F1’s Bahrain Grand Prix brinkmanship is all about money


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We’re ten day away from the start of practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

But has much changed for the better in the ten months since the FIA belatedly dropped its efforts to shoehorn the race into the back-end of last year’s calendar?

Following the government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in February of last year, over 2,000 Bahrainis have been imprisoned, more than 1,800 of which are alleged to have been tortured, and 62 have died.

This, it must be remembered, has taken place in a comparatively small nation of some 1.2 million inhabitants, less than half of which are Bahraini citizens (the rest are expatriates).

The government commissioned an inquiry chaired by UN war crimes expert Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni. His damning 500-page assessment (PDF link) detailed the use of “unnecessary and excessive force, terror-inspiring behaviour and unnecessary damage” by the security forces.

Bassiouni found a pattern of “torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse […] which in some cases was aimed at extracting confessions and statements by duress, while in other cases was intended for the purpose of retribution and punishment”.

While the Bahrain government has been quick to play up the scale of the investigation, critics say it has been slow to implement the report’s recommendations. Chief among which is Bassiouni himself, who said in January: “I think the public is going to come out in the end and say ‘You’re holding all of these investigations behind closed doors – this is a whitewash’.

“And I think that would be perfectly justified”.

While the government drags its feet protests have continued, albeit on a smaller scale which, given the numbers imprisoned and the heightened police presence, is hardly surprising.

Last month the European Parliament condemned the Bahrain government’s “ongoing” human rights violations including “the excessive use of tear gas, repression, acts of torture, unlawful detention and prosecution of peaceful protesters”.

“We’re all hoping the FIA calls it off”

The Bahraini government is telling anyone who will listen that the pro-democracy protesters are merely criminal rioters, possibly operating in league with factions in Iran – a dubious claim but one which resonates with some.

The FIA appears only too eager to believe everything it is told by the Bahrain government. This is hardly a surprise – last year they produced a flimsy document supporting a race in Bahrain just one week before the race organisers cancelled the Grand Prix.

Despite eventually scrubbing the 2011 F1 race from the calendar the FIA restored the event this year. On top of that it handed Bahrain a round of the World Endurance Championship, a pair of GP2 meetings (including the only non-F1-supporting round) and the final leg of the CIK-FIA U18 Karting World Championship.

F1 team principals have previously insisted they were satisfied to follow the FIA’s lead on Bahrain, despite the governing body having demonstrated a palpable lack of judgement on the matter last year.

Only yesterday did the teams begin to reveal their unease with the situation. One team principal told The Guardian: “We’re all hoping the FIA calls it off.

“From a purely legal point of view, in terms of insurance and government advice, we are clear to go. But what we find worrying is that there are issues happening every day.”

Hunger strike

The European Parliament has also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all peaceful demonstrators, political activists, human rights defenders, doctors and paramedics, bloggers and journalists” including Bahrain Centre for Human Rights president Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

Al-Khawaja, who the European Parliament says is being held “for exercising… rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly or complying with their professional obligations”, has been on hunger strike for the last two months.

There are fears for his life – and concerns for what might follow if he were to die in the hands of his captors. Just a few hours ago news broke of a bomb injuring seven policeman in Manama.

Against all common sense, F1 is about to jump into this powder keg. And it is doing so for exactly the same reason it kept returning to South Africa in the seventies and eighties, long after other sports had turned their backs on the apartheid regime.

The value of the Bahrain Grand Prix

The reason, of course, is money.

Bahrain is one of the most valuable races to F1, both in terms of how much they pay to hold the race and the degree of exposure sponsors get from the race.

In turn, it is extremely valuable to the Bahrain economy, which has taken a battering in the last 12 months. On top of that is the race’s inestimable value to the Bahraini royal family of presenting the impression that life has returned to normal.

This explains why F1 is playing its dangerous game of brinkmanship. Last year the race remained on the calendar until the Bahrain race organisers themselves called it off. This allowed Formula One Group to keep the 25m ($40m) paid by the Bahrainis for the race even though it wasn’t held.

A decision not to go through with next Sunday’s race may not be taken until the teams are preparing to leave Shanghai this weekend.

And even then, we can’t rule out the possibility of a repeat of last year’s shambles where the race was repeatedly postponed and moved into different slots.

Recall that at one point last year the FIA was giving serious consideration to moving the inaugural Indian Grand Prix to make way for a rescheduled Bahrain race, and you can appreciate just how keen all involved are to keep cashing those cheques.

Bahrain documentary

Al Jazeera’s “People and power: Bahrain” covers developments in the 12 months since last year’s demonstrations, and is well worth watching:

For more on developments in Bahrain in the last 24 hours, see today’s round-up.


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Image © Red Bull/Getty images

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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107 comments on “F1’s Bahrain Grand Prix brinkmanship is all about money”

  1. Thnigs Must Change
    10th April 2012, 1:29

    The regime in Bahrain has been in power far too long.

    Bahrain is run by a family called Al Khalifa who populate the Bahrain Government and all money making aspects of Government with family members.

    They run the country for personal gain and personal profit.

    Bahrain citizens who want democratic rights are thrown into prison, tortured and left to die if necessary.

    The family mafia tells the world that the protesters are Iranian agitators.

    As a British subject fully familiar with this Mickey Mouse regime, I can assure you that the people protesting are not Iranian agitators.

    They are Bahrain Citizens and human beings like you and I.

    They mostly happen to have a different religion to the ruling family which puts them in further jeopardy from the State.

    Most Bahrainis are well educated

    This is 2012 and they simply do not want to live under a feudal medieval regime anymore.

    The Bahrain Ruling family have spent millions for years spinning and paying their way to get what they want. ( http://jalopnik.com/5900113/how-bahrain-spends-millions-to-spin-the-press )

    Ally that to investigations about the governance of the sport ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/jul/20/bernie-ecclestone-f1-bribery-allegations ) and you have a toxic mixture.

    The repression of Bahrain citizens has been going on for decades but recent event in surrounding countries like Tunisia and Egypt where people have wrested democracy back from despotic dictators, must tell you how the people in Bahrain are also oppressed
    Don’t leave your fellow human beings to bullying and torturing by the family that runs Bahrain without some sort of protest.

    Abandon F1 racing in Bahrain, not just for this year but for every year until there is a fundamental root and branch change in the country.

    Abandon it until people in Bahrain no longer have to give their lives in their quest for the rights we take for granted; the right to kick out our rulers if we don’t like them

    1. Abandon it until people in Bahrain no longer have to give their lives in their quest for the rights we take for granted; the right to kick out our rulers if we don’t like them

      Chinese people do not have that right. The teams will be arriving in China very shortly. The Chinese Grand Prix is taking place this weekend.

      Why aren’t you demanding the same thing of China as you are Bahrain?

      1. Things must Change
        10th April 2012, 2:10

        I don’t know the situtation in China.

        I do know about Bahrain.

        If you think F1 should not take place in China, then it’s up to you to put your detailed case before the readers of this blog

        1. I don’t know the situtation in China.

          Well, thank you for admitting your ignorance. The alternative was hypocricy. China has many of the same issues as Bahrain. Perhaps they are not as overt as in Bahrain, but there is nevertheless oppression to be had by all in China. Google Ai Weiwei, or the reaction to Bo Xilai and see what you get.

          This creates a very tenuous position for you: you have effectively said that the race cannot be held in Bahrain because of human rights violations – but the race in China can go ahead despite human rights violations. Do you see the moral paradox you have created for yourself? This is the danger of using Formula 1 to make political and/or moral statements – it is very easy to get caught up in a hypocritical contradiction.

          The safest thing for Formula 1 to do is to exit Bahrain in an apolitical way. This can be done by either waiting for the Bahraini authorities to admit that the race cannot go ahead (as was the case last year), or to announce that the race has been cancelled because there are serious concerns over the safety of teams, drivers, media and spectators.

          1. If Formula One goes to Bahrain it will be an obvious sign of support for their current government and a move against the protesters. Currently the sport is a political tool in the hands of the Al Khalifa family. This is not the case with other countries. The British Grand Prix is not a sign of support for Her Majesty’s Government. The Grand Prix of America in Austin is not a sign of support for the Republican Party or the Texas governor Rick Perry.

            Some countries have a lot on their conscience. I’d say that China and USA are far ahead of Bahrain when it comes to the human right violations, but when F1 goes to these countries it is not an act of support for the perpetrators. The Bahrain Grand Prix will be such a sign. That’s the difference.

          2. “The alternative was hypocricy. China has many of the same issues as Bahrain.”

            If the Chinese GP were following on directly from the Tiananmen Square events, you might have a point. As it is, you’re defending the indefensible.

          3. If the Chinese GP were following on directly from the Tiananmen Square events, you might have a point. As it is, you’re defending the indefensible.

            Do you think China’s issues ended with the Tianamen protests? Don’t be ridiculous. In the past month, thirty Tibetian monks set themselves on fire in protest against Beijing’s policies. Where is the outrage over this? Why aren’t people demanding that the Chinese Grand Prix be cancelled?

            So don’t try telling me that the situation in China has nothing to do with Bahrain.

          4. In all fairness, their is very little protest against the race being held in Chine, where as Bahrain has a lot of violence and protest against it. China is a completely different kettle of fish. The reaction of China to a cancellation of the race would have far more reaching consequences for those who protest against it in the country than there is in Bahrain. There is also no point raising tensions with China as it is, may I point out that we may not even be able to run the sport come 2015 unless we keep things sweet with the Chinese Gov.

          5. In all fairness, their is very little protest against the race being held in Chine, where as Bahrain has a lot of violence and protest against it.

            This is not a question of what the protests are about. It’s a question of the consequences of letting local politics decide the future of the race.

            The protesters in Bahrain are using the race as a means to an end. That end is democratic reform. The protesters in China are setting themselves on fire as a means to an end. That end is democratic reform. They both want the same basic thing. The difference is in how they are going about it.

            If the FIA comes out today and says “We are cancelling the race in Bahrain, because we do not agree with the government’s actions”, then I guarantee you that about two minutes later, someone from an organisation like Amnesty International will ask “Why are you racing in China if you are cancelling the race in Bahrain?”. The FIA will have created a paradox where it is okay to race in China despite human rights abuses, but it is not okay to race in Bahrain because of human rights abuses. Both they and the sport will be branded hypocrites.

            Now, I’m not saying that the race in Bahrain should go on regardless of what happens elsewhere. I never have said that, though I think a lot of people over the past year have reacted to my comments without actually taking the time to read all of them, and thus misrepresented what I have said. My argument is that the FIA cannot afford to let sport and politics mix, because of the serious consequences such a move would have. If the race in Bahrain is to be cancelled, then the FIA must find a way to do so that is entirely apolitical. I believe this can be done in one of two ways: 1) wait for the Bahrainis to admit that the country is in no condition to host a race, which is what happened last year, or 2) announce that the reports of ongoing fighting in the country have left serious concerns over the safety to teams and drivers, and so the race will be cancelled.

            A lot of people have said that racing in Bahrain will damage the sport’s integrity. But I believe that using the sport to make a political or moral statement is improper (it’s not the sport’s place to make judgement) and will be equally-damaging to the integrity of Formula 1. Therefore, the only course of action is to exit the country apolitically.

          6. “This creates a very tenuous position for you: you have effectively said that the race cannot be held in Bahrain because of human rights violations – but the race in China can go ahead despite human rights violations.”

            He didn’t ‘effectively’ say anything of the sort. Personally I’ve been saying for years that they shouldn’t race in China, that it should never have got the Olympics etc., and go ahead and discuss that as well if you’d like. But his point was perfectly clear and it was about Bahrain. Are you going to write to every academic that ever publishes a paper on any subject and lambaste them for not, in the same paper, considering every other comparable issue?
            We can all expand the argument, we can all drag in – perfectly reasonably – other countries: American foreign policy, Russian domestic policy, Indian employment rights – pick a country, there’s something for everyone. But you can’t expect every point to be made by every poster in every post – you don’t yourself. So why throw around ludicrous accusations of hypocrisy, unless you’re simply projecting your own upon others?

            If you want to make a point about the FIA not letting sport and politics mix, again, fine – but make that first or make it separately, don’t use the reply button to grind your seemingly endless axes in the face of others. Your language is, as ever, unnecessarily borderline hostile. There’s a fine line between making a valid point about comparisons with China and being an aggressive troll, and not for the first time, you crossed it.

      2. @Prisoner-Monkeys

        Why aren’t you demanding the same thing of China as you are Bahrain?

        Are you actually for real? The royal family in Bahrain is using the race to, as the article says, get a) exposure b) money and c) give the world the impression things are not as the media is reporting. And they may very well succeed given the race will be held in a controlled environment where they can choose what the world sees.

        But where does China come into this? It doesn’t! The Chinese government cannot possibly expect the world to form an opinion on the entire country based on a Formula 1 race.

        The difference is, Bahrain is a tiny island with 1 million people. A Grand Prix, to them, is the most exposure they’re going to get all year, and it makes it a perfect tool to pull the wool over the world’s eyes.

        China is a country with 1.3 billion people. A Grand Prix to them is almost nothing. It certainly does not affect the world’s opinion of them as in the grand scheme of things, the audience they’re getting is tiny.

        Protesters in China will always be heard, but those in Bahrain will not. Putting a Grand Prix there is indirectly condoning what’s happening over there and the human rights abuses. And whether you like it or not, this is precisely what F1 does not need.

        1. And I challenge you to give me reasons to support your argument against mine rather than resorting to picking apart my phrasing.

        2. @damonsmedley – So, a situation where protesters are setting themselves on fire is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs, but a situation where protesters are clashing with police is not? Don’t you think that’s a bit of a contradiction, if not very backwards? Saying “It’s okay – China is a bigger country than Bahrain” is not an acceptable reason.

          I’m not saying that Bahrain should go ahead in spite of what is happening. I’m saying that if the race is to be cancelled, it should not be cancelled for political or moral reasons. The minute that the FIA announce “We are not going to Bahrain because the government is oppressing its people” is the minute that some other activist group will come out and say “Well, you’re not going to Bahrain, so why are you going to this country with these problems?”

          The first, last and only reason why the Bahrain Grand Prix should be cancelled is because the state of affairs represents a threat to the safety of teams, drivers, the media and spectators.

          1. @Prisoner-Monkeys But it goes further than that. F1 will be supporting the government by going to Bahrain, which is absolutely terrible for the sport’s image. I don’t think anyone knows what the backlash could be from this. F1 has its public image and a large portion of its fanbase at stake.

            I think F1 can make a strong case for itself even if it did cancel the race for moral/political reasons. In this case, people’s lives are being put at risk so F1 can get its race fee cheque. And the government wants exposure for its image and of course for advertisers. So that’s why I think it’s different to China.

            And I didn’t say it like it’s OK because China is bigger. I meant that Bahrain is using F1 as a political tool, whereas China isn’t.

          2. @damonsmedley – Ultimately, that doesn’t make any difference. But if Formula 1 decides to make a political or moral statement about the situation in Bahrain, then it will be all of two minutes before someone, somewhere, will demand to know why Formula 1 is not making the same political/moral statement about another country, like China, regardless of the differences between the two countries. And that could be just as damaging to the sport as staying in Bahrain.

          3. Bahrain is organised by the government and is being used by said government for political ends (in contravention of the FIA Statutes – specifically Article 1, which the Turkish GP podium incident of 2007 demonstrated was meant to be applied broadly).

            China is organised by a semi-private organisation, with the government merely providing funding (as per most races on the calendar). China may not be in a good political position, but it hasn’t broken any of the FIA regulations yet. For that matter, the people who got F1 to China have been convicted of fraud connected with that act; it is unlikely that a protest against the race would be interpreted as a protest against the government when the government itself views the race with the sort of divided attitude (nice tourism benefit, shame about the price) that is typical of most races on the calendar.

            This is why F1 is stuck in the Chinese contract irrespective of any ethical opinion it might hold, and why it cannot go to Bahrain without breaking its own regulations or making a political statement. Its very presence or absence is that statement, thanks to the actions of the organisers. That would apply even if everyone in Bahrain were best friends with one another.

          4. Thank you @Alianora-La-Canta! Much better phrasing of my point, and you’ve also given clear reasons. Interested to see the response now…

      3. Why do you keep putting Bahrain and China in the same frame? I think they’re quite different. China is not a democracy and their population still faces limited rights but it’s very different from a family autocracy disguised as a Constitutional monarchy.

        1. @jcost

          Why do you keep putting Bahrain and China in the same frame?

          There are two reasons:

          1) At their most basic, conceptual level, the issues faced by Bahrain and China are essentially the same. Both are dictatorships. Both oppress their people.


          2) If I can connect the dots, surely someone else can. You’ve seen the reactions to what is happening on Bahrain. It’s not hard to find other people on the internet who feel the same way about China. So if the Bahrain Grand Prix were cancelled, it would take all of two minutes for them to pounce on it. And do you really think they’re going to back down if you argue the finer points of difference between the situation in Bahrain and the situation in China?

          1. China, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Swaziland, North Korea are all de facto authoritarian regimes? Are they all equal?

            France, US, Greece, South Africa, Pakistan, Brazil, Venezuela are all democracies, can you put them all in the same basket?

          2. You’ve called other people ignorant, but I think treating this as a problem at the ‘conceptual’ level is ignorant. Deciding to hold the F1 race is not about taking the moral high ground, it’s about not making the situation any worse than it already is.

            Has there been widespread protest about holding a grand prix in China? Is holding the grand prix in China likely to greatly exacerbate underlying social tensions?

            Probably shouldn’t take the normal PM troll bait, but oh well..

          3. You’ve called other people ignorant, but I think treating this as a problem at the ‘conceptual’ level is ignorant.

            Really? Because I’m reading this, and it clearly demonstrates that you have no idea what is happening:

            Has there been widespread protest about holding a grand prix in China? Is holding the grand prix in China likely to greatly exacerbate underlying social tensions?

            The protesters in Bahrain are not protesting against the actual race. They’re protesting against the government’s reasons for holding it. They’re protesting agaisnt what the race represents. They claim that the government is trying to use the race to make the world believe that law and order have been restored in the country, ignoring the protesters’ grievances in the process. That’s what they’re protesting against. If it were the football World Cup, or the Olympic Games instead of the Grand Prix, they would be protesting against the same thing. It’s not the race they have an issue with – it’s the motive behind holding it.

          4. ….

            So they ARE protesting against the race, and it is HIGHLY LIKELY to increase social tensions?

            Of course they’re against what the F1 represents rather than the F1 itself, where have I ever said otherwise? You do have a habit of making stuff up/putting words in people’s mouth.

          5. In case you missed it, have a look at Alianora La Canta’s comment a few paragraphs above. Quite interesting about the differences!

          6. If it were the football World Cup, or the Olympic Games instead of the Grand Prix, they would be protesting against the same thing. It’s not the race they have an issue with – it’s the motive behind holding it.

            Yes… that’s pretty obvious, and I have no idea what your point is. So as far as I see, Tommo’s point still stands.

            So they ARE protesting against the race, and it is HIGHLY LIKELY to increase social tensions?

            And anyway, people would be uncomfortable with any other major sporting event going forward too. As people were in China for the Olympics- because unlike the Chinese Grand Prix, that was actively being used by the government to make a political message, hence seeing a lot more opposition than the Chinese GP has ever seen.

          7. It’s really quite simple.

            Like it or not, the race is a political issue in Bahrain; it’s not in China.

            In Bahrain there is a serious possibility of the political conflict affecting the race, and risking the safety of the participants; in China there isn’t.

            I have no love for either regime, but that is entirely beside the point.

      4. HewisLamilton
        10th April 2012, 21:58

        The situation ion China has absolutely nothing to do with Bahrain.

    2. Matt (@agentmulder)
      10th April 2012, 5:08

      Playing politics won’t get anyone anywhere. Once you start saying F1 cannot go to Country X because Y political/moral wrongdoing happened Z units of time ago, it opens the floodgates.

      Should Germany be denied a Grand Prix because of Hitler? Should Japan be denied a Grand Prix due to their atrocities during WWII? Should Russia be stripped of their future GP because of Stalin? Should my country (the United States) and most of Europe be denied a Grand Prix because we enslaved Africans? Let’s look more recently.

      Should Brazil be denied a race because a tiny minority tried to kidnap a driver? How about China, which had a famous crackdown in 1989, and still continues to repress to this day?

      Now most people would read these and say “Of course not, those issues are in the past,” or in the case of China and Brazil, many like to think these are isolated flare ups and nothing more. But how in the past are they really, how small are these flares? We still have neo-Nazis, we still have racists and bigots of all types. China still censors their internet, Brazil still has thousands of poor in slums. And yet F1 remains. The second the FIA tries to justify removal of a race on moral and/or political grounds, a fair argument would open up that few countries should have the right to a race. If you can cancel one event based on a moral issue, why not cancel others for various issues.

      The only clean way to do this is to state emphatically that the FIA believes the situation in Bahrain to be an unsafe one. Unsafe for the teams, the drivers, the staff, and all the fans from around the world who would attend the event. Once they start shoehorning in bits about viscous police or hooligan protestors they lose credibility.

      1. Should Germany be denied a Grand Prix because of Hitler? Should Japan be denied a Grand Prix due to their atrocities during WWII? Should Russia be stripped of their future GP because of Stalin? Should my country (the United States) and most of Europe be denied a Grand Prix because we enslaved Africans? Let’s look more recently.

        I’m sorry Matt but that is completely different because that is history. If Hitler was still in power of course we wouldn’t hold a sporting event there….oh no, wait…we did do that. Sorry, I forgot that humanity lacks humanity at times.

        Racists and bigots are true of every country so therefore it isn’t a geographical issue. As for China, I don’t think we should race there either but that race isn’t in doubt so there’s little to be achieved by starting up about it right now (because like I said we’re a pretty useless species), China isn’t being quite so openly brutal with its bloodshed and Bahrain is using this race as a political statement unlike China.

        The second the FIA tries to justify removal of a race on moral and/or political grounds, a fair argument would open up that few countries should have the right to a race.

        The second F1 forgets about its audience the second F1 ceases to be any sort of entertainment. It’s a sport. There are more important things than F1 getting its money from contracts etc.

        The only clean way to do this is to state emphatically that the FIA believes the situation in Bahrain to be an unsafe one.

        Given that there have been threats against safety from protesters and both sides are using the F1 race as a political tool I think the idea that it will be totally safe is either very naive or just a lie.

        1. Not to mention the organisers have joined in the “political tool” thing, which is technically an auto-ban offence in and of itself, as far as the FIA Statutes are concerned.

      2. @prisoner-monkeys : I live and work in China, and will be going to the Chinese Grand Prix, and sitting with my Chinese friends. There simply is no comparison between Bahrain and China. You might as well say that we should cancel the US GP because of US foreign policy…

        1. I have to agree that using political arguments would end up with no country elligible for holding a race. Look at USA’s use of Guantanamo Bay and you can justify cancellation of races there on moral/political grounds. The same could be said of many countries. It all depends on your perspective.

          I personally don’t want to see a race in Bahrain. This is for 2 reasons:
          1) I don’t think the situation is safe for the teams/drivers/press/spectators.
          2) I believe the authorities would lead an even more brutal crackdown to try to ensure the security of the event, leading to further human rights abuses.

          The first reason is the one I think the FIA should play. I don’t think F1 should openly use political motivations as it looks like they are supporting one side or the other. However, the second reason is the main one I think the race should be cancelled.

          Disclaimer: This is my personal oppinion, made with the limitted information I have about the situation.

          1. Thank you, @drmouse – somebody finally understands my point.

          2. Half the people here are saying F1 shouldn’t play politics..

          3. Either way, F1 will be playing politics. (i) Racing will mean partnering with Bahraini authorities on their PR stunt (ii) cancelling will mean, for some, judging Bahraini authorities handling of an internal issue.

            But F1 has the option to cancel the event because “evidences found on the ground make it impossible to race in Bahrain”. They don’t have to put their real feelings on paper, there are 10 million ways to say “we’re not racing” and F1’s reputation will be intact.

            I do not expect F1 races to be held only in Paradise but what’s going on in Bahrain is too much to bear, there’s no point. As fans, we wants to see as many races as possible but many, if not the bulk, of us are against the race…

      3. It’s not just safety of the teams though. Is holding an F1 race likely to increase social tensions? If the F1 race doesn’t leave a positive impact on the local area, there’s no point.

      4. Chris v S (@iamthef1andonly)
        10th April 2012, 18:18

        You cannot put sport in a bubble and say we should not politicise it or that sport should not have a political impact – the fact is it does, we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. Sport as much part of life as politics, economics, art or any other facet of human existence. None can exist in a vacuum – they are all inter-related because they are all fundamentally part of life. So sport impacting politics, impacting economics means we should attempt to draw lines about where it is acceptable to go and compete and where not.

        But that does not mean the calendar needs to be made up of 21 Swiss Grand Prix. For sure it is hard to draw the lines because there is a spectrum of countries with different attitudes to human rights and there are many points of view. From Syria to Bahrain to China to Russia to the US to the Western Europe and there are those in the world who would put the above spectrum of countries in reverse order and would in their mind be just as right as I am in mine. But that is not to say that the Sport’s governing body should not attempt to draw those lines, even knowing the end result will not be perfect. It is not good enough simply to say “that’s difficult and we’ll never please everyone to hell with ethics – let’s just go racing”.

  2. Call off the race, Bernie.

  3. It’s also worth noting that a cancellation of the race within 3 months of its due date leads to its automatic removal from the following year’s calendar unless force majuere is deemed by the FIA to have occurred. This is due to Article 5.6 of the F1 Sporting Regulations. The organisers can’t prove force majuere, only suggest it (if they feel that’s appropriate). Bernie, thanks to the separation of commerce and sporting powers enforced by the EU rulings of 2001, can only stop the event if he isn’t paid or some other financial element of the contract is breached (something which nobody has accused the Bahrain organisers of doing). The FIA appears to be attempting to establish Bahrain as a model country in terms of what good things a country can get if it does what the FIA wishes of it, as a means of encouraging other Middle Eastern countries to follow suit. So even if Bahrain itself contributed little to the FIA, the knock-on effects of a strong presence in Bahrain could lead to the FIA getting a lot of money from other countries. The latter may not be proven but its actions imply that, given that there were better choices than Bahrain for the WEC race and that, unlike F1, doesn’t have a Bernie-style commercial director participating in the selection process.

    In short: the organisers won’t cancel because they want a race in 2013 even if 2012 proves impossible.

    Bernie won’t cancel because he can’t (whether he would is a moot point).

    The FIA won’t cancel until the last minute because it has psuedopolitical and financial reasons to avoid weakening its strongest point in the Middle East.

    I believe there will be an increase in violence in the week leading up to the Bahrain Grand Prix due to the GP being used as a political tool by both sides (and the organiser race advertising), enforcing cancellation if nobody has done so beforehand. Still, I reckon the freight will arrive before the cancellation note does.

    1. the organisers won’t cancel because they want a race in 2013 even if 2012 proves impossible.

      They did it last year. The race was scheduled to take place on 13 March. It was cancelled at the request of the Bahrain motorsport foundation on 21 February. The same thing can happen here, and I suspect that is the FIA’s end-game. They don’t want to cancel it themselves, because that would mean taking a political stance. They will do it if they absolutely have to, but I think they’d rather the Bahraini authorities admit that the country is not safe and that the race should not take place. This way, the sport and the FIA remain apolitical. And with widespread protests across the country, force majuere still applies.

      1. As you said, the Bahrain motorsport foundation cancelled. That’s the regional branch of the FIA. It doesn’t say in the F1 regulations which bit of the FIA needs to determine that force majuere applies, only that some element of it must do so for the relevant exemption to apply.

        In any case, cancelling due to the race being turned into a political tool isn’t “taking a political stance” because the organisers got involved in it, which makes the whole thing an automatic deal-breaker (without the cancellation exemption being applicable – the organisers could have chosen not to go on the “UniF1ed” campaign that breaches FIA Statute Article 1, so by definition cannot be force majuere).

        As previously stated, the organisers can’t declare force majuere by themselves; only the FIA can decide that. All the organisers can do is advise that it might be applicable, and they know they’ll lose their 2013 race if they do so due to the regulations, so why would they declare?


          Time to give up on Grand Prixs being run in middle east countries. They are such a mess, who in their right mind would want o travel there? F1 is just a toy for the wealthy and is just out of place there.
          There is enough interest globaly for Formula One to set its roots in another place, another country and create another fan base where F1 itself doesn’t become the tool of madness that it presently is in Bahrain. Got to Hell Bahrain fans don’t want F1 in your country anymore.

          1. Abu Dhabi manages to run a race trouble-free. It might not be terribly exciting but that’s an artifact of circuit design – the Middle East hardly has a monopoly on circuit designs unsuited to F1.

  4. It’s all about the MONEY! MOnaco,Spa,Malaysia,China,Korea -all of them.
    Once it was more or less natural sport,then came bernie and now ,if you have enough billions,you can have a race in your back yard. Just e-mail Eclestone.

    1. I think Ecclestone is a CANCER for formula 1 sport.

  5. Can somebody fill me in on the money situation of Bahrain circuit owners. I’m sure I read something a while back that those in Bahrain are significant shareholders in CVC or some other company who has shares in F1. This race would have been dropped permenatly I think if there weren’t so many money connections to the sport. Bernie Ecclestone just seems to hump the legs of Bahrain simply for the money.

    Personally I find it disgusting.

    1. @nick-uk

      I know that the Bahrain ruling family owns 40% of McLaren. I’m not sure if they are shareholders in CVC.

      1. That’s interesting to know. But what I read was specifically about the circuit owners. Just another money link though. I wish we could hear something positive from Bahrain for once.

        1. I think you might have heard of the Bahraini’s royal family investment fund being interested in taking over CVC last year @nick-uk, it came to nothing more than rumours of their interest and talks having been held.

      2. If the Bahrain ruling family own 40 percent of Mclaren why are not all th people on here complaining and protesting to Mclaren involvement with the evil people.

        How can people support, cheer for Mclaren if this is the case. The answer to this is they like Mclaren and it would be too great a discomfort for them to take ther support elsewhere. This is to say Mclaren supporters would have to make an an actual effort/sacrifice (hardly) rather than tap away a few seconds here, feeling cool.

      3. Mumtalakat Holding Company, which is owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain, owns 50% of McLaren Group. hmm maybe they should rename their F1 team, Force Bahrain?

  6. F1 team principals have previously insisted they were satisfied to follow the FIA’s lead on Bahrain, despite the governing body having demonstrated a palpable lack of judgement on the matter last year.

    I think the FIA took a lot of undeserved criticism for the way they handled the reinstatement of Bahrain last year. Yes, it was misguided, but I think Max Mosley deliberately sabotaged it by bringing up Rule 66 of the Sporting Code.

    Rule 66 states that if the FIA wants to make changes to the calendar mid-season, they need the unanimous consent of the teams. When the World Motorsports Council voted to reinstate Bahrain, Mosley gave an interview in which he said the FIA disregarded it – that they hadn’t asked the teams before coming to a decision. But I don’t think that’s what happened at all.

    The FIA voted to reinstate Bahrain on 3 June, several days before the Canadian Grand Prix on 12 June. FOTA were already planning to meet in Montreal because of the off-throttle blown diffuser ban that would have come into effect in Valencia, on 26 June; they tend to meet at races because everyone is already in the one place, so nothing extra needs to be arranged. The issue of Bahrain would have been brought up then. But Mosley set the fox in the chicken coop several days before the Canadian Grand Prix when he brought up Rule 66, and everyone over-reacted to it.

    Yes, the FOTA teams needed to be consulted on the calendar change. But, in retrospect, what the WMSC was most likely voting on was a proposal. They were essentially saying “this is what we want to do, and we think that this is the best way to do it”, a proposal which they would have taken to the teams for the teams to discuss. The FIA actually needed to give the teams something to discuss – something that everyone in the FIA already agreed on – because otherwise it would have been a case of “We want to go back to Bahrain … um, does anyone have any ideas?”. But then Mosley claimed that they had violated Rule 66 before they actually had a chance to actually approach the teams with their proposal. And in an age where everyone automatically decides that whatever the FIA does is universally evil and that whatever the teams do is universally good, the fans jumped to the conclusion that the FIA had ignored their own rules for their own agenda – ironically at the suggestion of a man who frequently ignored his own rules – and criticised them for it.

    1. If the WMSC were only voting on a proposal, then Rule 66 was still broken – it wasn’t their issue to decide. Only a valid vote (fax or face-to-face with all 12 teams) is acceptable for FIA “unanimous team” clauses to be in effect. If that vote is there, WMSC isn’t supposed to be involved at all.

      The wording of such votes is determined by the proposing party and does not require WMSC intervention (unless the WMSC is the proposer, which obviously isn’t the case here). Most likely Jean Todt, by himself or with legal advisory assistance only, would have been the correct party for deciding the wording of the team vote. Max may have had numerous other flaws, but he did at least understand a significant amount of the FIA’s own legal processes (not all of them, but a decent number), which is why he never held discussions on the wording of the many votes he superintended.

  7. ha ha….and my wife says “car racing is just going around in circles”

    1. Tell her, “History repeats itself”, we may see the 1936 Olympiads in 2012.

      1. This is the first time I’ve seen Godwin’s Law invoked on an F1fanatic comment thread!

        1. Does that therefore conclude the debate? @Dobin1000

          1. Under the law of the Internet, yes

  8. Someone help me remember. Bernie waived the fee last year, but I believe in the end it was paid and not refunded?

    I think it’s about politics more than money. Bernie’s playing Todt, trying to make FIA look bad, like last year…

    1. Don’t forget the FIA’s trying to spread its message across the Middle East and needs an example of the good things that can happen when a country takes the FIA’s advice. There are psuedopolitical reasons for the FIA dragging its feet…

  9. This whole thing hasn’t just put me off watching Bahrain (which I am absolutely not going to do when just outside of the track people are being oppressed) but the way the FIA have handled it and approached it has completely put me off the sport. There are some things just more important than watching a bunch of cars go round and round in a circle and human rights abuses are one of them. Sure, call me a hypocrite because of China and point out the irony that the Chinese GP is being overshadowed by a debate about human rights abuses in Bahrain but that doesn’t make me suddenly pro F1 in Bahrain it just makes me resent China’s presence on the calendar more. Even if it is hypocritical two wrongs don’t suddenly make it right that Bahrain should have a race. Plus, Bahrain is actually using the race to try to show it doesn’t have any problems whereas China doesn’t do that. Going then is a political act. Politics can’t be separated from F1 when both sides of the argument are trying to give it political power even if the FIA wishes to remain aloof or ignorant or whatever they’re doing.

    The FIA are doing what they can- or rather what they think works best for them- by waiting and then probably bailing but it’s not exactly an admirable way to run the sport.

    I’ve stayed out of this debate for a while partly because it sometimes feels like it ends up into a screaming match and also because although I can understand those who want to keep politics out of F1 I’m not going to suddenly feel it’s okay to endorse a race in a place where so many are being so badly treated. It would be so easy for me to tune in and forget everything I’ve read about Bahrain and the pictures I’ve seen. It would be so easy for me to pretend it wasn’t happening from the UK in my middle class home and HD TV but I could just as easily been born into Bahrain or China or into some other oppressive country. It’s pure, dumb, life luck that I ended up in such a comfortable position that the only choice I have to make is whether to turn on my TV or not.

    Finally, and most importantly, I’d like to thank Keith for this article. I wish more journalists were speaking up but I really admire you for doing so. Not only was this article exactly what was needed but it was balanced and provided great detail/evidence of what’s happening in Bahrain when information for many isn’t always easy to come by. I feel sorry for you if the race goes ahead and you have to cover it as given your position on the subject I doubt it’ll be an enjoyable weekend as an F1 blogger or an F1 fan.

    1. +1
      I will ignore the GP in Bahrain, and that is a big sacrifice on my behalf, but a tiny one compared to Khawaja’s sacrifice.

  10. Things must change
    10th April 2012, 10:25

    Here is a specific case in point which is happening at this very moment, which should give everyone some evidence of why the F1 race should not take place in Bahrain

    Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: Dying for Justice by Stephen Lendman

    In summer 2010, sporadic protests began. Last February, major ones erupted. Daily, Bahrainis brave security force violence, arrests, disappearances, torture, and cold-blooded murder, as well as show trial prosecutions, convictions, and imprisonments.

    Human rights activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Alkhawaja was out in front for democratic change. His courage cost him dearly.

    On April 9, 2011, around 20 Bahraini police stormed his apartment pre-dawn. Brutally beaten unconscious and arrested, he required surgery to implant metal plates to hold his shattered jaw together. He spent days hospitalized, but remains permanently impaired.

    Still weak and recovering, he was imprisoned, isolated, tortured, prosecuted, and imprisoned for life on spurious charges of “organizing and managing a terrorist organization, attempting to overthrow the Government by force, and in liaison with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country.”

    Other charges were also piled on, including “collecting money for a terrorist organization.” During trial, no evidence whatever was presented. Throughout the proceedings, prosecutorial irregularities were flagrant.

    Abdulhadi was guilty by accusation. On September 28, 2011, Bahrain’s National Safety Court of Appeal upheld his life sentence. Justice was nowhere in sight. Police states afford none. Bahrain’s one of the worst.

    Abdulhadi’s Background

    For years, he’s been a courageous human rights activist. From 2008 – 2011, he served as Front Line Defenders’ Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator. In that capacity, his work involved supporting and protecting regional human rights activists.

    He also co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and served as its first president. He worked as a member of the International Advisory Network of the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, headed by former Irish President Mary Robinson.

    Previously, he worked for Amnesty International (AI). In 2005, the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists named him “Activist of the Year.”

    In addition, he was a Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies Advisory Board member. In a similar capacity, he served with The Arab Group for Monitoring Media Performance.


    Abdulhadi served prominently with the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain (CDPPB). It was also active in London, Paris, Geneva, and Damascus. Its issues included arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, sham trials, nationality revocations, and forced deportations.

    For his activism, Denmark granted him political asylum in 1991. In exile, he established the Bahrain Human Rights Organization (BHRO). From 1992 – 2001, BHRO gained recognition for its significant, professional, non-partisan activities internationally.

    In 2001, after a general amnesty, he returned to Bahrain and co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). In June 2002, it was officially registered.

    Ever since, he’s been targeted, arrested, beaten, tortured, and detained. So have other BCHR members.

    Abdulhadi is NOW close to Death

    In early February, he began hunger striking for justice. It’s now two months and counting. He’s severely deteriorated, hospitalized, and close to death. BCHR, other human rights organizations, family, and supporters hold the Bahrain monarchy responsible.

    Protests across the country demand his release. Police thugs attacks them. So do Saudi forces. In March 2011, they entered Bahrain guns blazing. They’re still there. They and police commit daily atrocities.
    BCHR said Abdulhadi’s family lawyer, Mohamed AlJishi, confirmed that his daughter, Zainab, was arrested in front of the prison hospital. She refused to leave, called out her father’s name, and demanded he be released. Other protesters with her were also arrested.

    They’re currently detained at Alhoora police station, and denied legal counsel and family visits.

    On April 4, AlJishi visited Abdulhadi. He described his condition as “emaciated.” His pulse is so weak, he risks imminent cardiac arrest and/or coma. He’s so frail, he can’t move. Even if he survives, he faces possible organ failure. Blood studies indicate kidney damage.

    April 8 marks his 60th hunger striking day. On April 2, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation refused to release him on health grounds. If he survives, another hearing’s scheduled for April 23. It’s doubtful he can hang on that long.

    BCHR “call(s) on the international community and the United Nations, and all related international and regional human rights mechanisms, to stand up to their responsibility of protecting human rights and freedoms in Bahrain and ensure the immediate release of human rights defender Al Khawaja as recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Sir Nigel Rodley.”

    “We recommend that he be immediately released to the Danish Authorities on humanitarian grounds, as requested by the Danish Foreign Minister.”

    A Final Comment

    Abdulhadi’s daughter Maryam serves as BCHR’s Head of Foreign Relations. On April 5, she wrote the following:

    “My Father is Dying. This is the thought constantly running through my head.”

    “As a human rights defender I have learned to numb my emotions and continue working. I have been working on covering human rights violations in Bahrain for more than two years now, documenting all the arbitrary arrests, systematic torture, rapes, kidnappings, extra-judicial killings; the list goes on.”

    “The so-called Arab spring proved, once again, that we are still living in an age where the UN Human Rights Council has little agency to act on its own accord. It, like all other agencies must bow to the powers that be.”

    The so-called “Arab Spring” is more winter than rebirth throughout the region, especially in Bahrain, Egypt, post-Gaddafi Libya, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, Yemen, and Palestine. Syria’s another issue altogether.

    “I constantly fear the phone call bearing the message that I will never see my father again. I cannot imagine a life without my father, and I cannot come to terms with a world that would allow my father to die.”

    “Today, April 5th, is my father’s birthday.” Born in 1962, he turned 50. “Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the man who dedicated himself to fighting for human rights, who trained tens of other activists, is known as the Godfather of human rights in Bahrain.”

    “My father, who was beaten unconscious in front of his family, arrested, then severely tortured for months. My father, sentenced to life imprisonment in a military court. My father, on his 57th day of hunger strike as his only way of protesting the daily human rights violations of the Bahraini regime against the people of Bahrain.”

    “My father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is dying to live. Literally.”

    “This is what propels my activism. This is why I will continue to fight.”

    Throughout the Middle East, Western world, and elsewhere, many thousands are wrongfully imprisoned and brutalized under gulag conditions.

    International law in Bahrain a dead letter. So are human rights

    Cruel and unusual punishment is policy. Out of sight behind bars, anything goes.
    Prisoners like Abdulhadi react the only way they can. They’re willing to die for justice.
    What greater sacrifice than that!

    What better reason to support them the only way that the F1 community can.

    Abandon the race and keep in mind the man who is close to death in Bahrain in the circumstances outlined above.

  11. Just lets get shut of the Bahrain GP, its **** anyway. BUT, for petes sake replace it, 1 GP in 7 weeks is crap! :]

    1. There’s always Donnington Park :)

    2. Is it possible to ‘insert’ another race in such a short time? If so where?

  12. If the Bahrain ruling family own 40 percent of Mclaren why are not all the people on here complaining and protesting to Mclaren involvement with the evil people.

    How can people support, cheer for Mclaren if this is the case. The answer to this is they like Mclaren and it would be too great a discomfort for them to take ther support elsewhere. This is to say Mclaren supporters would have to make an an actual effort/sacrifice (hardly) rather than tap away a few seconds here, feeling cool.

    1. @bearforce1 – Do you think the royal family would somehow force McLaren to compete? They don’t have that kind of power.

      1. No. It is the fact that the company is owned by apparently to some people evil doers.

        In this case everyone is calling for the bahrain GP to be cancelled on the grounds of the involvement and ownership of the Bahrain royals and yet it is ok for maclaren to be involved with and owned by the bahrain royals.

        Just seems like double standards of exactly the same set of circumstances or plain old hypocrisy.

    2. McLaren is obliged to compete in Bahrain, not because of sponsorship, but because of the FIA. Also, the shareholding pre-dates the current situation in Bahrain and a share sold cannot be regained except through expensive (very expensive in McLaren’s case) re-purchase. Even then, re-purchase could only happen if the Bahrain ruling family was willing to sell the shares, and there’s no sign of that at present.

      So McLaren still gets support because it can only choose the shareholding of shares it still has.

  13. Despite what you think about F1 being political, it is only a sport and the teams have all be placed in an impossible situation, I believe.

    I think that if you’re looking for a line where the sport should go from being apolitical to taking a stand, people being actively killed and tortured by their own government in an attempt to crush an actively ongoing revolutionary movement seems to be a pretty reasonable situation in which to say ‘no, this isn’t right’ to me.

    1. @magnificent-geoffrey – That’s happening in China. It’s not as visible as in Bahrain because there are no mass protests in the streets. But Chinese authorities have the power to detain anyone without charge, and they can do it almost indefinitely. Torture is used in Chinese prisons, which are often filled with dissidents. The differences is that it’s not front-page news the way Bahrain is. Why aren’t people demanding that the Chinese Grand Prix be abandoned on moral grounds?

      1. This debate and this article are about Bahrain @Prisoner-monkeys, not about China. If you are feeling this strong against going to china, or want to discuss that in detail, why not open up a forum discussion about that. It will answer your question

        Why aren’t people demanding that the Chinese Grand Prix be abandoned on moral grounds?

        1. @bascb

          If you are feeling this strong against going to china, or want to discuss that in detail, why not open up a forum discussion about that.

          I don’t feel strongly about China. I feel strongly about people demanding that the Bahrain Grand Prix gets cancelled for political or moral reasons without considering the consequences for the sport, and I’m using China as an example to highlight that because China has documented problems with human rights. Tell me, Bas, if the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled because the FIA disagreed with what the government was doing, do you think that activists who support people in other countries – like China – would ignore it, or would they demand the FIA do the same thing and cancel the race in their country for moral or political reasons? And if they did, do you think they would respond to a long list of reasons as to why Bahrain and their country are different?

          You’re an intelligent guy, Bas, so I’m surprised you have picked up on this yet. I’ve only been saying it for about eighteen months – from the time Arab Spring first started and people questioned whether the race in Bahrain might be affected. Formula 1 cannot afford to make a moral or political issue out of Bahrain, because doing so creates a paradox. The only thing that the FIA can do is cancel the race in a way that is not political. It is the only way to protect the itnegrity of the sport.

          1. Have you considered the consequences if F1 does go to Bahrain? It would be in breach of Article 1 of the FIA Statutes, thanks to the “UniF1ed” campaign. If that is allowed, then every country in the world will be able to press whatever political points it wants and the FIA will have lost all authority to stop them. Furthermore, it would establish that the most fundamental rules upon which the FIA is based are mutable, meaning it would lose its protection as a sporting authority under French and EU law. In other words, the FIA would cease to exist as a viable governancing entity.

            It’s too late for the FIA to take the “no political stance” position – the organisers have taken that out of its hands.

          2. I surely do agree with you @prisoner-monkeys, that people in other places will look at decisions made around having or not having the GP by the FIA, the teams, the promotors, the Bahraini government etc, whatever outcome there is.

            Yes, some of the protesters in Bahrain will see it as a confirmation of their stance. And it is possible that the government will only repress more if its called off. And its likely that both regime-opposition and governments elsewhere will react to it.

            Therefore its a really big shame, that the FIA, or Bernie and the Bahraini government did not make it clear up front that this situation just does not warrant a safe sporting event to be held in an enjoyable manner when they could have done so without any complications last December.

            To cancel it now, there is both the deplorable safety situation and what @alianora-la-canta writes, about the Bahraini now using a political slogan to promote the event, if needed. I am sure we two agree on that first one being the obvious route now, while the second matter might be a tad less evident in your view PM and would have a political undertone by its very nature.

            But all of this does not have more to do with China than any general discussion about the having or not having a race in a country than it would for say, Singapore, Australia or the US or debating about a new race in South Africa or Argentina or Russia, so I would prefer not to obscure the matter with China here.

          3. It’s too late for the FIA to take the “no political stance” position – the organisers have taken that out of its hands.

            They can put it back in. If they choose to. The government in Bahrain wants the race to take place. They want to show that the country is back to normal. But, if this is not possible – and the protesters will certainly do everything in their power to make it happen – then the government will be forced to back down, because it will become a question of which is the lesser of two evils: admitting that the country is not safe, or knowing that the country is not safe and inviting a major international sporting event to come anyway?

          4. It’s too late for that. Article 1 was broken in pretty flagrant manner. Technically speaking, the breach is just as severe irrespective of the truth value of the political statement made. If everyone in Bahrain was having a teddy bear picnic together, it would still be impossible to go now because of the organisers breaking such a fundamental Statute in such a serious way.

            It is no longer for the country’s rulers to decide if F1 should go or not; it is a question of either the organisers admitting their mistake and submitting to judgment in FIA courts, or the FIA taking the race off Bahrain pending investigation. Anything else would open the FIA up to self-destruction (literally or practically, depending on the mercies of the French civil court).

      2. @prisoner-monkeys

        That’s happening in China. It’s not as visible as in Bahrain because there are no mass protests in the streets. But Chinese authorities have the power to detain anyone without charge, and they can do it almost indefinitely. Torture is used in Chinese prisons, which are often filled with dissidents. The differences is that it’s not front-page news the way Bahrain is. Why aren’t people demanding that the Chinese Grand Prix be abandoned on moral grounds?

        Because the situation in Bahrain is currently far less stable and worse than the situation in China. If there was another Tianamen Square-esque incident, a lot of people would be putting pressure on F1 to boycott Shanghai. Absolutely.

        Is that right? No. Is that arbitrary line I’ve made up the best possible compromise between F1 staying virtually apolitical and also not being incredibly insensitive to a universally unacceptable degree? Possibly.

        It’s not F1’s responsibility to be a catalyst for political change – that should be down to the world’s politicians. I think it’s admirable of you to keep bringing up China, because it’s true that the situation there is bad, but it is not a country in the middle of a major revolutionary movement. Yes, that’s because the government there are doing a more effective job of oppressing their population. I spoke to a Chinese friend of mine about this today and she told me that she thinks the people there don’t like to try and rise up because they know that the government always win. That’s horrible, yes, but that means that there isn’t a major uprising in China nationwide, like there is in Bahrain. Hopefully there will be one day and then that can start a chain of events where the whole world, F1 included, can start putting pressure on the Chinese authorities.

        Until that time, China and Bahrain will remain to be two very different political situations and will continue to be treated as such.

      3. I’ll say it again: Why aren’t you complaining about the US GP then. The US detains people without trial, has secret prisons and tortures those prsioners.

        If you are going to continue with this fatuous argument then at least be even handed in where you throw your stupid accusations.

  14. Has anyone actually give any thought to what might happen if the race was cancelled? I mean, does anyone here think the government is going to go “Oh, ho ho, protesters, protesters! You were right all along! We should have listened to you all along, and introduced speedy democratic reform!”? Or is it more likely that they will say “Oh, protesters, protesters! You cost us the race that we really, really wanted! So instead of the speedy democratic reforms you all want, we’ve decided that it would be better if all of our police officers were issued with mini-guns and live polar bears!”

    1. Yes, I have given the “cancellation” thing thought.

      Now let’s consider what would – not might – happen if the race continued.

      The “UniF1ed” campaign explicitly links F1 with politics. It is from the organisers. Such behaviour is banned by FIA Statute.

      Going in knowledge that such a campaign was in effect would place the FIA in breach of Article 1 of its Statutes. Note that these are the legally binding principles upon which the FIA relies in order to be permitted to exist by French civil law. Going to Bahrain knowing it had breached Article 1 of the Statutes would imply that it thought the law was mutable.

      Each and every ruling the FIA made from then on – from the major to the minor – would be contestable in French civil court. The FIA would lose its authority as the first and (usually) final place for motorsports regulations in its own series to be determined.

      This would not only mean every country in the world could do what it liked politically and still demand F1 visit or continue to visit them, but that every pit-lane speeder, technical infringer and track protestor could legitimately go to court to protest the FIA’s behaviour, succeed (depending on the usual standards of evidence) and force the FIA to apply the court’s demands. The regulation documents would no longer be something that could be relied upon. Oh, and it won’t save the protesters – if the government is that determined to arm its police with miniguns and polar bears, it will find or invent an excuse.

      Note: that’s the minimum that would happen. The maximum is that the French courts would be entitled to simply dissolve the FIA – Article 1 being inextricably intertwined with one of the prime tenets of French law and Bahrain not exactly being a minor transgression (the act that broke Article 1 being the tip of the iceberg).

      1. Thanks for that. The legal consequences are just fascinating. And serious for the FIA.

      2. I personally don’t care about the legal implications, but I know that if everybody, who are not contractually forced to participate, view, comment or transmit this GP, ignored it, then it would have consequences.
        What if we all promise, for the rest of 2012, not to buy any products from the companies, who advertises during this GP? Of course we then need to find a volunteer to view it and register all the commercials?

    2. Before anybody decides to criticise me for being flippant on this, allow me to take a moment to explain why I chose to be flippant here. If the race does not go ahead, the government isn’t going to admit defeat. They’re going to crack down on the protesters, probably harder than ever before. Arming police with live polar bears sounds silly, but it also sounds very extreme, and that’s probably what the response is going to be: extreme. Physically, the protesters might actually be better off with the race going ahead, because the government isn’t going to want to be seen as cracking down on them while the eyes of the world are on Bahrain.

      1. Physically, the situation for the protesters would be exactly the same whether the race goes ahead or not; if the government wants to arm its police with polar bears or any other “extreme arms”, it would find an excuse to do so. That’s how the sort of mindset we are seeing here works.

    3. I wonder if anyone thought the same about South Africa some time ago, sport whether we like it or not is an immensely powerful tool and F1 is the most watched global sport. Personally…a big NO to this race

  15. something must change
    10th April 2012, 12:08

    1) I agree with the comment made above that the continual comparisons between Bahrain and China deserve a thread of it’s own.

    2) Readers of this forum now have an opportunity to stand up and be counted.
    Ask yourself if you want this year’s race to go ahead in the light of all you must now know about Bahrain’s Family Fiefdom and the way they have fooled people over the years?
    A man currently lies close to death on hunger strike because he has no where else to go with his protests and he is asking the world to notice and look deeper into the situation.

    You may not be able to stop the race (if that is what is what you want) but you sure can make your feelings known on this fact.

    Let those for whom money and the race is more important support the race going ahead.

    Let those who want to stand up for this dying hunger striker, make your feelings known here and on any other forums where your voice might help the cowed and oppressed majority in Bahrain.
    We have our political freedoms, why not support those in Bahrain who simply want theirs by using your voice at this critical juncture in time

    1. 2) Readers of this forum now have an opportunity to stand up and be counted.

      Do you honestly think that this is the most appropriate place for that to be done? I mean, do you think that the policy-makers – the people with the power to actually make things happen – are aware of this site, much less reading it right now?

      1. something must change
        10th April 2012, 12:45

        No, of course they are not reading this forum but those of us that are have an opportunity, if we wish, to make their own comments in the press.

        It all adds to the weight of public opinion and informs joe public what this debate is currently about

        For opportunties to comment elsewhere see

      2. do you know of a bigger better prescribed F1 site than this ? Not sure that I do. (genuine)

  16. I for one hope the race does go ahead. Who knows, the race could begin to restore the country’s economy and it might unite the country. It could do more good than bad if the race was held. However there is of course the possibility of protests if the race does go ahead. I feel the race should go ahead but with tighter security in order to keep the teams safe.

    I for one would love to see a race purely because I love the sport. I’m not interested in the politics, I want to see some close racing. Would be great to see Schumacher win in Bahrain. XD

    1. and why would you be interested in politics right? as long as you get to watch the race from your comfy couch, who cares whats going on in…im sorry whats the place called again? yeah Barhain or wherever it is…get rid of all the trouble makers, lockém up and lock and load…and Hamilton leads into the first corner..cheers!

  17. Even if we get to race in Bahrain the only entertaining event in the race would be streakers running across the track during the race :) Hope it happens if the race is given the go ahead

  18. Just when I thought that Bernie couldn’t be such an utter tool who is unconnected to the world outside his back pocket he goes and say’s this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/motorsport/formulaone/9195762/Bernie-Ecclestone-Bahrain-GP-security-not-a-worry-for-F1-teams.html

    Stupid, shocking and I am utterly disgusted that not only Bernie but the teams are okay with this! So what if people are dieing, as long as we can make money then that’s alright. It is vile and I would of thought that someone within F1 would have the common scence and a simple knowledge of world politics to know that when innocent people are dieing at the hands of heavily armed military men all in the name on freedom and democracy. All I am saying is that F1 isn’t doing anyone any favours by staging a race in a country that is at war with themselves!

  19. I am only going to say this one time. The Bahrain Grand Prix can’t be held because it is unethical and it simply wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I feel as if last year didn’t teach anyone anything. As a motorsport fan do I want to see a race in Bahrain? Yes I do because I love all the GP’s and even the ugly ones. As a human do I want to see an race in Bahrain? NO! I don’t. The facts are out on the table. The civil rights of the Bahraini people are clearly being violated and allowing a GP to continue in such a country is a crime on itself.

    Bernie E. doesn’t care if the gp goes on because his chek has been cashed in. I can’t wait until this money-hound leaves F1 for good! If he wants to kiss some sheiks ass for money be my guest.

  20. Bernie should be shot, the guy is evil. Hope I’m not ridiculed like Jeremy Clarkson, and I won’t apologize, because this time I’m serious!

    Just read here that Bernie wants to deal with the teams separately if they don’t race because they would be breaching the contract.

    Just to round this off.. please take a look at this graffiti in a village close to Manama in Bahrain.

    1. That looks pretty good actually!

  21. If you dig deep enough every nation on earth has skeletons in the closset. Most nations, including Great Britain, have at some stage past and present persecuted people in the name of religion or a multitude of reasons. The main point of concern about Bahrain though is more imminent, and that is the safety of those going to this year’s grands prix! The politics surrounding Bahrain are complicated enough without adding this to the mix, and in my opinion, Ecclestone and the FIA are sticking their necks out! If people are killed at this grands prix, it could effectively destroy F1 as a sport.
    I know that sounds cold, but that is the reality. Why put people in harms way and risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg? No amount of money is worth more than human life, but obviously Bernie Ecclestone only cares about his life and not that of others.

    1. Have you heard about slavery, the opium wars, the california gold rush etc. Why not ask all the oil companies to pull out of the middle east as they provide the money to support these rulers. If you were about to visit the holocaust museum and a cherokee, cheyenne, apache or other native american asked you to turn around and leave would you. Morality has strange bedfellows. What is a prostitute?

  22. Very nice piece Keith. Best article on Bahrain and F1 I’ve come across.

    1. Agreed. I think Keith should also ban the race, by not reporting from it, if it is held, and to cancel the F1 fanatic prediction competition for this race – i.e. ignore any predictions and the results of this race.
      The graffiti link from Venkman made yet another impression on me, but is it actually made in Bahrain?

  23. Cancel it, simple as.

    I’m not going to get into any heated debates about this situation. If I want to do that there are plenty of avenues available to me where I personally feel it would be more appropriate for me to comment.

    I’m a cynical person by nature so you won’t catch me taking what the media says for granted. They have papers to sell too, remember.

  24. Can someone please help me with this – The FIA run the championship but Bernie gets to pick the circuits and do the contracts and he pockets the money? Is this correct?

    1. @foleyger The FIA run the sporting side of the championship whereas FOM (Formula One Management) run the commercial side, this is where Bernie Ecclestone comes in. He acts as a negotiator for FOM and to some extent the teams who all sign up to the Concorde Agreement. Bernie takes a fee for his work but by no means keeps all the money. The money is fed back into the sport and on to the teams at the end of the championship.

  25. Wasn’t aware that a race was kicked off the calendar if it’s cancelled two years running:
    BBC F1 (see the “Analysis” panel on the left)
    So it looks like any future Bahrain races are at stake here, although I don’t doubt Bernie would try to make an exception to the rule.

    What about the stand-alone GP2 race, the weekend after (I believe)? Is that off if the Grand Prix’s cancelled – or will the FIA assume nobody’s watching it (probably not far off the truth) so the event’s less of a target.

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