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Webber “not at all comfortable” about going to Bahrain
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Webber “not at all comfortable” about going to Bahrain
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jun 2011   |  2:32 pm GMT  |  101 comments

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.

Webber: Not afraid to speak out (Darren Heath)


Writing on his own website he said that he personally is fearful of travelling to the country to compete in an event which has been singled out by protesters as a rallying point for dissent.

“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.”

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1

All us fans have our opinions but seems some are take things out of context i do not doubt there is certain human rights violation in countries like china and russia or any other for that matter but to say that if they do not hold a race in bahrain they should not hold the races in china or russia can not grasp the reality of the whole situation.

China and Russia sure they have some questions to answer in regards to human right violations. But these countries Currently have Stable Government where as for Bahrain a country that is currently in the brink of government turmoil or civil unrest cannot guarantee the safety of the whole F1 profession and ITS FANS not to mention its civilians.

I know where i would travel if i was to watch F1 as a spectator china or russia thats for SURE cause I know I will be safe traveling back and forth to my hotel and the track without highly volatile anti-government “peaceful” protest along the way.

2

I’ll keep it simple.

F1 should not go to Bahrain.

No, No, No.

3
Gareth Foches

Any sports should be free of politics, it is not the sportmen’s job to question nor dictate any country’s governance. If North Korea can afford it, and it makes sense to bring a new sporting perspective foreign to the deprived people (plus percuniary benefits of course, with sponsors and what not), I don’t see why not.

That said, I do not think F1 should go Bahrain.

Why? Because Bahrain’s government is obviously using F1 as a political tool, you just have to read the news. F1 circus, the lot of them, teams and drivers and the FIA are all made used of to show the world Bahrain is safe and stable again. Far from the truth of course.

Kind of an oxymoron opinion. Bah politics!

4

“Any sports should be free of politics, it is not the sportmen’s job to question nor dictate any country’s governance. “

Sports do not occur in a vacuum. Your wish for sports to be free of politics ignores the fundamental duty of

all men to stand up for that which they know is right,

regardless of their vocation.

You want your bread and circuses. Others of us want

a world which doesn’t involve governments which use

violence to suppress peaceful protests. Thankfully

there are sportsmen like Mark Webber who are also men with the courage to speak when they know something needs to be said.

5

They won’t be racing there this year.

But what about that calendar for next year? I love F1, but…it’s…just…too…much!

6

What about Bahrain next year? Also off the calendar?

Are we saying that Bahrain is cancelled until there is regime change? If not, under what circumstances could racing resume?

7

We as global F1 fans have the power to make a difference here. A global campaign to boycott any such Bahrain Grand Prix would scare Tv, other media and more importantly sponsors.

Take a weekend off, don’t watch the broadcasts and like Mark Webber put your actions where your thoughts are. Spread the word, start a Facebook page, let the FIA know how unhappy the majority are. The teams and sponsors are only in F1 for the fans, if we’re not there they’ll notice.

And feel free to do the same if you object about China or America or any other race.

8

If you wanted to do something that would really have a negative impact on F1 then you could boycott the sport completely.

9

I think it’s great that F1 will go to Bahrain! I love Formula1, so I’m happy that I will see addition race! Thanks FIA! I am very happy!!

10

As a man Webber is a top bloke, well said Mark Webber.

I hate to admit this but today I have to do something I thought I’d never do and that is I have to agree with what Max (The S******) Mosley says in his article in the Telegraph where he gives a few of the (bleeding obvious) reasons as to why F1 should NOT be going back to Bahrain in 2011 of course whether he’d say the same if he was still the FIA President I’m not so sure? What do others think?

11

Of course Max would say that. It’s typical of Max trying to exact revenge after he was humiliated by the Bahrain rulers that he would not be welcome at the Bahrain GP following *****[mod]….so I wouldn’t give Max any credit for his views on this issue!

12

Of course in 2008 people argued that the Bahraini government’s request that Mosley not show up for the Grand Prix was proof that he was not fit for the job of FIA President. do these people still value the wishes of the government of Bahrain so highly?

13

Yes, of course you’re right, in my view Mosley always has an agenda!

14
CJ the 2cnd, probably...

Respect to Webber for speaking his mind, I’ve always liked his style. I too think the FIA is wrong to reinstate Bahrain this year , but for different reasons. As I understand it the original reason to cancel stemmed from the impossibility of running the event safely, given the unrest in the country at the time. That’s where the matter should have ended as far as F1 is concerned. Bahrain was not in a position to run the GP on its scheduled date and should therefore wait until its next scheduled date. That’s the pragmatic position; by falling over backwards to include the race this season the FIA gets embroiled, unneccessarily, in the politics of the situation. Once that happens it’s logical that comparisons with other venues will be made, i.e. China, Russia, Brazil. But this is not the business of F1, it is not a campaigning organisation. Those who argue that F1 should boycott certain regimes have some difficult questions to answer, what are the criteria and, hardest of all, who should be the arbiter? Given Bernie’s appreciation of dictatorships perhaps F1 should boycott democracies? Of course I’m not suggesting this, just illustrating that the stance of any arbitrator would be significant. Much better in my view that F1 races where it can, and only refuses to race on grounds of safety, poor facilities etc…(racing criteria) but not politics. Let me be clear, I too abhor human rights abuses and all the other examples of man’s inhumanity to fellow man, I just don’t want to see F1 hijacked in the name of ’causes’, I want to see the competion on the track.

15

Go Mark! Biggest balls of anyone in F1.

16

Here here!

LOL probably why he’s behind Vettel all the time got more weight to lug around!!

17

I have said it many times, and will say it once again: even though I don’t regard Webber highly as an F1 driver, I do respect him a lot as an individual. This is yet another case where he dignifies himself. Others should be like him. This matter is at a higher level than money and personal interest.

18

I think Damon Hill already said everything, on ESPNf1 there is a longer quote. Maybe he was not the brightest driver, but he is a man. So is Webber.

What scares me, is how little todays drivers have said about the situation since lets say, winter testing time. Now with testing ban, they cant say that there is not enough time to follow the news. And Im quite sure they have TV in their motorhomes…Are the drivers really so apolitical or just totally unaware of what is going on other side of the fence?

Sharp contrast to Hill or Webber, is what Bernie said: “What’s our problem in the world at the moment? Too many over-educated people. If we can find a way to do something about that then a lot of our problems will disappear.”

No need to „do something about over educated people “ Bernie! Just cover your eyes and ears and…disappear. Much simplier and cheaper!

So in short, considering the situation, I dont think the race should take place. Leaving the political aspect aside, it is easy to find more reasons. Dull circuit, low attendance, no traditions, logistical problems etc.

On the other hand, if the event would lead to some serious consequences, maybe lessons would be learned. The locations should be picked more carefully. It is impossible to fully separate politics and sport on that level.

For years we heard from Bernie( why am I talking about him again?:D) how terrible place Silverstone is. Well, we never witnessed such problems there. And oh, it is a real circuit with some real corners too…

19

FIA – See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak No Evil !

20

Balls … large ones.

Any other drivers in F1 have them right now?

Thought not.

21

Hats off to you Mark wish we had more stand up to an issue as important as this one

22

Very good on Mark for having spoken out. Forcing me to retract my assertion that no driver would speak out.

23

I don’t rate Mark as a driver at all, but I applaud him for saying something. I hope that some of the other teams and drivers will soon echo his sentiments.

24

Well i rate him the highest of any 2nd driver in a team at least, and then some. His performances

have been better than Massa and Button just to name a few.

25

No they haven’t.

Button is only 9 points behind Hamilton.

Massa has been shocking and is 45 behind Alonso.

But that’s still better than Webber, who is 64 behind Vettel.

26

you are only watching the scoreboard, you need to start watching the races…

27

Could this be the beggining of a sort of “uprising” in the sport? I feel like the teams (FOTA) and the drivers (GPDA) might use this issue to make a stand, perhaps both entities will be in agreement and not go to Bahrain, and it could be the beginning of an era where they could have more power in the sport, and be a bigger part of the decisions.

What do you all think?

28

1) Ferrari were part of the council who voted for a return to Bahrain

2) Mclaren are nearly 50% owned by the Bahrain wealth fund

29

True. But what happens if everyone else (unlikely as the entire thing is, but let me run out the hypo) walks away? Two teams do not a series make.

Definitely a good point regarding the Ferrari vote; just who ARE the members of the WMSC? And what was the vote of the F1 Commission here, unanimous?

30

That’s a very interesting thought. Whatever one may think of the merits of any moral or political issues, I think all will at least agree that this is the latest in a string of very high-profile controversies to beset the FIA generally, and F1 in particular, over the last few years: Bernie’s Hitler comments; public revelations of Max Mosley’s sex life; Spygate; Liegate; Crashgate; the 6-car IndyGP… Is the Bahrain controversy the tipping point at which a new series and a new governing body come into existence?

A new series is more feasible than many – Bernie certainly – may think.

It would be more tedious than difficult to mention venues in Japan, Australia, Europe and the Americas that can (and many already do) host races to international standards: Any track that can host LMS, DTM, MotoGP, Indycar, NASCAR, BTCC etc, etc, can surely host a GP. Are they government subsidized glitz palaces? No, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have excellent facilities.

Those venues and promoters are private entities, and not wholly or primarily subsidized by national governments – they’ve been cast aside (no French GP? Really?) by Bernie/F1 as he’s gone to the government subsidy business model. They simply can’t afford Bernie’s fees without taking a huge loss. Surely some of them would welcome a chance to host a major GP race for which they could actually make a profit.

There are multiple possible TV partners. ESPN, ITV, Fox and NBC Universal come immediately to mind.

If (BIG if) sponsors, track owners and prospective teams are willing to compromise such that they ALL make money, a new series can work.

Someone in F1 circles favorable cited the NBA NFL business models, in which the league itself directly negotiates the TV contracts. Fine. Do that. Let the league itself be the commercial rights holder.

The more interesting and difficult questions are,

Who replaces the FIA? If I recall correctly, at least some of the national motoring federations made rumblings about withdrawing from the Federation a year or so ago, during one of the aforementioned controversies. (Another BIG) IF a couple or three such bodies have reached the tipping point with their FIA involvement, they could certainly form their own federation and sanction one or more new series. Isn’t participation in the FIA itself voluntary?

Who is willing to call Bernie’s bluff and break their contract before the Concorde Agreement runs out? Putting business ethics aside (and just how ethical IS business with the sums involved here?), ruthless self interest may lead some sponsor and/or team to say, “Money is money. Let’s just pay off our contract and cut our losses. Our corporate image is taking too many big hits under these guys.”

Frankly, the F1 teams are, and have been for some years, acting like adult children unable to bring themselves to move out of their parents’ house. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting, but it would be nice to see them grow up and leave the old BernieFIA homestead.

31

Red Bull can afford to boycott the Bahrain GP – PR win.

McLaren can’t – PR own goal.

The championship will be sewn up before this race anyway.

32

The point about double standards has been made repeatedly. However, this race is the pet project of the ruling family – fundamentally different to racing in China or the US. Furthermore it is used as an excuse to show to the world that they have crushed the protests. I can’t see this racing going ahead.

33

Excellent point.

However, with the Chinese government structured the way it is (communist), wouldn’t there be a relatively strong government hand at least indirectly influencing and funding the event? (Honest question; I don’t know much about private versus government corporations in China)

34

The teams and the drivers can comfortably take the moral high ground, FIA can happily say that they fulfilled their legal obligations, CVC (unfortunately!) lose out on their fees, and come 2012 we’ll all be back again. Its a difficult situation once one starts to involve politics with our sport. Should we be in China? Turkey? I don’t know but this is all starting to make the story bigger than what we want – the best drivers, the fastest cars competing for the Grand Prix.

Maybe we should just have a Pan-European series amongst nations that all have common standards and aspirations. Not too much money to be made for the venture capitalists but at least we can watch, analyse, enjoy…and sleep soundly?

Discuss….?

35

F1 shouldn’t race – or even think about racing – in Bahrain until their government stops killing, injuring and intimidating innocent protestors.

I’m a long time supporter of Formula 1 and see this as proof that Bernie Ecclestone cares more about money than the well-being of the teams and the whole sport in general.

FOTA should get all the teams together and decide that an even later finish in 2011 is crazy, that none of you wish to be associated with the murderous Bahraini government, and simply refuse to race.

That’s why FOTA was formed – to create a counter-balance to Ecclestone! If all the teams act together (and even their drivers join in), Ecclestone’s not going to do anything about it. He needs the teams as much as the teams need F1…

36

While we’re at it why don’t we also boycott the race in the country that’s bombing the good people of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan?

37

If that’s truly how you feel then you should boycott that race.

38

It’s not how I feel.

I was merely trying to point out the blind hypocrisy of much of the self-righteous moralising that’s going on about this subject.

39

James, what do u feel was the tipping point in the decision to reinstate Bahrain? I’m not privy to all the info, but on all the polls on f1 websites, plus all blogs posted by respected jounos, f1 shouldn’t be going there this year. I really hope money has not been the decisive factor.

40

Bahrain is not the only country where human rights are not respected, where people are controlled by the government and their leaders do wrong things.

Their are a lot of other country’s on the calender that have blood on their hands. Why is it only Bahrain we’re talking about? A small country in the Middle East.

The FIA did the right thing. We should treat everyone the same and there are worse country’s than Bahrain which have a GP or will get one in 2012. It’s called hypocrisy.

I have to say the current situation in Bahrain seems to be stable enough. F1 promised to go there and should go there. (didn’t they knew about the Bahrain government ethics before?)

In the end it could be just a trick to give India enough time to be ready.. But let’s hope it we will go to Bahrain.

41

I personally have a bigger problem with the fact that they have shunted the date for India’s inaugural GP to fit Bahrain back in.

42

Trully remarkable comments. Top man.

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