F1 Winter Break
Trouble on the ground in Bahrain
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Apr 2012   |  1:45 pm GMT  |  146 comments

Updated – After the messages of reassurance from Bahrain GP organisers this week and the show of the support from the F1 bosses and teams, events on the ground in the country this weekend have raised further questions about what might happen over the next three weeks as we count down to the scheduled race date of April 22nd.

Protests this weekend saw a fatality as local militia shot dead a man who, according to a Reuters report quoting the man’s cousin, was “taking pictures of a demonstration when what he described as “militia members” in an unmarked car opened fire on him.”

Protests are happening almost every day, according to reports, often ending in violence. On Sunday two small protests took place in Shia villages, specifically targetted at the Grand Prix, calling on the authorities to cancel the event.

More worryingly for the image of F1, on Saturday a protester throwing missiles at the police was seen to be wearing the iconic Prancing Horse logo of Ferrari on his back, showing the uncomfortable mix of sporting icons and political struggle, which gives fuel to those who argue that the sport has no business mixing itself with the politics of the country at a difficult time. Ecclestone told me this week that he has no problem with F1 being used by the country’s rulers to send out a message that the country is moving forwards, the race being positioned as “a force for good”,

“We’d be happy to do whatever,” he said. “I don’t see that we can help much but we’re there, we have confidence in Bahrain. The good thing about Bahrain is that it’s more democratic than most places. The people there are allowed to speak what they want and they can protest what they want to.”

Meanwhile it has also been emerged in the German media that the teams have a back up plan to get personnel and freight back to Europe from Shanghai via Dubai in the event that the situation escalates to such a degree that it is considered safer to call the race off at short notice. It is the belief of many within the F1 community that this will happen, at some point during the Chinese GP weekend. McLaren personnel are privately particularly concerned as the team is half owned by the investment arm of the Bahraini ruling family.

However that was far from the message from Ecclestone, the event’s organisers and the team principals who attended last week’s lunch at the RAC Club in London, making for a confusing picture just three weeks before personnel are due to arrive in Manama.

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James, I'm curious to know what some of the guys 'further down the chain' (e.g. mechanics, members of the media) think about going to Bahrain. We only seem to hear the offical lines from the higher-ups.


Ecclestone is pushing the race because it is a big pay day for him. People will get louder as the race approaches with more of the world watching bahrain.


I imagine they will only confirm what they are told to confirm by their employer.


I agree. If we could get some info on that it would be great 😀


Agreed. Those not in the 'A' Party are not fortunate enough to stay at the top (and therefore most secure) hotels and get police escort to and from the track.


It's an absolute joke that a race in Bahrain is even being considered, never mind planned to go ahead.

The teams should get together and refuse to go.

If it does happen I hope the protesters cause absolute havoc. Obviously I hope that no F1 personnel or media are hurt, but I'd love to see the opposition make the most of Bernie & the organisers greed.


Enough is enough, the race should be cancelled immediately. NOT because I have the first clue whether the government or the revolutionaries are correct, NOT because of any political reasoning or motivation. The race should be cancelled due to plain old fashioned common sense, and it should be cancelled indefinitely so F1 is not put through this media circus every bloody year.

F1 is allowing itself to be used by BOTH parties to everyone's nett loss.

Enough is enough. We cannot go and hold a sporting event against a backdrop of death regardless of who is right or wrong.

mohamed south africa

Well my friend formula 1 was the only sport that still accomodated apartheid south africa so that sums up what u saying I suppose


That surely just suggests that Bernie isn't interested in a country's internal politics? Which I hasten to add is probably a good thing if you want to have a world wide sport. A sport is just that, sport, not a political tool, using it as one would be a bad move. I sort of respect Bernie for not judging internal politics and taking the sport world wide.

If we're looking at politics there are very very good reasons F1 shouldn't go to China, yet that isn't even up for discussion, and the reason is why I've highlighted above.


Don't you think that the Bahrain Grand Prix is nothing but a political tool for the Bahrain royal family? I don't think you can separate sport and politics in F1, when Ecclestone plays races off against each other to get the biggest government subsidies, and races like Bahrain exist only due to the vanity of the country's rulers.

I don't think you can have it both ways - you can't say sport and politics are separate when powerless people use F1 to raise human rights issues (including over China), while ignoring the fact that sport and politics are intimately entangled when powerful people use F1 to enhance their prestige.

mohamed south africa

I think what it shows is that all bernie is concerned about is money. All sport should boycott dictators


Liked Joe Saward's comment a few days ago:

"It is just a shame that the final doubts about the place were not swept away with invitations to the event for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the two major human rights organisations in the world.".

Such would carry more weight than those who dare never get off the red carpet.


Nope, there is nothing wrong in Bahrain that can be seen from the red carpet, Bernie, the FIA, Damon and co must have stayed firmly on it and kept their eyes lowered.

Pity, we used to rate Damon.


Sorry, what have I missed? Damon who?


Hey if you Google his name he is the number one hit he was supposed to be behind the wheel!


Hill. He said something along the lines of Bahrain being safe to host the race and it would help reconciliation more than hinder.

You may even find this quote on this site. James?


Hill who?


What has Damon Hill got to do with this? Nothing.


Damon Hill clearly expressed support for F1 returning to Bahrain, in spite of what has happened/is happening on the ground. What is (to me) even worse is that he equated the civil rights protests in Bahrain, to what recently happened in the UK, believe it or not - quoting:

"There is no question they have issues - but every country has issues; we had riots here in the UK not so long ago."




Riots in London stealing trainers and setting fires to bulildings (granted not nice!) is not the same as people being killed, what Damon?!?!!?!


Mr. Hill has been quoted as saying everything is fine there.


"Hill, who recently visited the Gulf kingdom, said he “did not like seeing people shot and brutalised,” but added that Formula One could return with a clear conscience this year.

"I was frustrated last year that Formula One did not raise its voice against what was happening. But a lot has changed there since then,” he told The Times.

"It is clear that the situation in Bahrain is better understood and I don't think anyone would want to go back to Bahrain if there was suffering just because of a grand prix. I listened to a lot of people there, including eye-witnesses. I believe they are making change for the better.”"


I didn't knew that, sorry.


Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't see this one coming!!


Yes indeed.. Bernie must think F1 fans are a bunch of gumbies if he thought an ill contrived press statement would have everyone believing him on this.

Why has he sold out like this to a bunch of elitist sheiks? I know money is involved and lots of it, but he's damaging F1's image?

I guess the money was more valuable to them.


like to think this was a april fools but dont think it is. it sadnes me to see the great tracks of europe, steped in f1 history getting dumped off the calender for the middle eastern oil countrys to buy their way on to it. surley money isnt everything.......


With what is going on over there they should seriously consider cancelling the race meeting. Why place the teams in a position of danger just to satisfy Bernie's contractual arrangements.I'm sure there are penalty clauses that will still guarantee Bernie's payments if a country can't provide a safe enviroment to go racing.

Hopefully they find a solution to there problems as it's a nice circuit from a viewing peespective.


Oh dear God I agree with you completely. Unfortunately I assume your question is rhetorical as we all know that money is absolutely everything in F1.


Bahrain isn't exactly oil rich, it lives on tourism and business, things like F1 means a lot there.


It is to bernie...


The protests haven't stopped in the villages since the uprising of February 15 last year, despite what Ecclestone chooses to believe, and the activists there are wholly intent on making F1 the spectacle around which they can take it up a notch. There was a pretty good BBC program recently giving a good sense of what's going on on the ground in Bahrain, which is on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/rkHObxOiOmU

Ecclestone says he has no problem with F1 being used by the Bahrain royal family, which at least is honest as the Grand Prix has always been a vanity project for them. But he's about to find out what it's like when F1 is used by revolutionaries! He might not like it so much.


i urge everyone to watch this BBC program.


Thanks for the link.

Have to be careful of propaganda from both sides but doesnt look quite as rosy as we are led to believe.


That is a very good point, that both sides have their propaganda, and both will be using this race to promote their cause.

Bernie is using it to promote the idea of stability that the rulers of Bahrain want to show.

I'm pretty sure the protesters will not pass up the opportunity to use an international sporting event to also highlight their own cause.

What ever you feel about the situation in Bahrain, or weather you feel that F1 should be devoid of International politics, you really can't deny that this race IS being used for political means.


I wouldnt be surprised if Bernie didnt care either way, he will play the game until the last moment to ensure CVC get paid.


throwing missiles at the police was seen to be wearing the iconic Prancing Horse logo of Ferrari on his back


Yes, I know the Tifosi all to well especially when their car isn't working too good Hahaa (*jokes*).

Anyway, it's quite obvious some dark forces are determined to make the Bahrain race not happen just for the simple reason that the ruling tribe are F1 fans.

Now wouldn't it be a surprise Iran are the ones that have been behind this all along and pulling the strings of the hard headed by paying them to cause trouble for the teams since most of them have their roots in one of Iran's eternal enemies --- The UK and since Iran wants to rule the entire mid east region.

So yeah, I predict lots of tear gas & running battles come the weekend of the Bahrain Grand Prix for we're racing come rain or shine.


Uh, so with Mclaren having ties to the ruling family, can it be concluded that the drivers & personnel are getting paid by blood money?

Seems like that to me but hey, it's all good, no one is perfect just look at Maldonado.


You are quite entertaining goferet - I don't think even fox news is so out there


No, McLaren employees are paid by the organisation which derives it's income primarily from a combination of FOM championship payouts and sponsorship revenue.

Besides, blood money is compensation to the victim or victim's family by the perpetrator of a crime. Usually the crime involved is murder but other particularly heinous crimes also can attract a payment. It varies depending on the culture involved.


"Yes, I know the Tifosi all to well especially when their car isn’t working too good Hahaa (*jokes*)."

They should be happy considering the output of last couple of races...

Iran? Lets show the people marching at the streets, asking for human rights some respect please, even if some look like being tifosis.


It seems that your knowledge of geopolitics his as sharp as your knowledge of F1 goferet..

The UK is Iran's eternal enemy?! Iran wants to rule the entire mid east region!! I don't know where to start.. but then again this is a F1 blog so I don't think its the right place to debate this.

But I want to make 2 points:

No you cannot conclude that McLaren's drivers & personnel are getting paid by blood money. Maybe you should look up what blood money is before you use it, it will save you the embarrassment.

Maldonado is sponsored by a government owned oil company, a government lead by a democratically elected president.


Actually, hidden in the fog of goferet's (possibly not a native english speaker) incoherence, is some truth, notably about the geopolitics of the region.

Iran has laid claim to Bahrain for centuries, and notably during the period of British colonial rule of Bahrain. The Al Khalifa family, in its struggle to evict the British, even raised the Iranian flag on public buildings. I could go on, but suffice to say that goferet is absolutely correct when he perceives that Iran reserves its greatest enmity for the British. Iranians have always seen the British as the most dangerous of powers in the region - and even despite its vastly diminished world stature today, they by and large still do. It's quite flattering, I suppose....

Iran aims for hegemony in the Gulf region: it did so for long before the Revolution, and continues to do so now. Its history of attempted destabilisation of its Arab neighbours - and notably of Bahrain - is well documented.

So give goferet a break, he's not entirely wrong in his comments.


Blaming Iran for what is happening in Bahrain is nonsense, and even the independent commission said so.

Rather than arguing about what Bahrainis want, why not ask them? A free election? Will never happen of course, because the gangsters in charge would be booted out of their golden palaces by the oppressed masses. Dictatorships are dictatorships with good reason.


No, Venezuela is effectively a dictatorship, a Kleptocracy, the elections are rigged and the opposition oppressed.

Hugo Chavez hides behind the flag of Socialism while he and his close cronies loot the Petro Billions and the lower level hangers on run the Narco business in league with the FARC Terrorists from their positions in the Military.

The Venezuealan Generals have "lent" their name to their product.. "5 Star Coke" .. so named after the 5 stars on a General's shoulders.

Why do you think they are so keen to do "Naval Exercises" with their new friends the Russian Navy off the coast of Venezuela ?


"The European Union extends its congratulations to the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the national political forces and its people for the elections to the National Assembly of September 26th.

The EU appreciates the positive role played by national electoral observation organizations. The EU notes that the Venezuelan National Electoral Council accredited more than 200 international guests to accompany the day of the election."

Chavez is far from perfect but he as done good thing for the poor population of Venezuela. He gets bad press because he nationalized the oil industry, doesn't play ball with the major oil multinational and believe in "evil" socialism.

I'm sure he has done things that are questionable to stay in power especially after the US coup in 2002. He deserve as much respect and recognition as most head of state in the western world.

As for "Kleptocracy", name a single country in the world that is not a Kleptocracy?


Never thought I'd be agreeing with Justin Bieber


Oh brother! I'm behind this event happening, but all this drama is really draining. I'm afraid it may only get worse.

Let's remember the F1 club is a selection of individuals who aren't the average Joe like you and I. They are used to the best and don't go on holidays anywhere there is a hint of trouble. This is likely no different.

Let's just go and get this event over with. There was a time when F1 wasn't soft and P.C. Social media and Internet creates this self feeding fear cycle.


Imaging how draining it is for the people on the streets who are dieing (whatever 'side' they're on).


Of course the government is accountable for deaths. Let's start with the death penalty. Let's end with wars. Hardly something that should be ignored. Right to bear arms is one thing, all the lobbying that goes on in the name of gun ownership is another. Gun ownership is one thing, having a concealed permit is also another.

As for your point about removing the government, if they own the land and are the richest and if it is a kingdom then they are in their castle and can do as they please. I know it's a bit primitive but their subjects can move if they don't like it. At some point ever monarchy made a decision to be democratic this one hasn't yet.

I understand that people may not like it. But what does this have to do with some rich guy paying an F1 hosting fee? Or building $1 billion track? Or us watching a bunch of cars go round?

As for sympathy I have it. I'm not a robot. But what does that have to do with these people needing to work this out? It's not have F1s job FOM's or Bernie's. These people are misguided if they think protesting F1 will soften the resolve of their rulers.


Jeepers, didn't think I would see anyone standing up for the principles of Feudalism on an F1 blog.

Hooray for your call to promote medieval systems of government, tonight I'm going to part like it's 1399!

Shame you spoilt it by not comprehending that that Serfs can't in fact up sticks and move if they want to.

But I like your thinking that the oppressed people of Bahrain should just become refugees in the Saudi desert. I can not see any problem with that, and it would allow you to enjoy your cars going around very happily without real life getting in the way.


As for your point Wayne, over 10K people die each year in US to gun violence. Puts Syria 9000 death toll so far in a different light for you? Where is the outrage to end that? I have a license to carry a concealed weapon in 26 states, which I got for the experience. Should I have such a license?

How many people die on our roads due to drunk driving? You see alcohol outlawed?

Look, I'm not devaluing life, but there was a protest and one guy died. It's sad. But please, let's put some perspective on this. Also, please show me one democracy which has won it's "rights" from those who seem to have the power to grant them without blood being spiled. Let's man up, put down our keyboards and stop thinking that not watching Bahrain GP will change a darn thing.

As for those "rights" we think we have, they are a little funny, aren't they. These rights that are claimed to come from God, don't include right to shelter, food, water. I find it amuzing that God would overlook such things. I really feel like George Carlin sums this best. "Just look up what happened to American Citizens of Japanese upbringing living in U.S. during WWII." Don't think that won't happen again somewhere sometime in the future. It has already happened since.

So let's not get all warm and fuzzy about rights. And let's not get complacent about thinking we have them guaranteed either. As for F1 - I said it before and I'll say it again - It's a marketing show of a few pretty color cars going in circles for 120 minutes or so. That's all.


To: Brent McMaster

Lives are lost. It's comparable.

Brent McMaster

10,000 Americans die a year because of stupid gun laws; the Syrians that are dying are being killed by government military. There is nothing comparable in the 2 situations.

It's evident, from the outside, that citizens "rights" are not a concern in the US and the definition of "freedom" has been changed.


More than 1 person has died, but 1 would be enough to be concerned.

Whether you carry a gun or not, however many people die on the streets in the US via gun crime - the US govenment is accountable to its people and did not kill any those victims of crime. This is niether simplistic nor naieve, it is simply true. Americans protect their right to bear arms rather fiercly, they determine that for themselves.

For all the faults of Western democracies, their people have a democratic right to remove any government from power by following a fair and prescribed process (conspiracy nuts would dispute this, but they will dispute anything).

The people of Bharain do not have te right to remove their leaders and therefore have no self determination.

I did not say that not watching the GP will change anything. It should be stopped for the sake of common sense rather than for any political reason. To carry on regardless like nothing is wrong, and people (not person) have died is gross (whoever is at fault).

'Manning up' would be trying to help, offering sympathy and empathy to both sides and not, as you suggest, breaking open a pack of doritos, sucking back a bucket of coke and watching the shiny marketing procession while two sets of human beings kill each other at the gates.

Not sure what point you are making about thinking we have rights guarranteed, I never suggested otherwise.


It has also helped to shed a light on those who have immoral values and tread upon others for their own gain.

I have nothing against elitist sports only played by the wealthy, I love F1. But when it's being paid for by a bunch of corrupt individuals all at the expense of the working class you have to have a bitter taste in your mouth if your a decent human being.


I don't know which country you live in Erik, but if you think there is no corruption, greed, abuse of the system, theft from the lower classes in your conuntry, then you need to take you sunglasses off.

Just like Hot Dogs, sometimes you just don't want to see or know how they are made. You just put mustard on it and enjoy it.


Yeah right, I'm afraid you lost me. Not sure what you're saying anymore and this forum is definitely not a place for a tit for tat between us so let's just leave it at the point that I think what's happening in Bahrain is atrocious and F1 should not be there and whatever you think.

Moving on.


Didn't you see recent studies? Wealthy often bend the rules. Did you see report on the 1%? It clearly stated that they bend rules significantly, lie more often and have different standard of ethics to what the rest of us like to believe is right.

Bottom line, I'm not painting anyone with the same brush, it is bunch of rich guys with a whole set of other rules applying to them putting on a show for us so that marketing companies pay the bill and host nation pays the fee. Like it has always been, not only in Bahrain. It's hardly beneficial for us fans to get our feathers all ruffled for this.


Actually it is worth it. Because if it was happening in my country, to my own family I would be very upset.


" The good thing about Bahrain is that it’s more democratic than most places. The people there are allowed to speak what they want and they can protest what they want to"

O well that's all right then...

We are constantly hearing how clever Bernie is and no doubt he's a genius negotiator and businessman but he does seem to have a rather simplistic, almost child-like perspective of politics, human rights, democracy...call it what you will.

If the race does go ahead will the clown prince have the nerve to be on the grid congratulating himself as usual? Will the TV presenters be kissing up to him like in the past? (I guess I could be described as a little anti-monarchy even at the best of times 🙂 )


His perspective isn't child-like. It's deliberate, calculated ignorance - he knows exactly what is going on but...well....there's this little matter of money you see. That, and the other little matter of BE's stated ambition to drive F1 into the middle east - his ego is preventing him from walking away as is all that oil money.


I suspect that Bernie's perspective of politics, human rights and democracy are that way because it suits the people that pay his salary.


I suppose I shouldn't be surprised but I still am, at Mr Ecclestone's continuing utter contempt for Bahraini protestors. He appears to have no interest in understanding whether their grievances are legitimate.


I think BE and the FIA have to judge the situation from the powers that be in Bahrain. Whilst I understand BE is trying to expand the sport for business reasons, some claasic tracks such as Spa are being priced out of the market for mundane tracks. Yet we are stuck with Monaco, history it has, racing it doesn't.

Back to Bahrain, my personal view is I ignore the politics or the rights or wrongs of a country - if you don't where do you draw the line?

I don't follow the political news in Bahrain and have no interest in doing so, but I do follow the UK news. For example the recent riots in England. Some of the reasons offered were laughable. It was nothing more than wanton vandalism, but how is it perceived in other countries?

At the end of the day, it is a FIA sanctioned event. I just watch the sport and have enough problems without worrying about what's going on elsewhere. Selfish it maybe, but that's life.


I agree with both replies to my post. It really isn't FOM's business to judge countries politically. I was getting a bit hot under the collar because of Bernie's nonsensical insistence that the matter is being whipped up by the media. F1 as a business and a sport only needs to think about its safety and getting on with its job, but it winds me up when individuals such as BE turn a blind eye to human suffering.


Bernie does not represent the UN, it represent FOM. Is job is to make money for them and respect the contact that were signed with Bahrain. I'm sure that as soon as he can drop the race legally(without losing money) he will do it. Dont forget that he doesn't own FOM anymore, he is an employee.


Surely it's time for a rule: F1 (and all FIA motorsport) only runs races in real democracies. Yep, we'd lose Dubai and Bahrain and China, and maybe the teams lose a few sponsors. So what? The bigger picture is more important.


First, its not Dubai but Abudhabhi. second, this whole convo. becomes null and void after the news that the event is almost sold out.

Lets not call them idiots who bought this many tickets and coming.

They are in thousands and most of them are more intelligent then the couch potato's sitting thousands of miles away and commenting on internet.

Well, Bernie made lot of money but that doesnt make any of us gets so jealous of him;).

Come, Bahrain is waiting. Protest are everywhere, look down of your window guys and you may find a bunch protesting under your house.

Sports events are always prove to unite nations. Lets be positive. The rest of things leave it to the professionals. They know better.


Agreed Joseph.


Because F1 would then be passing a monumental judgement about what form of government is 'correct' - this is wrong for so many, many reasons.


Great idea!!!


Why don't we expand that to all countries committing atrocities/human rights violations and include USA, Canada et al? I think those are a bit 'bigger picture' than political ideals that may or may not even function in practice.....


Show me big procentage of America/Canada population taking to the streets, demanding government to resign or change to the constitution. Show me these people being attacked violently by army/police, while government ignores the demands of people for months, and I will say the same about US/Canada.


Define 'real democracies'

You would lose Italy in that case. Not to mention the large Russian market.


Agree and what about China, Singapore & Monaco

Tom in adelaide



That's really naive. First of all, there's no real democracy. Secondly, US has made more genocide and crimes against humanity, then any other country in the history of our species. I don't see anyone complaining about going there.

Britain seems to be bent on following US on each and every or their conquests for resources and strategic positions. I mean, spreading democracy, pardon my ignorance. 🙂

So should Britain be excluded from F1 calendar too?

F1 and FIA should only be concerned about the safety of teams, media and fans, and not go into ranging country's humanitarian record or such. You can't look at it in isolation and if you're going to be devoted to it, I don't think you will find too many countries that should be allowed to hold a GP.


Will they wont they..

My gut feeling is Bernie and Bahrain will stay strong on the race going ahead. A GP being cancelled twice in a row? Will be hugely negative for them.

I look at the race countdown and still 13 days to go, plenty of time for more protests/drama.


Finally, they may call off the Bahrain GP this year making the race tally 19.


Thanks for your update, James, it's good to hear from an F1 journalist who can see outside the bubble. If Ecclestone had any moral scruples at all he wouldn't be so keen to lend the sports imprimatur to a regime more than willing to machine gun its own unarmed citizens. And whilst medics and other health care workers still face life imprisonment for going to the aid of the opposition wounded the very idea that an international sporting body and its fan base would countenance a contest in such a place beggars belief. Next time you see Ecclestone I'd like you to ask what contact he's had with the opposition and what view they expressed (rhetorical we know the answer) as usual with F1 the only thing that really talks is money first second and last. To get an idea of the mindset of its movers and shakers just take a look at the recent BBC doc on Ecclestone Mittal and Briatore's QPR, says it all really.


I suppose that F1 taking a stance against any one regime would oblige it to assess the political merits of all of its hosts. That would be a very awkward. Better to focus solely on commercial and security arrangements, I agree. JB was ambushed in Brazil, though I see no clamour to leave Brazil. The Middle East is crucial to several F1 teams, not just McLaren, so for as long as security is not in question, Bahrain will proceed.


The race will go ahead, the power of the almighty dollar is to strong for Bernie to resist, what happens come race weekend is in the lap of the gods and may be a total disaster that Bernie says he never saw coming and is surprised about...yeah right Bernie


Call off the Bahrain GP because of legitimate democratic protest! Oh, the irony on the eve of the Chinese event...

Perhaps the rulers of Bahrain should look to their Asian analogues for some crowd-control advice? (Or Turkish, Brazilian, Singaporean? Monegasque, for that matter - I understand their police are VERY effective).

The old adage "be careful what you wish for, it might just come true" comes to mind.


W/e is really happening there its for sure that nobody would be hearing about it if not for the GP scheduled there.

So if you want to change things there shine a big spotlight on it with F1.

If you don't really want to change things then just take it off the schedule and ignore it and we'll not hear more about it.

If you want to just tut-tut about it endlessly, carry on as you're doing now.


Nothing is wrong in bahrain. Useless protesters are trying to scare the F1 away. Thats about it. keep in mind it is Bahrain, not Somalia, so they have enough money and power to keep everything quiet and safe for the race.


I think them having enough money and power to keep things quite may actually be a part of the problem.


Hey, turns out Bahrain is not the only flawed monarchy. Beside being stuck in 1399 financially, seems Spain's King is also indifferent to his subjects. But in this case, it seem Karma took care of business.




odd reply.


If the race gets called off again this year, what will happen to the future of the Bahrain GP? Am I right in thinking that the FIA will bar them from next years schedule?


“I don’t see that we can help much but we’re there, we have confidence in Bahrain. The good thing about Bahrain is that it’s more democratic than most places. The people there are allowed to speak what they want and they can protest what they want to.” - Bernie Eccelstone

Common etiquette dictates that I not respond to this the way I'd like to. Suffice it to say, I can't imagine that the Bahraini definitions of freedom and democracy would sit too well with many Westerners. Nor can I imagine a Western government inviting a foreign army onto its soil to deal with lawful protestors in the same way Bahrain has with the Saudi army.

It boggles my mind that there's even a discussion about going ahead with this race.


...and what would BE do if God forbid someone from a team was killed by a protester sending a message. It seems to me if I hated my Gov a perfect time to gain world wide attention and be on every news channel around the globe.


James, what is the views of the media about going there? Have many people aired their concerns and what is the general feeling?

I personally would feel very uneasy about attending this race before even untangelling the political issues to this event!


I really hope that the rumors mentioned are true and that the race is called off at the Chinese GP.

A feature on another F1 site I read today said that the opposition to the ruling family had written a letter to Mr Eccelstone asking him to cancel the race and that if it went ahead that they would:-

"Do everything in their capacity" To ensure that the race failed.

It dont get much more straight forward a warning than that and I would hate to see anyone F1 related or not being hurt or worse just for the sake of a round of the F1 Championship, its just a sport.


It's just brinkmanship!

I don't have much admiration for Ecclestone's ethical standards, but he's probably a good negotiator. In this set of circumstances, just like last year, if the GP eventually has to be cancelled, he wants it to be the Bahraini authorities who call-off the event. Meanwhile he's saying that FOM and the teams are happy to go - the last thing he'll want is for FOM or the teams to call-off the event in case he gets landed with a huge contractual cancellation fee.



On Mar. 29 SpeedTV quoted BE:

"Seriously, the press should just be quiet and deal with the facts rather than make up stories."

One day later they ran this article:



Its insane that they even put Bahrain back on the calendar. Regardless of what the situation actually is there, it was foolish to think something like this would sort itself out in a year given the complex problems they have. The protesters weren't just going to change their mind about F1 coming to Bahrain.

I dread to think what will happen if the race does take place, because these protesters do have weapons as well.


The idea that this race would go ahead is ludicrous, Bernie and co would probably sipping champagne with the very people who are ordering the torture, detention and murder of Bahraini civilians.

It's disgusting on so many levels, but hey money talks!


Is it really worth endangering millions of pounds worth of equipment, the lives of drivers, pit staff, marshals and fans, just for one race? If something happens and protests disrupt the weekend, the fallout will be far worse than the non-race in the US a few years ago. I know the oil-sheikhs have money, but many places where they are powerful do not have the stability such a media-hungry circus demands. If the protesters want media coverage for their grievance, of course they'll come looking for the coverage disrupting the race would give them. I'm not sure it was sensible to retain Bahrain this year, maybe the race should be removed from the calendar until things have cooled off. Bernie's staking his reputation on there not being trouble, which is precisely what even he, grand controller of all things F1, cannot guarantee.


This is one occasion when the whole of the F1 teams must come together and boycott this race and if Bernie does not like it then tough luck this is only a sport in the end and the thought of some people not coming back is too much to even consider,it is too dangerous!


Are the Saudi tanks out of the country now?


No. They were used to demolish specific Mosques used by the protestors and their APV's were used during the charge against the new protests against the detsruction of these Mosques.


Out of intrest how many of you live in Bahrain?May I suggest you come to Bahrain before you judge purely on what the media decides to publish and show you.


May I suggest that Bahrain ceases to block the entry of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture who has been blocked three times now? It allowed the FIA to come in and view the streets around the track - I wonder why it won't allow the UN to view the situation?

If the Bahrain motto is 'Come for the race, but don't look to the left where the tanks are rolling over civilians', they might need a better PR firm.


Easy to get swept up in the circus of F1. My personal feeling is that the race shouldn't be held but that's neither here nor there. Bernie seems to think F1 is above political uprising and unrest and lets hope it doesn't come back to haunt him.

To provide some perspective James, if you don't mind me intruding, how does Mrs Allen feel about you going to Bahrain and potentially putting yourself in harms way? Sure there are journalists that do that every day and some have paid with their lives, but they do that through choice to highlight the problems in the place they are reporting on. Your situation is an unhappy side effect of reporting on a sporting event.

Money is driving the continued inclusion of this event and I wonder if that was removed from the equation, how different the moral compass would be of those making the decisions...

Good luck James and I hope that any fears that anyone might have are unfounded.


You make a very good point


I imagine it is an intimidating situation to go in to, just to report and commentate on a race. If it helps I actually think you have less to worry about in Bahrain than at Interlagos in terms of your safety. I just came back from Cairo. I was literally in the middle of a riot after the Ahly football massacre in February. Obviously it was dangerous because the police were firing tear gas, but I felt no threat from protesting Egyptians. Now, I was there because I wrote a book about the Egyptian Revolution and I know lots of Egyptians, and I've been in a zillion protests so I know what to do. So as Jon W says I was there through choice, unlike you in Bahrain.

But I think it's relevant in this sense: protesters in Bahrain aren't likely to be hostile to F1 personnel, like Egyptians weren't at all hostile to me. They want people to tell their story, and harming any F1 workers or journalists would provide the regime with a dream pretext to crack down and cast the protesters as terrorists. And unlike Brazil, Bahrain doesn't have the poverty-driven lawlessness that makes F1 people a tempting target. The biggest danger is likely to come from the police - getting caught up amidst tear gas and rubber bullets. But the authorities will do all they can to avoid that happening while Westerners are around to see it.

I think the race should be cancelled on moral and political grounds, and from the F1 perspective I think it's crazy for F1 to put its personnel and its reputation in this situation. But hopefully Mrs Allen won't have cause to worry about your safety.


This doesn't reflect poorly on F1 as much as it reflects poorly on greater 'Western' and 'Eastern' civilization: we have been doing deals with regimes and dictators for years and no politician or head of business cares as long as everyone is seeing their pack pocket fill with money.


"The good thing about Bahrain is that it’s more democratic than most places. The people there are allowed to speak what they want and they can protest what they want to."

More democratic than where? Congo?

Killing civilians and doctors ain't a way to let people speak what they want.

Bernie is thinking of deepening his already very deep pockets, not the safety of teams and personnels.

Put Bernie in the middle of the city where there are gun fires everywhere, see what'd he say.


Hopefully if they don't go ahead this year( I hope it doesn't)

That this will end in it being dropped permantly.


I've a sneaking feeling Bernie would be quite happy for it to end in tears and then have the Bahrain race dropped altogether. He gets a much better bit of press from the Abu Dhabi race 'down the road' and, apart from the questionable circuit layout, that race gets a warm thumbs up from teams and fans alike. Bahrain has been a bore to watch and there has been little pleasure in travelling there to watch it live. They've also put it on too late in the year given the high temps in this region. Don't let the Qatari's fool you with all that World Cup in July nonsense. It'll be up to 40degC in Bahrain later this month. Not the sort of temps I'd want to either be driving an F1 car or even sitting out watching one!


Interesting point, that last one. I remember the first on on 4/4/04 - I went out trackside and it was 41 degrees.


Goodness, at 41 degrees that's more than hot, it's dangerous. I've experienced 41 with just a t-shirt and shorts, it's like hell.


It's a very dry heat, so not uncomfortable, but the sun is intense


The organisers claim brisk sales of tickets for this event, yet there has been no promotional activity anywhere in the region for the Bahrain GP - unlike the November Abu Dhabi race which is already being advertised with tickets selling fast. Looks to me like even the organisers recognise there are high chances the event won't happen so aren't even talking it up locally. Friends who've been to Bahrain for business or social reasons recently complain of big problems getting around the country and major traffic delays when protests flare up - these are just on 'ordinary days'.

The authorities there will face a major dilema on race weekend; if the protesters really ramp things up do the police launch a full and likely bloody crackdown under the watchful eyes of the worlds tv crews, or do they let it pass with all the possible ramifications of delays and problems for the race itself? Or, will they more likely try a pre-emptive raid on restive areas and kettle everyone there until the race is over, which will also likely become well publicised and therefore have a tarnishing effect on the F1 community?

Whatever way you look at the scenarios its not going to be pretty and frankly because of that the whole thing should just be postponed for another year, as otherwise F1 is going to become embroiled in someone elses very ugly mess.


There's news teams booked their flights from China to UK. So looks like Bahrain might not happen. Anyway Bahrain circuit is a bore isn't it?


Dear James,

Even last year it was rumored that Bahrain GP organizer had paid the circuit fee to F1. Due to the non-event, was that refunded? love some clarity on that issue.

There have been issues in bahrain, as the citizen had been protesting for lack of employment opportunity. But i think there is a prestige issue at stake given the desire of Saudi Arabia to minimize the influence of Iran in Bahrain. So the race could go thru, under a heavy posse of guards and security.

SK Anand


I work with Bahrain nationals for an airline and have been told for the past year that F1 should not go to Bahrain as violence occurs frequently against small groups of people just enjoying themselves, this is not reported in the media. Have sense guys call it off now.


It is a disgrace the way F1 (Bernie in particular) try to justify this race & even seek to legitimise a government involved in torturing their own citizens. If the Bahrain govt are so desperate for F1 then they must adhere to international stds on human rights first. Love F1 but no way should this race go ahead.


Bernie will just let it run it's course. If there is violence or a crackdown he will simply say what he said last year - the country is responsible for hosting a safe GP if they felt it couldn't be done they should have said so. Besides it was the FIA and the teams who agreed to go etc etc - Bernie is never to blame.

He may be able to adopt the 'I'm a doddering 80 year old who has no idea about these things' but he's shrewder than any politician and will not allow any come back on himself.

Just watch - if it's cancelled it will be either Bahrain calling it off or the teams claiming the insurance has fallen through - if it goes ahead and there's violence - it will be bahrains fault for bad security and the teams fault for agreeing. Bernie is just a guy who makes a suggestion. He never seems to have made a decision - merely suggestions. He'll live to 100 because he gives death the slip!


..and if the race went ahead succesfully, will you come back here and apologise for what you said?


It is a farce and should not be on at all.

Bernie does not care, all he cares about is the money, the place is not a democracy at all.

Just wait if just one person from the F1 Teams gets injured or whatever, all hell will break loose.

Cancel it now!


So China is a democracy?


I know that Bahrain does not seem safe at the moment with this apperant shooting and the talk off security escort for rest off the team members. The question i have is how safe is it in Brazil - were kidnappings and shootings take place all the time.

If this is a case off not going to bahrain due to political protest, then fair enough. But if it is a case of not going due to security concerns for fans & team memebers, then i beleive Brazil is an evan more dangerious place.


If Brazil's kidnapping cadre decided to make a concerted effort to hit the Grand Prix and use it as a grand announcement of their aims - and openly suggest they will target the Formula One race and it's interests - then yes, Brazil should be boycotted.

As it's been said before - for security personnel there is a notable difference between a high crime environment and one of massive social unrest. That's not a political viewpoint - it's merely a tactical one on the ground. Witness the difference between a personal protection agent in Brazil (which most drivers and high profile team members received last time) and the ring of armoured vehicles and troops required to maintain civil order in Bahrain during the original uprising.

There is a difference between an armed bodyguard/driver - and a phalanx of troops in assault vehicles.


Bahrain Grand Prix in Portimão - that's what I'm saying.


Oh no, not again...

Looks like we'll have 2 more weeks of tension, before we know for sure if the race is a go or not.

Personally I am divided on this issue. Part of me still thinks (as I already wrote on this site some time before) that F1 shouldn't react to the unhappy masses, leaving the issue handling to Bahrain government (wishfully in a lawful and peaceful manner).

But in the light of new developments my other part thinks that holding race in a violence-torn country (if the situation deteriorate any further) is a nonsense. In that case I wonder what the reaction will be (from all parties involved) if the race goes ahead and in the middle of the race something bad happens on track or somewhere nearby (like flare launches, shooting, crowds on track… anything). Won’t the damage to the image of F1 be too severe? And how will anyone be able to justify going there… they won’t be able to say something like: “Mr.X promised us there won’t be any troubles, so we went…”. Heads will roll.

So, to sum it up, if the situation gets any worse (and there’s a huge possibility of that), then I think Bernie will be in the first place who calls the race off.


james, couldnt 100 or so protestors peacefully buy tickets for sunday and then cause a riot on live television? it is surely possible


I doubt it. They'll have that covered, but there's sure to be some action around the city and surrounding villages.


A shame we are discusing on the posibility of a riot during the GP. Think about it Bernie


This is a worrying sign! Can't see what F1 has to gain by going there. It seems like Bernie and F1 management are merely hoping for the best and that nothing will happen. Because if it does, F1 management will then have to live with the consequences of their decision to go ahead and adverse publicity.

James - common sense has to prevail here??


If the teams are concerned about their safety they should not go to Bahrain or when they are already there if it is dangerous they should leave. May be the F1 GP could be good for the people of Bahrain as whatever problems they are having they are being brought to our attention because some people think the race shouldn't happen. F1 goes to China and there doesn't seem to be too many complaining about that. Also, F1 went to Turkey and its record for human rights abuse isn't exactly brilliant. Also, remember the USA is not exactly the best place for human rights. I'm not saying it is okay to race in Bahrain by the way.

Nelson, Bahrain

As has been said, everyone needs to listen a bit more to people who are actually in Bahrain before jumping on their high horses.

I've been in Bahrain throughout most of the last year, and I'm continually astonished by how it's covered in the western media. It seems to me that Bahrain has a few "activists" for whom the ends (overthrow of the government) justify the means (violence, crippling the economy - eg through calling off the F1, and exaggerating/lying to the media).

They seem to be incapable of any acknowledgement of other people/groups/interests, or of any self-criticism... everything is the fault of "the regime", which is to be given no credit at all when it does something positive.

Amazingly, the western media just accepts what these "activists" have to say without question. No attempt to see what their agenda might be, check on their claims (some of which have been obviously wrong), or even if they actually speak for the people they claim to represent. Shamefully, the British media seem particularly bad on this - it seems Bahrain is now irredeemably bad, and anyone or anything connected with it must be attacked.

Bahrain is much much more complicated than the "brutal government vs oppressed people" stereotype in the media, but there seems to be no effort made to try and understand that.

Feb-March last year was scary - a spiral towards anarchy it felt at the time. No doubt, order had to be restored, and no doubt the police went far too far on many occasions. But the "protestors" weren't always angels either, and to be fair the government was the one that commissioned the independent report, and it has promised to pay compensation and put policemen on trial.

Recent experience is that the vast majority of the violence is coming from the "protestors" - 2 police cars gutted by petrol bombs this morning, for example. Yes, there are issues about how much teargas, and when, the police use, but if there were less riots, there'd be less teargas. It also seems the police are now routinely videoing almost everything, which has already busted a couple of the claims put out by the "activists".

Will the F1 go ahead? I hope so, for the sake of the many thousands who depend on it economically, and who have nothing to do with the "protestors" or their "activists". I have no doubt that the antis will be doing their damndest to try and provoke confrontation and violence as well as burning tyres etc etc. Although it will be contained, they hope it will enable them to bleat about their "victimisation" to the gullible western media.

Sadly, as we live in a quite "lively" area from a protests point of view, my family and I will probably spend the F1 weekend at home, to avoid the inevitable disruption.


Thanks Nelson, it is always nice to get different views of the story, especially one that is not so widely reported and closer to the crux of the issues.

It lead me to think about why I am keen for the event not to go forward. Mostly I do not see the benefit in the sport being used for immediate political means (by both sides). Also there are obvious security concerns, I'm not able to make a judgement on these, but I can understand that the people involved in the race (such as our wonderful host Mr Allen) are worried about this.

But I also think it can be attributed to a way of showing my displeasure at the way in which F1 is run. It has never been an endeavour that could be described as being a "sport of the people" and there has always been vast amounts of money dictating its agenda.

However, it doesn't mean that I necessarily like seeing the circus trot into another playground of plutocrats, Circling Tilke tracks with all the soul of airport departure lounges and a percentage of every contract being funnelled into a holding company for Bernie.

Perhaps it is unfortunate for the innocent people of Bahrain that I feel this is a justifiable way of airing frustrations.

Whatever the outcome of the events, I hope you are your family stay safe over weekend.


James, if the race does in fact go ahead but you have some concerns on safety would you consider not going or would the BBC still expect you to fly out


Out of interest James, do F1 personnel read you blog often? It'd be interesting to see what the likes of Martin Whitmarsh, Brundle and Boullier had to say on the matter.

Ofc to the camera's they need to say the good old 'we'll be there if it's deemed safe' but I imagine there are backstage discussions about it regularly.


good point. it also annoys me that a number of sites like the bbc for instance seem blind to reality and only publish the "everything is fine in bahrain" stories. without being specific to any site can you comment on why this happens james?


someone above posted a link to a small documentary about it, but basically over the past year the Bahrain governemtn has paid some companies A LOT of money to reguarly search websites for anti-bahrain comments. Any time an article about what's going on in Bahrain is published, it is forced to be removed immediately.


I don't think they do. I think if anything people are more sceptical than supportive


One troublemaker gets killed and suddenly every F1 team member or journalist is at risk if they go to Bahrain? Pur-lease. The situation is now nothing like it was 12 months ago and the teams ought to remember that they're there to race first and foremost.


Unfortunately, the ultimate decision will be a commercial one and politics will be secondary to that. At some point it should be remembered that F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport and not just a money making machine for Bernie, who has already got more money than he knows what to do with even with the help of his of daughters frittering it away as hard as they can!


F1 shouldnt care about Bahrain. There is political unrest, why not let them sort it any way they freaking want. Just get the race out of there, is being used on the government interests and it might be used by the protesters if they ever get near F1 personel which should be easy.

Go mind your own business F1... Please stop embarassing everybody with dumb decisions.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Bahrain is a small country and it seems that political unrest is being magnified beyond its actual impact.

Political unrest is widespread across Europe and the US. You only have to look at OWS, Occupy London, Occupy LA etc. Protesters were mistreated by the authorities' attempts to stifle them.

I would like to ask everyone who is on their political and moral high horses, should the FIA maintain a list of countries that should be blacklisted?


I really hope the race is on and something bad happens. Unfortunately this seems the only way that attention is paid to what is going on there!!!


Not real good for eh person or people it would happen too, me thinks they would not agree with you. Easier to cancel the race and maybe save a life or two or XXX


I'm afraid that if cancelled it will not be to save any human lifes but just for the sake of F1's image... While my previous comment was intentionaly provocative, the real point I am trying to make is: Why do we only learn about what's going on in Bahrain only in relation to a damn F1 race?!


[mod] I think that F1 teams probably don't really know where are they going.

But don't worry F1, if there is any "troublemaker" (as some idi*t said in other comment) claiming for a bit of justice, he will be shot down so that F1 can happily race their cars.

Why risk in a race that could be tainted in human blood? Its well beyond me...

I'm an F1 fan, but I find any type of support for repressive and abusive governments is simply unacceptable.


I think that this articulates the fear of many who work in the sport..

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