Last week, we tried to flesh out some of the issues that need to be considered with F1 going to Bahrain. We wanted to keep a certain level of distance between the concept of F1 in Bahrain and F1 actually going there.
This week it has become a reality and our rough academic discussion, whilst relevant, is not the most important conversation to be had. The Force India incident – during which the team’s vehicle was caught up in a violent protest on a road between the capital and the circuit – has been followed by confirmed reports of a targeted attack on Sauber last night.
Security is now the paramount concern, and with this we must reveal our position on the Bahrain Grand Prix – a position we kept at a distance last time out.
In the Sett we were under the belief that the race would be called off. Some of us even made alternative plans for this weekend.
We now think it is time to be very clear: the Bahrain GP should not be going ahead.
Previously, we compared Bahrain to China and Russia. We mentioned that their dissent did not possess as high a media profile as Bahrain, but we didn’t go into why this was in much detail – apart from noting the extensive censorship in both countries.
Bahrain is much hotter, politically-speaking, than any of the other ethically dubious places F1 visits. Its protester as a percentage of the total population figure is much nearer that of Syria (a country currently embroiled in civil war) than that of China and Russia. The GP is also being used as a blatant political and propaganda tool by the regime; certainly in a way that China is not doing at this current point. The Bahraini protestors are, unsurprisingly, acting in a similar vein to their government.
Currently, the primary concern of all those involved in F1 must be the security of the teams and those that would otherwise not choose to travel to Bahrain. Frankly, we are flabbergasted that the teams didn’t take the above seriously when talking with Bernie; it does not take a strategic analyst to tell you that a country with a very high percentage of protestors in their population – against whom human rights violations are continuing – will possess a rage that they will channel against a regime promoting, propagandising and utilising the F1 brand and its teams.
Our politicians have been having their say about the whole sorry mess – see Yvette Cooper’s comments on Question Time last night. We certainly don’t want George Galloway’s “blood on the tracks” comment to move from metaphor to even remote reality.
Just about the only people not speaking out are those from within the sport. The teams and drivers have shown an unsurprising lack of character and backbone by toeing the party line that ‘if the FIA say it’s safe we trust them,’ refusing to offer anything in the way of an actual opinion. One wonders how far they will take this blind faith. Only Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg have offered anything in the way of a common sense response to questions over the suitability of this race.
Even Bernie Ecclestone has claimed that he has no control over the event: “I can’t call this race off. It is nothing to do with us, the race,” he told reporters today. “The national sporting authority in this country can ask the FIA if they want to call the race off.” We suspect it’s more a matter of cost than control.
Putting aside questions of politics, the fact cannot be avoided that Formula 1 has travelled to a country that is in no fit state to hold an international sporting event and, as such, both the FIA and Formula 1 have embarrassed themselves and motorsport as a whole. The world at large – those who do not follow the sport as closely as we do – can only see F1 as an entirely amoral sport, and one that places profits above ethics.
We are disappointed. They should be ashamed.