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Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Apr 2012   |  12:11 am GMT  |  95 comments

[Updated 9 April] “No one will enjoy the F1 in Bahrain with cries for freedom from the inside and outside of the race,” a protester in Manama told Associated Press today, as activists turned up the pressure on the Grand Prix, due to take place on April 22nd, to be called off. Protests have started to focus on the race itself with anti-F1 slogans and imagery graffitied on walls.

On April 8th, according to the Financial Times, a group of youth activists called ‘February 14th Youth Coalition’, said “it would not be able to “ensure the safety” of Formula 1 participants amid popular anger that would be triggered by the race going ahead.”

Meanwhile in the UK, former BRDC president and F1 world champion Damon Hill has retracted comments he made over Christmas about the race being a force for reunification of the country. Today, speaking to the UK national press, he has suggested that the race could cause more problems than it seeks to solve.

“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,” said Hill. “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.”

Meanwhile people on the ground in Bahrain insist that the normal Bahrainis are saddened by the events unfolding in their country, where protesters fight running battles with security forces on a daily basis and where a protester was shot at the weekend. The man on the street there is not bothered about the Grand Prix taking place either way while those in favour of the race, for its economic benefit to the country, see the politicisation of the anti-lobby growing stronger,

“It’s got political and I fear it won’t happen now, it’s really sad,” is the latest message from a contact of this website who is based over there.

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.

Meanwhile prominent British diplomats quoted in the local press in the region, say that the race should take place and lay the blame for dissent at the door of the media, for “always looking for the negative.”

The UK Foreign Office however, says that there are no travel restrictions to the country, travellers are advised to “avoid crowds” and gives details of eight planned protests taking place over a three day period.

“We also expect other protests and disruption in various areas of Bahrain to continue through the coming days. As a result, we continue to advise British nationals in Bahrain to maintain a high level of security awareness and to exercise caution, particularly in public places and on the roads, and to avoid large crowds,” reads the travel advisory on the Foreign Office website.

And Bahrain International Circuit chief Zayed Alzayani went on BBC Radio 4 to restate the case for the race to take place, “It is very sad what has happened; but we cannot go back and change history, we have to learn from it and move on,” he told BBC Radio 4. “I think the grand prix is required for Bahrain because we need to get started back on track. The country has suffered, the economy has suffered.”

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95 Comments
  1. PeteH says:

    “Avoid large crowds”

    Like one would encounter at a high profile sports event, for example?

    1. Arvin S says:

      LOL… very true!!

  2. Nigel says:

    “Meanwhile prominent British diplomats quoted in the local press in the region, say that the race should take place and lay the blame for dissent at the door of the media, for “always looking for the negative.”

    It’s pretty pathetic to blame the “media”.
    If at least a fifth of the population are prepared to take to the streets to protest, as they did last month, then the problem is a bit more than just negative press.

  3. Andrew Carter says:

    F1 has always been a bit of a soap opera, but this has long since become a real farce. Its about time the FIA put the race out of all our misseries and left the turbulant country and its rubbish track behind.

    1. Wayne says:

      As I have said before, this race needs to be cancelled for the sake of common sense. Not because of political machinations, I have no idea who is right or wrong in the country’s internal dispute (probably a bit of both, if that’s not too simplistic, which it almost certainly is), but we are long past the point where common sense should have prevailed.

      We cannot enjoy a major sporting event while people kill each other at the gates.

      1. Wayne says:

        However, the ultimate barometer for this should be the advice issued by the UK Foreign Office. There are not even close to recommending that people do not travel to Bharain as far I can tell.

  4. Scott Bloom says:

    James,

    As an American, somewhat distanced from both Bahrain and F1, I can tell you that I do not plan to watch or write about the race. It’s wrong of F1 to go in the first instance, but money talks.

    1. AlexD says:

      This is funny comments considering the fact that there is no war where USA is not engaged….yes, money talks.

      1. Scott Bloom says:

        If you have issues with US foreign policy, you should probably call Barack Obama, that’s his job, not mine.

    2. Erik says:

      Wholeheartedly agree. This is a bad look for F1. Call it off, send a message to the Bahraini elite that this is in no way acceptable on the world stage. Damon’s backflip says alot.

  5. James says:

    “Avoid crowds” say the British Foreign office… and what exactly can we expect at gathering which often involves sport…?

    I was looking forward to the 4 week break after China. I hope Bernie has a super-ultra-mega secret back up plan in place…

    1. Richard D says:

      Can’t see Bahrain GP attracting much of a crowd!

  6. Doohan says:

    James, will you or any journalists covering f1 individually boycott the event?
    Also when if there is to be a boycott by the teams and drivers will it most likely be announced? During the Chinese grand prix weekend or afterwards?

    1. James Allen says:

      I have a contract that says if it’s on I have to go. Plane tickets have been issued now

      1. Kay says:

        Good luck to you then James lol

      2. Jesus says:

        Do you fly Business?

      3. markdartj says:

        Why is that any concern of yours?

      4. Mike says:

        James,

        But taking into consideration the evidence from both sides of the argument, do you want to go?

        And will a lot of F1 personel only be going to Bahrain because of contractual obligations?

      5. DB4Tim says:

        The requirements to fulfill the contract is important and noble, but your welfare is above that….reporters are always on the front line of sports and war and politics…your career!!!

        But damn sure be safe and have more situational
        awareness then ever before in your life. Reporting can be very distracting while focusing on it…… and missing what is really taken place around you.

        Be smart and safe JA

      6. Anthony McLean says:

        I’ve always read the the articles you put out James and I find them very informative. however, I have never felt compelled to respond to any of your responses or articles prior to the above comment
        “I have a contract that says if it’s on I have to go. Plane tickets have been issued now”. This is such negation of your human responsibility to each other on this planet. you can look through our history books and see countless amounts of people who witnessed human suffering and did nothing, because they were just doing their job. If people are being made to suffer because of unjust government policies, we who have greater freedom must support those that are being crushed. in this world where money is the bottom line in most decisions that are made, good people have to raise our voices and do actions that shows unequivocally that we will not support such atrocities. there is nothing worst than to see good people stand by and do nothing to help those who needs it.

      7. James Allen says:

        What do you suggest I do?

      8. Marty says:

        I completely agree. It’s the responsibility of every single one of us as human beings to stand up for human rights and not be slaves to the almighty gelt as an excuse for ignoring the plight of our fellows.
        The situation in Bahrain has been covered up for far too long by Western allies propping up this self-designated ‘king’ to keep their military bases there. Stop the insanity, stand up for what you believe, and I thank you for your comments.

      9. Jeff says:

        A good journalist should be an impartial observer, and the attendance of a journalist should not be construed as support for either side of any dispute. I understand your need to fulfill your contractual obligations, and I presume that those obligations do not prevent you reporting whatever you find there, regardless of whether it ultimately reflects well on F1′s decision to attend the race.

        FWIW, I don’t think the F1 race should go ahead in Bahrain. If it does go ahead, then far from a negation of responsibility, your attendance as a journalist can only help everyone be better informed about what is going on over there. If you go, stay safe, and let us know what is happening in your typically informative, balanced way.

      10. Gareth says:

        That’s a bit harsh, Anthony. I agree with you that F1 should not be in Bahrain, but a boycott by one journalist is unlikely to have any impact on the Bahraini regime, whereas a cancellation of the race by the FIA would be embarassing for Al Khalifa.

        James is doing exactly what he should be as a journalist: giving a balanced report of the facts of the matter. Privately, he may well be expressing his views on whether the race should take place, but he is far too professional to do this in public.

        The decision has to be made by the FIA, and articles like this only serve to increase the pressure for the race to be abandoned. I suspect it will not go ahead.

      11. Quattro_T says:

        Well put, sir!

      12. David Young says:

        Good points. I would love it if a principal player (driver, team manager)would say “this is just wrong, and to show my support for human rights I will not go.” Yeah, they’d probably be fired and blackballed, but… Didn’t Alain Prost take a similar stand against racing in South Africa?
        btw James I love your blog and in no way am I criticizing you for you decision. there is no right or wrong when it comes to providing for your family.

      13. Jonathan says:

        While a boycott by a single journalist won’t achieve anything, I think that all F1 journalists who do travel to Bahrain have a responsibility to report on the humanitarian situation there, and not just talk about the race.

        This is a real chance to raise awareness around the world of what the regime in Bahrain is doing to its people.

        If you get a chance to interview the Crown Prince, ask awkward questions.

      14. Wu says:

        Get over yourself please.

        Sport should never be sullied by politics.

      15. markdartj says:

        Were there no journalists attending, all anyone would have to hear what’s going on would be the official line from the ruling party. How is that doing a service to anyone? If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, it sure as h**l still falls. I would like to be informed by impartial journalists.

      16. "for sure" says:

        For those commenting that reports will be fair and balanced think again. Journalists that rely on F1 and Eccle$tone for their living need access, not enemies.

      17. mark says:

        I hope for your sake and all other F1 people the race is cancelled.

      18. rob says:

        call in sick?

      19. Ghayth says:

        Take an action and do not go your voice is very important and no should be part of supporting what the bahraini government is doing money is not everything

      20. Arvin S says:

        Contract or no contract for James, I support him covering the event live…. I think Sports & Politics+Protests should not be mixed.

        Sports exists to unite people into doing something together and does not harm any goddamn soul by taking place in any country.
        Whereas politics and protests are there to disrupt any sanity just so that “their” personal points are made across. To people who are suggesting that Formula 1 shouldn’t visit Bahrain as a sporting event…. must also then realize that Olympics should boycott Baharani Athletes to appease the protestors.

        Sports & Politics shouldn’t mix… period! I support the race in Bahrain simply because of the fact that sports are meant to unite people, & not be made into an agenda and be fearful of backlash.

      21. Erik says:

        James, in Damon’s own words from this week “Some things are more important than contracts.”

        I do hope that behind the scenes there is a strong opposition growing in the paddock for this race now. Find that group and join them. Safety and power in numbers.

        I’m sure your family would be relieved if you don’t end up covering this race.

  7. vettelfan says:

    what a hypocrisy by the british government about the situation in bahrain turning a blind eye to the human rights abuse in that country and not opposing to the race , i smell oil money from all the dictatorships in the arabic kingdoms in the persian gulf pouring in in support of the race, shame on you formula one if race to be held

  8. goferet says:

    This is what they call a perfect storm and it’s setting up nicely, boiling up under the surface just waiting to erupt D-day.

    In my view, F1 & Bernie should hold their ground and make this race happen by refusing to get intimidated by the negative press for if F1 doesn’t take a strong stand now, we might as well forget ever racing in Bahrain for this means this sort of thing will be happening every year and more so, any country around the world unhappy with the government will employ such tactics.

    Personally I don’t think things are as bad as the media would like us believe i.e. The majority of Bahrainis do not want the race to get cancelled but as is the case in every society, it’s the few rowdy yobs that spoil it for everybody.

    Interesting to see Damon Hill begin to talk like Whitmarsh i.e. double talk or talking in circles.

    On one hand, he is indirectly calling on F1 to skip Bahrain inorder to avoid martial law, on the other hand, he says he’s not calling for the race to get cancelled —> Sheesh, you can’t please everybody Damon!

    At least our UK government isn’t changing their mind like Damon Hill who incidentally doesn’t even live in Bahrain.

    Anyway lets keep our fingers crossed that all hell doesn’t break loose for I for one was looking forward to the Bahrain Grand Prix on the 22nd

    P.s.

    As a rule of thumb, journals should be banned from asking drivers about politics in the drivers press conference for;

    a) It’s inappropriate and has nothing to do with racing

    b) Drivers aren’t politicians/diplomats so haven’t got the proper training to handle such loaded questions.

    1. Nigel says:

      “Personally I don’t think things are as bad as the media would like us believe i.e. The majority of Bahrainis do not want the race to get cancelled but as is the case in every society, it’s the few rowdy yobs that spoil it for everybody.”

      Blaming the media, and “a few rowdy yobs” – that seems to be the official line of the Bahraini government, and the various PR companies they have employed (see story in today’ Times).

      A fifth of the entire population taking part in a protest rather undermines that argument.

      1. David Young says:

        agreed.

    2. Robert s says:

      I agree completely! F1 should just hold the race there, the sport isn’t getting political it’s just a motor sport race. The press are the one’s who are trying to make it become a political statement.

      Also agree that journalist should be banned from asking such questions!

      1. SteveH says:

        “Journalists should be banned from asking such questions”…..So do you want someone to supply a list of acceptable questions? And who would that someone be? Pretty strange attitude to take, in my opinion. Why even have journalists then?

      2. VV says:

        Were you similarly in favour of F1 racing in apartheid-era South Africa?

        Your trivialisation of the entire issue is rather disturbing and worrisome. There are more important things than “just a motor sport race”.

      3. Paul says:

        “Also agree that journalist should be banned from asking such questions!”

        Wow, so much for Bahrain being open and free.

        Would you like any journalist that doesn’t comply shot? Or merely imprisoned and tortured? I mean, that’s what the locals get for asking the same questions.

    3. James Clayton says:

      Damon doesn’t like in Bahrain? No kidding!

    4. Mistral says:

      You fail to see the point, the main issue is that no sport should go to country where protestors on the streets are killed in cold blood by the government, and doctors are denied of helping them. But unfortunately (oil) money rules everything and F1 teams keep throwing that same old “we must trust FIA” nonsense every time they can.

      IF this Grand Prix of Arabic Public Relations -fiasco goes ahead I won’t bother to watch it, but more importantly I hope the ACO is wise enough to cancel the WEC event when they’re supposed to race in Bahrain this fall. Luckily enough I believe they already have replacement event on the line if/when needed

      1. Ghayth says:

        Agree

      2. Sebee says:

        How much of our beloved F1 is paid for by Bahrain money? Not just GP, teams, sponsors, etc. Maybe we shouldnt pick and choose, the rabbit hole is big and I’m not sure wa want choose to see the reality.

        Have a good trip James. I’m sure everything will be OK. Personally I’m glad you’re going because it’s high time we get first eye account.

      3. James Clayton says:

        So countries where protesters and reporters ‘dissapear’, and probably face far worse than a quick shooting in cold blood (China) is fine?

      4. Howard Hughes says:

        Er, I’m pretty sure that Grands Prix were still being held and attended in Britain in the 1970s while Her Majesty’s forces were firing upon protesters in Northern Ireland…

        Bloody Sunday anyone? I’m in favour of the race going ahead for the same reason that I didn’t mind Queen playing Sun City in South Africa during apartheid. Some things like art and sport transcend politics, and should be viewed as being seperate from what’s happening in current affairs. If teams, drivers, fans and journalists were able to happily attend Silverstone in the 70s while peaceful protesters were being slain in Derry and the hunger strikers were dying at the Maze Prison, without making any connection between an internationally promoted event where cars try and pass each other and tragic and disturbing events occuring elsewhere in the UK, then it seems odd to me that people are so critical of the Bahrain GP today…

      5. Spinodontosaurus says:

        Where the British GP’s back then being used as political tools?

    5. Kevin Green says:

      Goferet your a maniac hold there ground for what?? so you can get to view the GP in which what say 1-100 spectators/staff/officials die whilst somebody is trying to make a stance or get a point across??

    6. DMyers says:

      I’m sorry, but I think your view is very naive. You seem to have fallen into the ‘blame the media’ camp. There were two reports by human rights organisations (independent bodies) into the goings on in Bahrain. Are they to be discounted? These organisations were conspicuous by their absence from Bernie’s London gathering a couple of weeks ago. Dissenting voices are not to be heard, apparently.

      As for drivers not having training to answer difficult questions (and they all have media training, as far as I can tell), if they are asked then they will have to give some sort of answer. Webber had the balls to speak out last year, so he may well do the same.

    7. David Young says:

      Human rights and freedoms trump sport and F1 every time.

      1. James Clayton says:

        best cancel half the calender then

      2. David Young says:

        @ James – you do have a point.I guess I’m trying to be pragmatic and when you feel you can really make a difference you should do something. In this case I feel cancelling the event would make a difference.

      3. Paul Dossor says:

        Living in the country usually sheds a different light then the outside world. I have 3 young children and feel perfectly safe here. Media attention from the outside is skewed to the negative always against any government.

        Can you trust the rhetoric from both sides probably not but the roads are clear the kids go to school and life continues on. Overall Bahrains economy needs the F1 event for all people in the country. It is being billed as a unifying event so lets see what happens.

        Bahrain does need political reform and accountability on both sides. We dont need burning tyres, blocked roads and tear gas as this is damaging the country as a whole. We need both sides working together and not encouraging dissent as some influential clerics preach here with cries of Death to America and crush police.

        Bahrain does have problems like all countries such as China, Britain and USA. The canceling of the F1 for Bahrain will only hurt the countries economy and indirectly the people who are for the government and against.

        If 20% where protesting against the government, this means 80% are for the government.

        As said before James travel to Bahrain even if the Grand Prix doesnt happen more than happy to have a beer with you and discuss reasons for and reasons against the F1 with you.

        If it does get canceled it will not be back to Bahrain which will be a shame for the country as a whole.

      4. Wu says:

        If so, I hope you will be boycotting the Chinese GP next weekend. After all, human rights is more important than an F1 race.

    8. Wu says:

      I agree completly.

      My own view, expressed many times is that sport should be blind to politics.

    9. markdartj says:

      What is Whitmarsh supposed to do? His employers include the Bahraini ruling class. Should he quit? Where would that leave the team?

  9. Sebee says:

    Some type of a race scheduling genius scheduled this race followed by a big pause. It’s either to push back the race and give rescheduling options or just to mess with us. Start of this season has no consistency in 2012. A race should be on every two weeks at most.

    As for Bahrain, let’s go! I’m itchin’ to watch it. Worse case move it to Paul Riccard as TV only race and still call it the Bahrain GP. Just stop the drama and lets have a race.

  10. Richard Groves says:

    If the FO is saying to avoid crowds then that must mean they advise not to go to the GP then? And isn’t most (UK) travel insurance invalid in places that the FO says avoid?

    Seems to be getting close to a situation that would make it hard to consider attending the GP a safe thing to do.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, the insurance is only affected if FO says do not travel to this country, which it’s nowhere near at the moment

    2. Ambient Sheep says:

      It’s my understanding that the Bahrain authorities have agreed to underwrite any insurance shortfall the teams etc. may incur.

  11. Grayzee (Australia) says:

    Great article.
    I say to Mr E : Enough is enough! F1 has a whole bunch of “safe” countries and cities around the world who would give their left leg(so to speak) to hold an F1 race.
    F1 does not NEED Bahrain. The fans do not NEED Bahrain. So who DOES?
    Can we try and keep F1 non-political? It is a sport, after all. Or does the “business” side of F1 overide everything, including safety concerns. Surely there is money to be the other venues, too.

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      …surely there is money to be made at the other venues, too….(stupid typist…. :-) )

  12. Andy says:

    The FIA or BE should make a decision and just stick to it. Modern media streams make it very easy for voices to be heard whether right or wrong. I’ve no interest in the politics in Bahrain, but any group can get significant instant coverage if they want.
    As an example, the BBC and ITV were ‘promoting’ potential fuel shortages at least 24 hours before the government put their foot in it. The BBC and ITV news coverage had already started a rush to the pumps, on what was a non story. The tanker drivers have to give 7 days notice before a strike. A non story that caused alot of people to panic because we are losing the ability to think for ourselves.

  13. Paul says:

    As Bernie wants the race so badly, I still do not understand why he didn’t twin Bahrain with Abu Dhabi at the end of the season to give it the maximum amount of time to recover.

    If it does go ahead in two weeks it will be very telling if Bernie himself is not there.

  14. John McCormack says:

    Get real . Bahrain is in the middle of a revolution for justice and freedom. I love F1 racing but we should not be surprised that the F1 organizers are content to ignore what is happening on the streets. Money talks. Just remember it was boycotts and exclusion that brought the downfall of apartheid in South Africa and not the disgraceful visits by Rugby and Cricket teams. Bahrain is much more than a F1 venue and a playground for rich Saudis. People are in prison and dying

  15. I love F1. It’s supposed to be a sport not a political shouting ground. The teams should be able to concentrate on their job and the race not whether they are going to be kidnapped or worse. So for me, DON’T GO.

  16. Jon Powell says:

    Maybe the drivers should also be challenged for their views of the fate of the Tibetan people, and the myriad human rights abuses commited the Chinese government.

  17. Kevin Green says:

    There’s absolutely no reason they should be there this yr with the tension what it is going by the way these extremists work they would not even need to get into the compound to get a “success” in there eyes when it comes to something as high profile and covered as F1.

    They (terrorists/extremists) would simply have to do whatever they feel adequate at the gates whether it be a suicide bombing or shooting, mass shooting(s) or drive into a crowd of walking foreign fans etc.

    It has been so well covered in the media with the doubts on the F1 taking place this yr in Bahrain its screaming out do something from there point of view for maximum impact!.

    And from F1s point of view for what?? why be there 1 race of 20 Absolute madness all things considered, This one needs a serious rethink Bernie your risking tarnishing F1 in a lot more ways than Financially in the long run.

  18. Geenimetsuri says:

    1 word: China.

    Bahrain is ‘easy’ to protest against as it’s not a major player in economic world.

    But the number 1 problem China…Nobody cares, because we want our cheap goods!

    1. Howard Hughes says:

      And because China could kick all our asses if we make too much of a fuss.

  19. Rudy Pyatt says:

    This raises interesting questions, not necessarily political, but in terms of business, and the FIA.

    An observation: Many races have been lost because the organizers/promoters being unable to meet Bernie’s commercial terms (e.g., Indy). The FIA has no problem with this.

    Something like this controversy, as with the six car farce at Indy; doesn’t this “bring the sport into disrepute?” If so, does the FIA have recourse against the commercial rights holder? Does the Federation, by which I mean the member clubs, have absolutely no say in how the sport looks to the general public? And if they do, do they care?

    In short, is there a line beyond which the actions of the commercial rights holder permit the FIA to revoke or modify the 100 year lease? Typically, a landlord can evict someone for damaging an apartment. Is the FIA powerless to “evict” the commercial rights holding “tenant” under appropriate circumstances?

    An interesting question.

  20. Michael says:

    This is just bad for F1. It’s an event the sport can well do without. It should never have returned to the calendar. There are plenty of preferable locations.

    It feels like Bernie is just pushing this through now because he’s Bernie and he’s said it will happen and he MUST NEVER BACK DOWN. If the teams had any brains or any ‘nads they’d have ousted him by now. For all his skills, he’s not irreplaceable. But F1 politics is too deranged for mortal minds to comprehend, so I guess with stuck with another absurd, pointless, politically damaging event.

  21. andy hart says:

    Great so a 3 week break followed by a 4 week break, and to think the fantastic Istanbul circuit has been axed. Id rather have a boring race than no race. Why schedule it in the first place, plenty of other countries desperate to host a grand prix.

  22. Craig @ Manila says:

    Personally, if I had a 20yr old son/daughter who said “Dad, I’m gonna go to Bahrain for a holiday next week”, I’d be trying to talk him/her out of it as, based on what I know and (more importantly) what I don’t know, I wouldn’t be comfortable with them going there.

    To me, this hypothetical tells me that I also think that F1 should not be going there.

    Unsafe until proven to be safe.

  23. SImon Donald says:

    My opinion is that F1 should not be going to Bahrain this year or any year. Any regime who imprisons doctors who are treating injured people is not a regime which deserves the media boost and publicity delivered by having the privilege of holding an F1 race.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/29/bahrain-protester-death-sentence

    I can’t believe how you can claim it’s not all that bad and being blown out of proportion, goferet, when there is widespread reporting by all Western media outlets whether neutral, left and right wing of large scale on-going protests and unrest in the country on-going.

    I do agree with you with regards to drivers though. They aren’t politicians or statesmen, hell most of them are in the twenties or early thirties, and it isn’t appropriate to ask them about the state of the country. If they wish to volunteer an opinion then that is different – they have chosen to do that, but they shouldn’t be picked on just because they have to attend a press conference.

    For James and everyone elses’ sake, if the race does go ahead, I hope the F1 circus is okay. Fingers crossed, the off-field events are as boring and uninteresting as the racing usually is in Bahrain!

  24. Jeremy J says:

    An argument (not sure if I’m on board with it):

    China, Zhu Yufu sentenced to 7 years in prison last month for writing a poem urging people to support freedom (not the poem’s content should matter). China, a place where young monks set themselves on fire to protest the government’s policies.

    Malaysia, opposition leader repeatedly arrested and put on trial for sodomy.

    How can anyone say F1 shouldn’t go to Bahrain because of the political situation and not say anything when it goes to the above places? Should F1 only go to places Freedom House ranks as ‘free’?

    We could probably do without Bernie pretending it’s a democracy though, that was actually sickening.

    1. James Allen says:

      There have been some pretty tasty protests in Barcelona in the last week too….

  25. F458 says:

    James, how are the organisers looking after the safety of drivers, team personnel and journalists? Do you not think it would be a good idea for these people to take their own extra security precautions?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, certainly. I think it’s a big concern

  26. Brian says:

    I wonder what the financial and political fallout would be if the race did not go ahead for those teams or bodies with “close links” to that part of the world…there seems an absolute hell-bent determination that this thing is happening no matter what it takes (for some reason).
    Having a cosy PR lunch for the media & then blaming “the media” merely makes F1 people look uncaring, obtuse or simply greedy (or all three).
    I wonder how many of them are simply scared of offending those who run F1 by saying what they really think for fear of the potential consequences for their careers? It is totally understandable but still a bit weak and pathetic really…

  27. nasser says:

    James, you’re a brave man. Not for going to Bahrain, but for posting this.

    Thank you for getting people talking about Bahrain.

  28. David says:

    Has Mark Webber spoken out about this? Last year, I believe he was the only driver who from the start was forthright in his own opposition, and that was based on principle, not security.

  29. Andy says:

    I read somewhere that Mr Ecclestone “has other commitments, so will be unable to attend” I for one if it is true do not feel that in itself is confidence booster.

    James, I fully support you statement of having a contract so I need to go. As a serviceman I have also been put in that position in the past, honour and pride, makes you do it no matter what you personally think about the situation.

    I am sure security will be at a maximum and everyone will be as safe as they can be.

  30. Thomas says:

    This reminds me somewhat of the 80′s in South Africa with apartheid; sport (cricket) became a pawn in South Africa’s struggles and now F1 has become a pawn in the Bahraini political arena.

    F1 needs to take a stand against these regimes and should cancel the race.

    Interesting article in the NY Times:
    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/bahrain-activists-hunger-strike-belies-image-of-calm-ahead-of-formula-one-race/

    The photo at the bottom of the article shows a group of protesters dressed as F1 drivers holding guns…..great image for our beloved sport.

  31. Nathan says:

    Enough is enough. Formula one cannot go back to Bahrain where people are still getting killed for demanding DEMOCRACY. I call on all F1 personnel to do the right thing and boycott Bahrain.

    1. Geenimetsuri says:

      What about the other undemocratic countries in the calendar?

      Like UAE, China and to some extent India?

      Not forgettin poor ol’ Monaco…

  32. James Walton says:

    The idiot who disrupted the Boat Race could easily have been badly injured and drowned had he been hit in the head by a fast travelling blade [and there are many in Britain who wish he had been, but that's another story!]. If a serious protester in Bahrain is hit by an F1 car, there will be no doubt of the outcome – would you want to be the driver, with this on your mind for ever more? The Thames idiot was a rebel without a good cause, which will not be the case in Bahrain.

  33. Denise says:

    I personally don’t think the race should go ahead, but I believe it will. Last year, Bahrain was all over the news on TV, on every channel and every bulletin. I’m open to being corrected but I can’t recall seeing anything about it being mentioned on BBC or Sky news recently. And this is where most people get their news……
    For every formula fan who is interested in the behind the scenes politics, who reads blogs such as this one and stays up to date with all the to-ing and fro-ing in the F1 world, there are thousands upon thousands who simply turn on the tv on a Sunday afternoon to watch the race.
    I have a feeling that its these people whose considerations will be taken into account.

    1. Andy says:

      I agree with you about not seeing anything in the news recently about Bahrain. The only mention of Bahrain I have read recently is F1 connected, particulary today where the BBC seem to be pushing the issue, with regards to F1. If Bahrain’s problems aren’t newsworthy enough on their own, why raise it with regards to F1?
      I’ve said before that I’m not interested in the other countries politics, otherwise where do you draw the line? You cannot pick and choose.
      It’s also reported today that some teams don’t want to go, but they won’t be named.
      An interesting question to the teams, sponsers etc. would be – Are you still selling products/trading in Bahrain? I don’t know who actually does trade in Bahrain, probably most if not all. Therefore how can they object?
      As a circuit, if it fell off the calendar, I wouldn’t miss it in the slightest.

  34. Nathan says:

    Personally I also think that countries where the internal democracy is questionable, there should also be deep questions on whether they should be able to host a race in the future.

  35. Matt says:

    James, please if you have the opportunity on the radio, to mention why is there no attention on China? The brutality there has become routine, so the media no longer care. The double standards the activists and F1 are applying are ridiculous.

  36. BB says:

    I’m from Bahrain and I think it would be a real shame if the race didn’t take place. Half the country is made up of expatriates who don’t have a say in the political direction of this country. Our businesses are being crippled by a group of thugs who don’t know what they want anymore. I am pro-reform and last year, was happy that dissent was being vocalized. Since then though, all the opposition does is target civilians. They blow up gas cylinders, burn tires, pour oil on the highway and set fire to it hoping we all crash into each other as we bring our cars to a screeching halt. The funny thing about this so-called opposition is that they don’t really believe in listening to or hearing what other citizens and residents of this country have to say. They are a misguided minority looking for an Islamicized Bahrain open only to Shias. Life still goes on and I don’t think any of us who live here feel like things can’t be managed without the security forces having to be too heavy-handed. These teenage boys holding the country hostage are ultimately a bunch of cowards.
    To give into such infantile and callous behavior by canceling the race sends the wrong message. I want change but not at the cost of people’s livelihoods. We need this race for the message that it sends.

    If everyone here is so concerned about human rights violations – how the hell did you let India host a race? A country where hierarchy is rife, where a minority of rich people have made hopeless servants of the poor, where the democratic state is a complete failure, where we have no real judicial system to speak of and where justice is impossible to find. How come none of you spoke out for the obscene labour conditions of those that built the track in India? And the pittance they received as wages??

    If you really want to go country by country – then we’d probably never have the F1 race hosted anywhere.

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