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Briefing: The problem with reinserting Bahrain GP this season
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Briefing: The problem with reinserting Bahrain GP this season
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 May 2011   |  6:37 pm GMT  |  107 comments

Another story to break today is the growing energy behind trying to run the postponed Bahrain Grand Prix on October 30, with India moving to the last race of the season on December 4.


It’s fair to say that the teams feel uneasy about this for several reasons. First the moral question, with the obvious difficulties of walking into a highly political situation and endorsing an event which is a creation of the ruling regime. Some are more troubled by this than others.

There is a security issue for the teams and drivers, but they would be likely to be well protected. However there are many hundreds of other F1 insiders who stay in very modest accommodation in the city’s back streets and who would be far harder to protect.

The ruling regime would like to put the race on to show that they are back in control, but faced with a determined opposition, there surely would be a significant risk of that impression being undermined by protest and problems at a time when the world’s attention would be on the country with F1 in residence. So it could be counterproductive.

Representatives of the Grand Prix were in Turkey last week, reassuring teams and personnel that the situation is under control, despite media coverage to the contrary.

Insurance is also a problem, which will need to be carefully considered as, for example, the UK Foreign Office is still advising against non-essential travel to the country.

The teams are also concerned with the idea of a race taking place in December. Most of them have been flat out since January building the 2011 cars, then testing them then racing them over an already record-length race season. To run to December, which would compress the winter, puts quite a strain on them and their families.

The reason India would be pushed back is two fold: to give them a little more time to get the new circuit finished, (not that it’s appearing to be a drama at the moment, like Korea was last year) and also to tie Bahrain to the Abu Dhabi race from a logistical and travel point of view. The Young Guns test would take place after the Abu Dhabi race.

Will it happen? There are people pushing for it, of course, and some are suggesting it’s growing in likelihood. But getting the race a secure slot on the 2012 may be the real end game.

A decision by the FIA is due to be made by June 3rd.

Photo: Darren Heath

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1

It would be an utter disgrace, as well as a shot in the foot, for F1 to have a GP in Bahrain this year after the torture, kidnapping of medical staff, and death sentences that the regime has handed out there.

Anybody still seriously thinking that it is worth it might want to watch this first:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_1A9G1LW6Q

2
Adrian Jordan

If F1 goes to Bahrain this season I will joing the ranks of fans who will not be watching the race.

Also, it would be a real shame for Brazil to lose it’s place as season finale after only getting it back from Abu Drabi this season.

4

James,

Today we read that David Cameron has welcomed the Crown Prince of Bahrain to Downing Street.

My question is if Bernie and the FIA come to some arrangement with the government – what would happen regarding the teams who don’t want to go?

Do you know if more teams are in favour of going or not? – and is a boycott likely?

14. Tyler says.

‘Any support (which staging this race would be) for a regime that supresses the freedom and voice of it’s people is a bad idea.’

The F1 circus travels to countries with questionable records on human rights (China especially) so the calendar would be much shorter if we boycott all countries who ‘suppress the freedom and voice of its people.’

The most negative comment I heard over the race weekend in China was about the empty stands and that F1 hadn’t significantly ‘tapped’ the Chinese market as well as it might have.

The Bahrain government used to own about 30% of McLaren, and one of Hugo Chavez’ concerns is funding Williams to the tune of a few million.

I think if F1 started getting political a few newspapers would start revealing the amount of ‘tainted’ money there is in the sport.

If teams want to boycott Bahrain out of fear for the safety of staff and fans, I’d agree with them and support them.

But please let’s not make a moral stand over Bahrain, it looks hypocritical.

I am ‘guilty’ of watching the Chinese race, I couldn’t boycott the Bahrain race on principle and not be considered a hypocrite.

How many of the fans on here who are saying they will boycott Bahrain if it goes ahead watched the Chinese race?

5

Presumably Bahrain and Bernie have a contract, and all the statements from Bernie seem to be motivated by not being seen to be the person to break his side of the bargain (as then he’d be open to legal action)

So i’m not sure we should read too much into the statements on either side, this is all just a case of avoiding liability

6

There should never have been a Bahrain GP in the first place. F1’s flawed practice of allowing rich governments to [get – mod] them to come to their tracks has backfired here, both in racing quality and political embarrassment. I’d wait until they rebuild the Pearl before even discussing it, but then I have an interest in human rights which F1’s [mod] management seems to lack.

7

Face fact. This is what happens with a WORLD championship. At times their will be unrest, or earthquakes, or weather issues. Skip it, move on and hope the following year that country can stage a race. I know Bernie wants the cash and a chance to shake hands with royals, but name one other country that has been given so many chances. Imagine if they treated USF1 like this 2 years ago? What would have been the outcome? (I am Australian by the way)

8

I’m heavily opposed to going to Bahrain for the clear moral reasons. F1 shouldn’t be going this year full stop and the whole future of the event should be made contingent on political change. It’s not F1’s job to change regimes, but it should say where it does and doesn’t want to go.

But aside from this, surely a race this year would be just pure reckless? It will either galvanise the opposition giving them a key international event to disrupt, or will galavnise even more represion from the regime as it seeks to ‘nip it in the bud’. Neither are great press for F1, which in either scenario would look like it is explicitly on the government side.

Peace and goodwill to all those in Bahrain – I hope you get the change you want with as little bloodshed as possible. I only wish my country could have been bolder in at least speaking up for you.

9

James,

what do the drivers think? Do they speak to you about this off the record?

10

Maybe I’m wrong, but didn’t F1 go to South Africa when Apartheid was still in place? Wasn’t that when there was a sporting boycott going on, as well?

To be honest, as much as I don’t like it, there is a precedent here.

I won’t be watching, because I have friends in Bahrain and they’ve given me details of what’s going on. It looks like the place is under foreign occupation, apparently.

The danger for the Grand Prix is a) it’s morally indefensible and b) someone might use it to make a point. You’d only need one brave protester to throw himself at the starting grid and you’ve got a a massive international incident.

We shouldn’t be going there, no.

11

Hear hear.

On the South Africa reference, different times and the world (I hope) has learnt from it.

12

I guess this a test for the morals of F1, the FIA, the money grabbers & the teams.

NO races should ever be held in a police state and IF the Saudi’s are still there to keep order then what else is it?

Maybe if F1 does race their next we’ll be having a race in North Korea, yep sounds good to me……

13

Doesn’t Brazil have a special agreement to be the final race of the season? Would moving the India race be a problem with that?

Also, what about all the people who have booked flights etc to travel to India? they’d be a little annoyed, I’d imagine

14

I can kind of understand Bahrain’s point of view. As a Thai who lives in Bangkok, I know that the foreign media always multiply the situation when there’s something like this happening. We had the coup, the protests, etc and it looked so bad on BBC world, CNN, etc when in reality that happened in a small part of the city and nearly everyone went to work and got on with their lives without even noticing the difference. Ok maybe the Bahrain situation is a little different, but I guess I’m saying, it’s almost certain for me that it’s safer than we think it is.

Reinstated or not I don’t mind, just make Brazil the last race and I’m happy!! :p

15

I don’t think it should happen.

It would mess up the Indian GP, and could be a major security issue for the “regular” F1 people that don’t stay in guarded enclaves.

But please, lets can the sanctimonious posturing over the “morality” issue!

Until we see all you “protesters” saying the same sorts of things about China, Malaysia, and Brazil you are revealed as being very selective about “morality.”

You could come up with that sort of nonsense about almost *every place if you tried. India is big enough, with enough people, that there’s probably something you could protest about that one too! Kashmir, anyone? The Caste System? Buying Jaguar?

16

I see a lot of comments claiming that the race should not go because of Human Rights violations but i did not see any protests when the Chinese race was on considering China’s human rights record!

17

I agree having also commented earlier did not give China a thought. Bahrain has been a main headline in recent months which is why it will be at the forefront of peoples minds. Irrelevant of the ongoing issues in Bahrain would the race there be missed after last year? Boring and procession are words that spring to mind. The rules this year I am sure would help but even so wouldnt be right to hold a race there this year at the least.

18

That is the thing, I would in all likely hood watch the race, and qualifying, and the practice sessions if I get the time. And I am saying it because I am following F1, and that means following F1 through all its twists and turns, through good times and bad times. I am not watching F1 or not watching F1 because of the politics involved. I am following to see what happens.

If the race is not held in Bahrain, I will be happy with the point score for humanity. If the race will be held, I will watch it with a heavy heart in the hope that it will not turn into something similar of the ’72 Munich games. So here is hoping…

19

Agreed.

20

Forcing Bahrain onto the schedule this year sounds inappropriate on several levels. As an F1 enthusiast with a conscience, pressing the issue smacks of conceit for all concerned.

I, along with a handful of friends, watch F1 races together in the US and often talk about politics too. F1 gains nothing (except a few million dollars) from a Bahrain GP. What if F1 is not even welcome in Bahrain in the future by a new government of Bahrain, assuming that the sheiks are booted out of power?

I can assure you that I (and my F1 addict friends) will not be watching the Bahrain GP, if it happens this year.

21

It would be great to see some teams or maybe even drivers take a stand on this and say they won’t go to Bahrain if there is a race, due to the human rights abuses of the regime. I wonder if any have the guts for that.

22

I know the answer to that: no, none have the guts. In any case, there would be little effect unless it was carried out en masse.

23

morality is nothing for FIA?bernie . all just need money. LIBYA/BAH same thing happening. ruler’s are killing there own people. Would f1 go into LIBYA now to race again in oct (taking hypotical situation of libya holding a race and got cancelled). Bah is a key ally for USA/UK/EU/NATO. so no one care’s of human right abuse. its a messed up world. this policy of double standard. FIA will go even to iraq to hold race if he get the money. No goverment in this world has imported troups from outside the country to kill its own people, even its now . USA and NATO has military base there . It imported military from saudi and UAE to kill the peaceful protest. In my opinion bah should never hold a race in its lifetime.

24

i cannot believe all the moralising that is going on here. there are many other issues that could be used for similar examples of hypocrisy. this is simply a motor race. F1 should not be allowed to be used as a political tool. just go in and race.

25

James

The real story i feel of trying to push the indian f1 to december is due to the track building back on schedule. Even though i live down south in india. But i guess the work of track is not with date. why is the FIA not giving the decmeber slot to Bahrain?. it will give more 2 months for the situation to improve there. There is also a major tendency here to finish projects way behind schedule. common wealth games 2010. up the stadium handed over 6 months behind schedule. hardly 10-15 days before the opening day. ANd also there is a new development happened in the last 1 week of a major fight between the political party ruling the country and the regional political party in who’s state the race is gonna be held. Indian politics is height of things. which no one can imagine. The state where the race is going to be held is the biggest stare of india. Election’s are going to be held for that state next year. and things are already very hot in one of the place’s in the state. the central goverment and the state goverment are at logger heads for last 4-5 days. and the fight is going on in greater noida only

26

There are many examples of despotic regimes using sport to give their country an acceptable face to the rest of the world. If F1 goes to Bahrain and then the government falls, F1 will go down in history alongside the rebel cricket tours of South Africa and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

If F1 does return this year, I’d expect to see a lot of advertising & sponsorship leave the sport. It’s a pity F1 is run by a greedy, insular old fool, who should have learned to keep well away from politics, having got burned the last time he stuck his nose into it.

27

McLaren is part owned by Bahrain and I don’t see any of their other sponsors leaving. I can understand why some would feel uncomfortable, but I highly doubt a mass exodus of sponsors and advertisers.

28

Of course, F1 has been going to South Africa during the apartheid years, so it has already been put alongside those; but it might still do better this time.

29

I’d agree with the majority of posters here so far, and say that F1 should not go to Bahrain this year, and possibly not again.

Going there would give the Bahraini government a big propaganda boost showing ‘business as usual’ when it’s anything but. And more importantly, it would put people in harm’s way.

Sport should not endorse repressive regimes.

So for that matter, F1 should not be going to China, either.

Lastly, it would be unbearable watching the drivers dodge any questions about the political situation as they always do when asked anything contentious.

30

I don’t see the problem. One of the biggest teams in F1 is 40% owned by the Bahrain rulers. We don’t boycott them, nor should we.

31

I’d like to see the Bahrain race replaced with another location, ideally a classic circuit or in a country that has hosted Grand Prixs before such as South Africa, Mexico or Argentina.

32

If only that was an option! Imola gets my vote all the way.

I’ll take it further – a selection of approved ready non-regular F1 tracks that could be presented for fans to vote on, promoted during first 5 races and scheduled later on in the season. Winner gets a discount on hosting license. Imagine if we fans had a say about where one race per season takes place? But now I’m just in dreamland.

33

There is one issue that keeps getting ignored whenever the issue of F1 and Bahrain is discussed.

A number of people who contribute to this site seem to be in favour of the ‘teams’ taking a share in the running of F1. If that were to happen, which organisations would own shares in F1?

34

I don’t think it is fair on the authorities in India. I guess they would have the prestige of the final race of the year but won’t they have enough pressure of holding their first ever race without it being the season’s finale?

Furthermore I am sure the organisers in India will have a plethora of arrangements in place that will not be easily altered. I think it is disrespectful to expect tem to alter things just to accommodate Bahrain.

35

I don’t get what there is to discuss. How can an F1 race even be considered for a second in a country where you have much the same going on as Libya, Syria etc. It will be detrimental to the image of F1 if the race goes ahead as well as the extreme security risk. Simply a race should not be held under any circumstances in a country where the government fire at and kill their own citizens. Wrong on every level. Should be removed from the calendar permanently.

36

What about China? You agree with that regime?

Hungary? It was behind the iron curtain once.

Let’s not be so righteous. Many GPs take place in places we wouldn’t want to live in.

37

My point is simply one I stated a number of times; Who or what is F1 to make political statements or have political preferences?

38

So that’s your excuse for continuing to go there? F1 should abandon all morality simply because they have in the past?

39

Point taken. Had sent another comment previously as replied in error to Dave Roberts.

40

I don’t know what it is, but something feels wrong with this insistence to wedge in the Bahrain GP. Is someone getting a very large kick-back for having this race on the calandar?

You also make a very important point here James; no doubt the drivers and other top people will be safe but who’s going to take care of that multitude of regular Joe’s.

We have a full season with some great closing races. Let’s just leave things and they for 2011 and get the calendar in shape for 2012.

41

They are one of the biggest shareholders of McLaren. They want to show off one of their toys in front of their adoring (cough, cough) public.

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