotland Yard stating that this was incorrect.[15] On 9 July 2009, Yates issued a statement.[16]

    Other criticisms related to failures to inform individuals that there was evidence their phone had been hacked,[17][18] the perceived lack of thoroughness of the investigation,[19] and failure to take adequate action against officers who were known to have illegally accepted bribes.[20]

    In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph published on 9 July 2011, Yates expressed “extreme regret” for the failings in the initial phone hacking inquiry, but dismissed any suggestion of corruption or improper relationships on his part.[21] On 18 July 2011, Yates announced his resignation from the Metropolitan Police. The Met said of his resignation: “Assistant Commissioner John Yates has this afternoon indicated his intention to resign to the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. His resignation was accepted.”[22]

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for the Wikipedia quote..

      1. F1Fan4Life says:

        Lol James does not sound happy about the wiki quote Paul. Well, I hope this race goes ahead. I don’t feel it negatively affects politics or citizens, this is just a question of a major event possibly being used to draw attention to a cause. I for one think this can be done peacefully and should the world see an issue in Bahrain from the race, the world would be better for it. Is Brazil gonna be cancelled because of possible incidents? Things have happened many times there before…

      2. James Allen says:

        No I’m very happy. But I think we should make clear where it comes from

      3. Kevin Green says:

        Of course it locally effect people politically all that cost bringing the F1 there whilst there is a large percentage of the people locally in poverty as like in China and India who would far from be able to afford access to the races anyway! Its disgusting.

      4. azac21 says:

        Well,
        in the light of things Wiki quotes are far more credible that those coming from Yates. He is a disgraced ex-police chief after all. I wish he could keep himshelf out of F1.

      5. LD01 says:

        Unlike most Wiki entries, that has citations to back it up from credible media outlets.

        Where else should we get his information? From his publicist?

      6. Craig says:

        The citations work better on Wikipedia though where they actually work. It would have helped to cite Wikipedia perhaps rather than Paul just copying it..

        The man from the Met now working for the regime is hardly independent though and the wiki page is relevant to his past.

  12. Chris Chong says:

    It’s probably safer in Bahrain than in Sao Paulo but you don’t hear any talk about not going to Interlagos because it’s usually one of the most exciting races in the calendar.

    The Sakhir Circuit on the other hand…

    1. Optimaximal says:

      Like China, the problems in Brazil are social, not political.

      Uprisings in Brazil’s favelas are mostly down to poverty and/or gang violence, not a broad hatred for the countries rulers.

  13. Quentin says:

    Yates is a credible figure? Have you seen or read anything about his appearances at the Leveson enquiry?

  14. P King says:

    I have followed the Twitter and Facebook feeds of the Bahrain protestors for a few months now (as I have the need to visit Bahrain on business frequently).

    My assessment is much like that of John Yates. The trouble is caused by a minority of agitators, and if the Bahraini government was intent on silencing the protestors, it would have imprisoned them all by now. After all, most of these protestors openly show their identity on Facebook and Twitter. As it is, the government is allowing peaceful protest but is clamping down on the molotov cocktail throwing mob. See for youself what they get up to: http://twitter.com/#!/alaashehabi

    1. mvi says:

      Thanks for that link. Interesting stuff in the tweets. So why ARE tourists and journalists turned away at the airport if everything is so safe?

      1. P King says:

        @mvi – you asked
        >> So why ARE tourists and journalists turned away at the airport if everything is so safe? >>

        Well, that is what the agitators are reporting. If true, it would be no different to democratic governments like India, or dictatorships like China, refusing journalists visas. At least with Bahrain you are free to turn up at the airport and take your chances there if you don’t wish to apply for a visa in advance. China and India won’t even look at your case if you arrive without a pre-arranged visa.

        If the riots in Britain last year had not been dealt with a show of force by the Police, we would be seeing the daily looting and burning that the Bahraini dissident mobs are carrying out in their own townships.

      2. mvi says:

        Presumably journalists and tourists check the visa requirements when making their travel arrangements. Bahrein entry regulations say that holders of certain passports can get and pay for their visas on arrival, so it is not a matter of “taking your chances”. Refusing to allow in journalists is not a very good signal.

    2. David Young says:

      And you believe the government? I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn if you’re interested.

      1. P King says:

        @ David Young
        >> And you believe the government? I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn if you’re interested. >>

        If that question is addressed to me, the answer is – look at the Twitter link I provided. It is the account of a prominent anti-Government activists. Just look at the youtube of clips of the moltov throwing mobs she links to, just three examples here:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5QMtz_cbaw
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KTibP7GyDE
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwgMW34XUC4

        My impression is that the Police are quite restrained when faced with such threats against their and civilians safety.

      2. Lezza says:

        Jeez, who is P. King?

  15. Quentin says:

    Yates is the guy who decided in 2009 that phonehacking at the Met didn’t justify further investigation. The then Director of Public Prosecutions said that Yates told him “You needn’t concern yourself.” He’s certainly not independent – it would seem that the people who want the race to happen are the people who pay him.

  16. Dmitry says:

    I really wish the situation to become normal and the rase to go ahead… but the fear of things going bad (especially during the race) is to big.

  17. DMyers says:

    The fact that Yates is working for the Bahraini authorities means that he is not an independent figure. He’s not going to tell it like it is (and hasn’t – there are videos of thousands of people peacefully marching on Youtube for all to see) since they’re paying his wages.

    1. Kevin Green says:

      +1

  18. jpinx says:

    Really I am glad that so many of the vested interests are coming to light. Yates is no more credible than any of the ruling authorities there – even less so given his track record in UK. Did the US consult with him before releasing their comments? I think not!

    People who go to Bahrain on business ( 14. Posted By: P King) will probably never see any protests because they move around a totally different part of the city and country. I have not been recently, but I was working under contract in several arab states, and I know how that goes.

    I stand by what I said – no-one truly knows the situation and how it will develop during a race weekend. Suffice to say that the protestors have been promising something big if the race goes ahead, which will undoubtedly provoke a similarly big response from the authorities.

    Todt doesn’t want to be seen to give in to Ferrari – or anyone else who is not toeing the party line, so he will probably say the race is on. Heaven help him if there is a flare-up of trouble.

    James – I am fascinated why it wasn’t a team from McLaren who went to look around. They have a “special interest” there. Indeed why would any team send people to look when they know that, same as last year, the people would be shepherded carefully but not obviously to avoid a bad report?

    These are uncharted waters for F1 and they really need to failsafe. Any chance of F1 not smelling good afterwards is going to make sponsorships even harder to find – especially or the smaller teams.

    1. James Allen says:

      It may be that the teams say, “We’ll go, but at the first sign of any trouble, the race is cancelled and we go home.”

      The next 48 hrs will be decisive.

      1. jpinx says:

        James — Can they do that? What would the contractual implications be? What a can of worms this is – really ;)

  19. Benny says:

    Yates was bad news for the Met and his use by the Bahraini authorities is a PR mistake only serving to underline how out of touch the leadership is. Listening to his opinion on security in Bahrain is like asking him if the News of the World needs to be investigated.

  20. DB4Tim says:

    This is a big stage…like world stage lots of media coverage, something will happen it is to ripe for the taking.

  21. Brandon says:

    James you drop that without showing where the opposite view comes from? Look on twitter for daily deaths in Bahrain it’s not hard to find out what’s going on in the mid east/Africa. This is a joke and the Bahraini people will be very wise to use this as a stage. Sadly, there shall be even more blood in the streets but it inshallah it will happen.

    1. James Allen says:

      Our coverage of this story has been extremely balanced over the past months

      1. Davexxx says:

        I second this, and want to stand up for James, who I bet regrets this whole matter simply for being dragged into the damned politics himself, let alone all the unfortunate F1 implications!

  22. Racefans says:

    I find it extremely disturbing that with only just over a week before the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend commences, and with increasing fears over the situation in Bahrain, Bernie Ecclestone simply says that the hosting of the race is in the hands of the Bahrainis. I mean why not just say the race will go ahead because the Bahrainis are never going to call it off? Perhaps Bernie is distancing CVC from the decision to host the race so that if something does go wrong it was not his decision. You wouldn’t put Bernie past this line of thinking.

    Equally, haven’t the teams stressed that they act on the decisions reached by the FIA, who we hope give their decisions on the basis of independent enquiries? Comments like this from Ecclestone clearly show not only a lack of respect to the authority of the FIA but also to the concerns and interests of the teams.

    From a fans perspective it is increasingly apparent that the FIA and Ecclestone simply cannot afford to have this event cancelled for a second year in a row and the teams are pigeon holing the FIA into the role of the adjudicator. The problem appears to be that the FIA simply don’t have the guts to make the sensible decision to cancel the event because if they make such a decision, CVC will have greater reason to move away from the FIA.

    The agitators may well be a small group of the Bahrain youth but it only takes one person to invade an F1 circuit. The colossal disaster that could result from such action is catastrophic with the disruption of the race a certainty. All you need is conviction and it sounds like these people have that in abundance.

    James would it be fair to say that if the decision was up to the teams, the majority of them would opt not to go? Is there a movement amongst the teams that if the FIA are not going to give firm direction, then they will reach a unanimous decision amongst themselves?

    1. James Allen says:

      I think it would be fair to say that, yes. The teams are not in a position to call off a race, that is the FIA or the Bahraini’s decision to take.

      1. Could the teams not boycott the event by just not turning up? They refused to race at the Indianapolis in 2005, so might they just go home after China?

        This really is a matter that should be taken well out of the teams’ hands, though. Imagine the mess if some of them participated and others refused. Worse still, if a boycott was agreed only for one team to break ranks and try and run the race on their own (ridiculous I know, but not impossible by F1′s standards).

        Jean Todt has been quiet and effective in his time at the FIA, whilst remaining out of the spotlight. This has been a refreshing change after Max Mosley’s markedly different approach, but Mr Todt now needs to step into the spotlight and take charge of this situation.

        There is a strong argument for holding the race in that it will put the Bahraini governement’s conduct under international scrutiny, but there are many compelling arguments for not holding it, not least that of poor, brave Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. This is a very complex situation, requiring decisive yet well-reasoned action from the very top.

        One last point regarding John Yates – I think people should take care to read this section before criticising James’ journalistic integrity and balance:
        “Yates is a credible figure to a point, he is after all being employed by the Interior Ministry; he was forced to resign from the police over the way he conducted the investigation into the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.”

        I’m studying journalism at the moment and that could be a textbook example of how to approach an important and authoritative, yet potentially compromised and biased figure like Yates.

  23. Craig @ Manila says:

    James, there seems to be very little commentary coming out regarding drivers and/or teams’ personal views on Bahrain.
    I’m assuming that a lot of your discussions with team personnel are “off the record” at moment ? If so, would you be willing to give an indication of the “general consensus” of the team personnel that you’ve talked to ?

    1. James Allen says:

      I have already. Most are concerned a few are supportive

  24. Dunky says:

    I think the race has to be called off and will be very soon.

    What we now have is a stand off between the FIA and the Bahraini authorities as to who will flinch first.

    James – I’m guessing there are massive financial implications depending on who calls the event off e.g. compensation etc

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, in the tens of millions of dollars.

  25. sergio nascimento says:

    The real security question is:
    Will someone blow himself or blow a bomb there?
    That’s the real security issue.

    1. alexbookoo says:

      Why? Where’s the history of suicide bombing in Bahrain? Why would the mainly Shia protesters want to associate themselves with Al Qaeda and instantly discredit their cause? I think that’s the least likely scenario.

      1. Sergio Nascimento says:

        Al Qaeda is almost dead. You just need a lone wolf to do it. Must the last attempts were done by not organized groups. People will do anything for attention, even the extreme.
        Peace out!

  26. Andrew Kirk says:

    Hi James I have a question that would like to answer if you can, what are you feeling from a sports reporter’s point of view on the situation surronding the race? What I mean is it must be a slightly uneasy feeling within the team in the BBC about the prerace show. Do we mention the fighting, conflicts and deaths? or simply get on with what we are here to do which is talk about drivers and cars zipping round a race track?
    Clearly your job isn’t to talk politics rather motor racing so how do you imagine the BBC and or SKY will screen this event?

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll tell you when we know for sure if it’s on

      1. Kevin Green says:

        James

        I cant help but feel (going by previous articles/posts) in the run up til about now since a fortnight ago i got a read that you really did not want to be in Bahrain but now if anything your more so swayed in the direction that you would rather go ahead and be there.

  27. eeeeee says:

    It is interesting that in order to get to the track one must travel through the areas with highest probability of protesting or violence.

    For instance, the US Dept of State warns that US citizens should not venture into most of the north and northeast parts of the island (airport location), yet the track is on the west coast.

    One may argue that once at the track safety is less of a concern, but for the vast majority of team members that would be of little concern as they still need to travel to and fro. Even more so for the fans, track workers, journalists… that will not have an accompanying security detail.

    http://bahrain.usembassy.gov/demonstration.html

    Latest advisory here:http://photos.state.gov/libraries/bahrain/5/PDF_2012/CONS-DemonstrationNotice49-12.pdf

  28. NickC says:

    I wonder whether the teams and journos are taking extra precaution by arranging their own security.

  29. tim says:

    Is the issue only about the safety of the F1 circus members?

    Or is it a question of whether this circus’s arrival will be seen as offensive to the aims of those fighting for democratic reforms, who in turn may protest said event, and which in turn may lead the police to crackdown on said protest, thus putting the safety of the protestors and everyday Bahrainis in jeopardy? That’s my main concern, to be honest. I have no doubt whatever happens that Bernie and Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel will be completely safe.

  30. Dan says:

    At least people working on Bahraini hospitals should be guaranteed that they wont be shot or put to prison by the government if they help injured protesters during the F1 visit, as happened before.

  31. Quentin says:

    James – the puzzle for me is why, if F1 in general wants to call it off, and Todt is worried about losing money if the FIA jump first, does he align himself with someone with little credibility who says that all is well out there? Unless of course Todt is as clueless about the real world outside his aircon as Eccles . . .oh, hang on . . .

  32. Yohann says:

    If it goes ahead I will not watch it. I have been a fan for over 20 years and I can most probably count on one hand the races I have not watched.
    I visited the UK in July 2005 shortly after the London bombing and I did not hesitate to visit the city with my family using public transport.
    That said it only takes one person in this volatile situation to injure or kill someone. F1 is too tempting a target to take the risk.

  33. f1aroo says:

    F1 as a whole needs to be aware that cancelling the race because of youth agitation would set a precedent that might spread to all forms of sport, not just F1. If some anarchist youth in Britain, Germany, etc, see how successful threats result in major economic turmoil in Bahrain; it will encourage copycats everywhere. In fact, I could envision possible future extortion. Especially at the Olympics

  34. John Allen says:

    James. Although the consensus seems to be that the teams can’t call off the race, I assume that they could refuse to attend and face some kind of sanctions. Lets suppose that the richer teams, who could probably afford a fine, said they wouldn’t attend because of their concerns, do you think that some of the midfield teams would see it as an
    opportunity for a win or a podium? Do you feel that there is unanimity within the teams? Would the sanctions be financial only or could there be loss of points / championship exclusion etc?

  35. Karen says:

    I don’t claim to know all there is to know about F1, but I love watching it. And I also don’t claim to know the ins and outs of every geopolitical crisis in the world. But I do find Bernie Ecclestone incredibly offensive in so many ways. His complete disregard for human rights and the plight of those who struggle for democracy is an insult to every F1 fan. This will be one race fan who won’t tune in should the race actually go ahead. The fact that it was even considered is a good example of why it’s time for Ecclestone to go.

  36. Marc says:

    James,

    I am confused! Just read there is a golf tournament in Bahrain this week… The likes of Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey and tim Henman taking part (pro-am event)

    If its safe enough for them why can’t f1 go?

    Sound like media and human rights groups taking advantage of f1s global reach.

    Obviously things are far from perfect in Bahrain but compare it to Abu dhabi, Saudi Arabia etc they surely have a lot more freedoms….

    I get the impression you are not enamoured with though of going there? Do you really think its that unsafe?

    I tend to agree with Jackie Stewart’s views that government are trying to reform but it takes time and is a lot better than situation in some other countries (human rights-wise)

  37. Ed says:

    James,

    I feel a sense of USGP 2005 about this situation. Everybody knows there is a problem, but no one is going to deal with it until the brown stuff hits the fan.

    I’m not sure what to expect. HEart says cancel, my head sees a farcical situation approaching, just not sure what kind.

    What is your gut feeling about the situation as a whole rather than should the race be on or off?

    Best wishes
    Ed

  38. Richard says:

    I was just wondering if the race is on, are we going to see a lot of blank space on the cars if the sponsors are not happy with the race?

  39. Andy L says:

    Well, James, I supposed in a week or so you will know what all those people attending the 1936 Olympics felt. And when you see the winners on the podium getting their trophies from people named Khalifa remember who gave out the medals in 1936 and that the world just watched and cheered.

    1. James Allen says:

      Slightly different scale and context from that, I think..

      1. Andy L says:

        The only difference is hindsight.

  40. Martin says:

    As i pointed out in a previous article. What is happenning in Bahrain is obviosly not that bad to the people there.
    Reason I think this. If F1 was not planning on goiing there at all this year from the out set how many reports and stories would you be reading in the press. Pretty few if any. There was no big drama until the season starts and those who want to protest have something to try and sabotage.

    I am not saying that all is nessecary rose as i don’t know all the facts just that when was the lst time you opened a newspaper to see reports of inhumanity in Bahrain that was not to do with F1.

    The grand prix itsself does nothing to harm any one but does benefit some. The best that people against the goverment cpould do would be to organise a simple peaceful protest. By all means take advantage of the worlds media that will be there to show how much support there is against the goverment but to threaten violence just smacks of a bunch of football hooligans out to cause trouble as we have had during the student riots etc.

    Why are they against F1 not their goverment?

    1. Kevin Green says:

      Think about it F1 is a media spring board for the world to see there plight!

  41. Loek says:

    @ Anwar Abdulrahman: You have me confused. I did not see any comparison between apartheid and Bahrain in this article. You seem to have many racial axes to grind all over the world and hijacked this article to get on your high horse. Do you feel better now?

    Regarding the situation in Bahrain, I was there this weekend. And yes, it was perfectly peaceful, as it has been everytime I have been there. There are however certain areas which one avoides, especially after sunset and on Fridays after noon prayers.

    Having said that, everything is definately not back to normal in Bahrain. If it was, then the Pearl Roundabout would be open to the public. Since the authorities cleared it last year, all access points to it are well guarded by armoured vehicles and armed solders. Nobody is allowed access to it.

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