Welcome to the Scrutineering Bay, where hot topics are scrapped over by as many Badger writers you can shake a stick at. Each week a question is asked relevant to what’s happening in Grand Prix racing and whoever is in earshot at the Sett when I ask it gets the chance to put their thoughts across. This week’s participants are myself Craig Normansell, Graham Moggipaldi, Jimmy Von Weeks and Benson Jammichello
This week we’ve all been unusually following the beginning of news programmes (instead of a glimpse of a shiny new F1 car at the end), and with recent announcements being made, we ask the question:
“Should Bahrain have taken place?”
Up first this week is Graham:
Formula One used to thrive on its reputation for extravagance, decadence even, with playboy drivers, powerful engines and massive budgets, detached from everyday reality almost like a twentieth century version of Louis XVI’s court at Versailles, but over the first years of the twenty first century it has been attempting to tone down its image.
It has dabbled in green technologies (helping with the development of KERS for example), it has restricted the power of the engines, restricted testing and increased the required mileage of engines and gearboxes and toyed with the idea of capping budgets to prove it is at least aware of the outside world in which the rest of us have to live.
So F1 has begun taking an interest in politics with a small p, but has generally stayed aloof from Politics with a capital P, having held Grands Prix in apartheid South Africa and indeed in Bahrain under the regime of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. However, the current situation in Bahrain is very different and for Formula One to hold a race there under the present conditions is completely unacceptable.
It conjures up an image of Bernie as Marie Antoinette telling the revolting peasants, ‘Let them watch F1,’ and we all know how things turned out for her.
Graham brings up the point that although F1 is a leader in certain areas, when it comes to others it needs to be firmly in the background. Next to have a crack is Jimmy:
As a former politics student I don’t really want to get too deep in to the political aspect of this – it brings back bad memories of seminars for which I was totally unprepared and exams where I couldn’t remember the difference between various types of voting system, much to my detriment.
My answer is pretty simple: no, F1 should not have gone to Bahrain. It has no place there at this moment in time and would look incredibly arrogant were it to swan in to a nation in the midst of political revolt and stage a sporting event financed by the same ruling family that the people of Bahrain are trying to oust.
F1 has trod shaky ground before. Staggeringly, it continued to race in apartheid-stricken South Africa until 1985, long after most sports had turned their backs on the country for its treatment of black citizens. I’m not trying to draw a parallel or get in to a political debate (like I said, bad memories), but rather suggesting that F1 must avoid casting another dark cloud over itself if it visited a state which is making headline news the world over for its political troubles. I for one would feel ashamed of the sport I love had it had done so.
Even though there’s going to be a trend here, everyone will have different reasons for why F1 should not be in Bahrain. Jimmy’s is that a sport shouldn’t be bigger than a country, no matter what’s involved.
Next is Benson:
My answer to this question is a very clear and resounding “no”.
Obviously the main issue for Bernie Ecclestone and the wider F1 fraternity was that of safety – of the drivers, crew, fans and the whole F1 circus.
However, it’s more fundamental than that. Simply put, F1 had no business whatsoever going to a country currently involved in attempting to suppress a popular protest movement by a sustained and severe application of force.
People in Bahrain are fighting for something much more important than Formula 1: to have their voices heard in their society.
For many countries, having a Grand Prix is important not (only) for the racing, but because it’s a prestige sporting event with massive commercial interests. Places actively seek out the races and governments often subsidise them. It’s in this light that we have to view the decision.
The Bahraini royal family were intimately involved in getting the Grand Prix to the country, building the circuit and moving it to first place on the calendar. People are dying and F1 had no business being anywhere close, especially if it involved giving the regime any sort of helping hand or international credibility. It’s a matter of conscience and it would have been to F1’s detriment had it gone.
Also, on a purely F1 level, having the opening race of the season in Australia will be far, far more exciting. Good News.
While Jimmy stayed away from politics, Ben wades right on in. It’s a situation of suppresion and oppression and the last thing it needs is any kind of event that can be targeted by protests or worse.
Finally, I have my say:
I can guess right now that most of my fellow Badgers will be saying “no”, and I for one am with them. The simple fact of the matter is Formula One is a sport first and foremost. The moment it tries to be anything else other than that it will fail and fans will leave.
The worrying thing from my point of view is that as a sport, it’s the governing body that should be at the forefront of any issue or problem. Which begs the question; why is Bernie dealing with the Bahrain royal family? Surely Jean Todt should be involved as well, seeing as he’s FIA president and the FIA set the rules which everyone must abide by. If it is boiling down to money, then it’s a very sad thing indeed.
What’s happening in Bahrain, Egypt, etc is a tragic occurrence, and one F1 needs to stay away from. In the past it has held events in countries with disputable political ethics but all it needs now is, for once, is to stay firmly out of the spotlight.
So, there’s the Sett’s opinions on the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. We, as fans of Formula One, are in agreement that it was the right thing to do not to stage the race in such a political melting pot. Yes, it puts the season back a few weeks and some fans have to get refunds, but it’s a small price to pay compared to others.