Formula One veterans Jackie Stewart and Max Mosley have expressed widely differing views on the news that the Bahrain Grand Prix will run in 2011.
After being called off earlier this year following rising political tensions it was confirmed last week that Bahrain will run in October, taking the place of the Indian Grand Prix which now switches to December 11. Three-time world champion Stewart has welcomed the decision, suggesting that it could help to unify the troubled state, whilst former FIA president Mosley says that by agreeing to race there F1 has become ‘one of the Bahrain government’s instruments of repression.’
“Sport is a very good equaliser in the case of unrest, because sport somehow unifies people. An F1 race going there hopefully might help to do that,” ESPN quotes Stewart as saying.
“I think Bahrain is one country particularly keen to accelerate the issue of democracy. Having a Grand Prix there might be of benefit to the rest of the world recognising that there is movement taking place. Because if we just sit back and stop things from progressing, I don’t think that’s the right thing either.”
Mosley meanwhile is very much in disagreement with the Scot, arguing that reinstating the race was the wrong decision.
“Surely the line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions,” said Mosley in his weekly newspaper column.
“If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula One allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime’s guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters,” Mosley continued.
“Having carried out these horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That’s where the grand prix comes in. By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.
“By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government’s instruments of repression. The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear,” he concluded.