The good thing about Adolf Hitler, mused Bernie Ecclestone two years ago, was that he could “command a lot of people” and “get things done”.
So it’s not difficult to imagine him admiring how the rulers of Bahrain have got things done in the three months since their Grand Prix was postponed.
One of the things they have done is keep the international media out, suppressing coverage of what has gone on in the country in recent weeks and months.
One team of reporters who did make it into the country earlier this week heard stories of schoolgirls being beaten and threatened with rape on suspicion of their involvement in the February and March protests.
Further details of what has gone on in Bahrain since the postponement of the race make for grim reading.
Coincidentally – or perhaps not – the FIA World Motor Sport Council meets to discuss whether the race should happen just two days later.
Jean Todt’s words to Autosport last week stressed the FIA’s desire to “support” Bahrain’s efforts to hold a race this year:
“We completely sympathise with the problems that are happening, and we all understand that it would not have been possible to keep the Grand Prix as the first race of the championship. […]
“Fortunately things have improved, but they were not in a position to commit definitely – and I had a discussion with Bernie, with the government, with the ASN, and they asked us if we would accept one more month, which means until the next World Council on June 3, which I accepted.
“I think if you are in a difficult situation, you need support. That is our responsibility. We need to give some support and it will penalise nobody to have a final answer by June 3.”
While some F1 journalists are considering not attending the race on principle if it takes place and at least one team has dropped hints it would not go, Todt echoed Ecclestone’s claim that F1 should not take a “political” stance.
He said: “I don’t think we could get involved in what is normal, what is not normal. Let’s hope there is more peace in our world and we can enjoy the sport.”
Todt is kidding himself with these bland platitudes. There is no apolitical stance on this matter.
Giving unqualified support to the government of Bahrain and handing them an F1 race as a reward for their violent suppression of pre-democracy protests would be just as much a political decision as taking their Grand Prix away.
Should the Bahrain Grand Prix go ahead? Cast your vote here: Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be held in 2011?
Cartoon by Gurmit for F1 Fanatic. See more of Gurmit’s work here.
2011 Bahrain Grand Prix