Red Bull driver Mark Webber has been the first Formula 1 competitor, either team or driver, to make a statement about the FIA’s decision yesterday to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix on October 30th.
“As a competitor I do not feel at all comfortable going there to compete in an event when, despite reassurances to the contrary, it seems inevitable that it will cause more tension for the people of that country,” he said. I don’t understand why my sport wishes to place itself in a position to be a catalyst for that.”
Whether because he thinks the teams will push back on it, or because he thinks that further protests before October 30 will make the event untenable is not clear, but he is clear in his view that the race is unlikely to happen,
“Even though a decision has been made, I’ll be highly surprised if the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead this year,” he said.
There is a sense at large in F1 circles, that this decision is just a clumsy way to push any blame away from the FIA, FOM or teams in the cancellation of the event, which many feel is inevitable at some point nearer the time. By making this decision now, the sport can say that it made every effort to fulfil its side of the contract, so if the Bahrainis are forced to cancel before October 30th, F1 will not lose out financially.
If indeed this is the strategy, doing it this way incurs some collateral damage to the sport’s image and may trouble some of the sponsors.
Whatever the thinking behind it, Webber like many who work in the sport – and judging from the poll on this site yesterday, a majority of fans too – feels that the decision makes the sport look out of step with public sentiment.
“In my personal opinion, the sport should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year rather than constantly delaying its decision in hope of being able to re-schedule it in 2011. It would have sent a very clear message about F1’s position on something as fundamental as human rights and how it deals with moral issues.
“It’s obvious that the parties involved have struggled to reach a decision but sadly I feel that they still haven’t made the right one. Like it or not, F1 and sport in general isn’t above having a social responsibility and conscience. I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually but now isn’t the right time.”