The Bahrain Grand Prix: A matter of conscience


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The protesters of Bahrain have taken a stand against a cruel regime. You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery.

The violent past

In February 2011 many Bahrainis, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, began a series of protests calling for democractic reforms in the country, which is ruled by a hereditary monarchy.

The peaceful protests were violently suppressed by the police, and several protesters were killed. As the situation deteriorated, the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for the following month was postponed. Shortly afterwards, the government declared a state of emergency, and brought in troops from overseas.

Thousands were arrested, and a commission of inquiry the following November determined many had been jailed “to punish those in the opposition and to deter political opposition”. The same report found widespread use of torture, and several deaths attributed to torture.

One such victim was Abdulkarim Ali Ahmed Fakhrawi, a founder of the Ali Wasat newspaper. After police surrounded the home of his relatives in Karbabad on April 2nd, Farkrawi presented himself at a police station.

Witnesses in the prison he was taken to reported hearing hearing him screaming in between blows. Then the screaming stopped, and a voice was heard saying “you killed him”. His body was returned to his family, who were told they would “end up like him” if they took photographs of it to prove he had been tortured. They did anyway (warning: graphic image).

The state of emergency was lifted on June 1st, two days before the FIA World Motor Sport Council met and restored the race to the calendar. One week later, the race organisers finally admitted it could not got ahead.

The stormy present

In the intervening months, little progress has been made. “The Bahraini authorities have been vociferous about their intention to introduce reforms and learn lessons from events in February and March 2011,” said a report issued yesterday by Amnesty International.

However, it added: “Reforms have been piecemeal, perhaps aiming to appease Bahrain’s international partners, and have failed to provide real accountability and justice for the victims. Human rights violations are continuing unabated. The government is refusing to release scores of prisoners who are incarcerated because they called for meaningful political reforms.”

Many in the country say the same. “There is still torture, still discrimination,” said one protester. “Everything we fought for on February 14th last year. It’s still just the same.”

The ongoing strife in the country has not prevented the FIA from trying to hold a race there this weekend. F1 team members and media began arriving in the country this week.

The government is clearly going to great lengths to keep areas F1 personnel normally visit quiet and ensure the continuing protests happen away from the track. Dozens of police vehicles line the road from Manama to the Bahrain International Circuit.

The continuing imprisonment of thousands of Bahrainis will make their task easier. This is a relatively small nation of 1.2 million inhabitants, more than half of which are expatriates. Even so, the regime has recently arrested another 60 protest leaders.

Despite this, the protests continue. Some are peaceful, but following the government’s violent response to peaceful demonstrations last year some protesters have thrown molotov cocktails.

There are threats of larger protests to come, and a growing sense that their anger is being directed at the race as well as the ruling Al Khalifa family.

The FIA gives political support to Bahrain

FIA president Jean Todt kept a low profile as the Bahrain row escalated. But German channel RTL managed to persuade him to speak on the matter last weekend.

Todt toed the FIA’s usual PR line: “There has been some controversy about it, but the FIA is a sports organisation,” he said. “We are only interested in sport – not politics.”

This is affirmed in the first article of the FIA statutes: “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting political discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.”

However the advertising campaign for the Bahrain Grand Prix – “UniF1ed – one nation in celebration” – makes a mockery of the FIA’s claim of political neutrality. The race is being promoted as a salve for the social divisions that were exposed in the country last year.

The political value of the FIA granting the country a place on the world championship was highlighted by Bahrain International Circuit chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa when the slogan was launched in February, saying: “We in Bahrain should feel extremely privileged to be part of an exclusive club of only a handful of countries who can say that they are a host of a Grand Prix and are a part of the FIA Formula One world championship.”

In local reports in the country F1 drivers are being used – most likely without their blessing – to endorse the race’s political message.

Money and morality

Commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has used similar rhetoric to Todt. He insisted that F1 does not concern itself with politics and does not make decision on moral grounds.

However that has not stopped him claiming the exact opposite when it has suited his needs. In December he claimed, “we pulled out of South Africa years ago [in 1985] because of apartheid”.

It’s hard to find much evidence this was the case besides Ecclestone’s selective re-telling of history.

Rather, pressure from television companies who refused to air further races in the country, a boycott by some teams and sponsors during the 1985 race, and the refusal of workers in Australia to handle “tainted” cargo from the Grand Prix, led to the race being dropped from the 1986 schedule.

This serves as a reminder to treat Ecclestone’s words with caution. Recall that last year the FIA revealed he’d attempted an 11th-hour reinstatement of the Grand Prix on the day after he’d said the race was “not on”.

Ecclestone’s overriding concern in this matter is ensuring F1 makes its money from Bahrain. That will happen if the race goes ahead or, as was the case last year, the Al Khalifas call it off.

However while the race brought in around �25m ($40m) last year in hosting fees, an estimated �59.7m ($95.3m) was lost in potential advertising revenue.

The China argument

Some have claimed that as long as F1 races in other countries with poor human rights records, such as China, then it must also race in Bahrain.

This argument is flawed in several ways. Taking a broad view, it is a mandate for F1 to go racing in – and lend credibility to – any regime, no matter how oppressive. Make way for the Iranian Grand Prix, or perhaps a race through the streets of Pyongyang.

The Chinese Grand Prix is of negligible importance to the government of China, and F1 refusing to race there would make no difference to its people. The same is not true in Bahrain.

The ruling royal family who own the circuit are the same people who stand to profit from the race happening and who have crushed demands for reform over the past 14 months.

Furthermore, the timing of several key events in relation to the activities of the FIA remains suspicious and troubling. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a protester currently on hunger strike in a Bahrain prison who has attracted considerable media attention, has been told he can appeal against his life sentence on April 23rd – the day after the race.

A matter of conscience

The protesters of Bahrain have taken a stand against a cruel regime which denies them basic rights and has ruthlessly suppressed their just pleas for reform.

You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery. Those who go along quietly with what is happening, or chime in with another naive chorus of “sport should not be political”, are giving tacit endorsement to F1’s support for Bahraini oppression.

The government calls the protesters “terrorists” because the word resonates with those abroad who are only paying passing attention to what is going on. The protests began peacefully and many of them still are. But the use of violent and excessive force by the government has in some cases provoked a response in kind.

The Grand Prix is being used as a political tool by the Bahraini government. Those who oppose the race should have no compunction about challenging those who support it. This is what social media is for.

The situation brings to mind F1’s repeated visits to South Africa in the seventies and eighties. During one of those races James Hunt, while commentating for the BBC, vehemently criticised the regime and F1’s presence in the country.

I hope some of his successors in F1 broadcasting today have the conviction and the courage to do the same. Already some broadcasters including Sky Germany, Japan’s Fuji TV and Finland’s MTV3 have said they will not send people to the race.

F1 Fanatic’s Bahrain Grand Prix coverage

One response to the situation could be to ignore the race entirely. Several people have already told me they will not be watching the race, and I respect that.

However, as Todt and Ecclestone have chosen to use F1 to give financial support and credibility to the Bahrain government, I have chosen to use this platform to condemn it. A message to that effect will feature prominently on the site throughout the weekend.

I will continue to listen to, research and read about both sides of this complex debate, give coverage to both in the daily round-ups (which have featured scores of pieces on Bahrain in recent weeks) and, I expect, in further articles as well.

And as always, I invite all F1 fans to share their point of view.


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Image © Drew Gibson/GP2

Author information

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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353 comments on “The Bahrain Grand Prix: A matter of conscience”

  1. this is probably.. the best, most un-biased article on the internet at the moment..

    I’ll be watching the race, but it doesn’t mean I’m ok with, nor condone the violence and government actions being done at the moment.

    As much as I would like to boycott the race viewing, I really can’t.. but I will be streaming it, so hey! it’s not like i’m paying a corporate organisation to view it

    1. ”As much as I would like to boycott the race viewing, I really can’t…”
      Same here. A good piece once again from Keith.
      I would add one thing though, and that is, I am not completely in support of the current wave of government overthrows taking place in the Middle East. Quite alright,they have the right to decide who governs them and how they are governed, I tend to think that most of the protests are hijacked by elements who do not mean well. Granted these countries have been and are still being led by autocrats, they do have some semblance of peace, orderliness and rule of law not just within the country but also with their neighbors. This brings to mind the Syria situation- If/When (moderate) Assad goes, who takes over? We are watching to see how the Islamists who have taken over in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya will govern.

      1. Exactly….Middle-East is better off with autocratic rulers

        1. @Mallesh Magdum You didn’t really understand his argument did you? He meant that if a well-meant overthrow of goverment is being used by extremely evil elements(see reports of al-qaeda involvement in Libya for example) then it’s a bad thing. He also might have meant that autocracy is a lesser evil than theocracy( see Iran, taliban)

          1. I think that’s exactly what Mallesh meant.

          2. Politics!..the scourge of mankind!

            There is something untoward about this Arab spring. Its almost as if there is one person or organization somwhere (which I shall not name, but its obvious if you think about it), sparking off these protests deliberately to create social unrest for their gain.

            No country should be ruled by an autocratic or theocratic leader, both are essentially the same in many ways. There will be no politics, no democracy in either regime. Any uprising that doesnt culminate in installing a secular government, will result in failure. In many Arab countries, post spring, overthrown dictators have been replaced by theocratic rulers, so in a few years they will back at square one.

      2. Sir, it’s a bit naïve expecting Libya (or Iraq) to become a democracy overnight after decades of autocratic rule with excessive nepotism. It takes years to reform a state full of vices but it doesn’t mean it is not worth trying. Some nations are capable of smoother transitions but even though I didn’t expect such mild transition in Libya due to Kaddafi’s regime nature, I still supported his removal. Sometimes living in peace is not everything, dignity is priceless, there was no war in South Africa or Namibia during Apartheid years but what about their dignity?

        1. my bad, you’re actually a Lady not Sir :)

        2. @jcost “No war in South Africa or Namibia during the Apartheid years”? Have you ever heard of something called the South African Bush (or Border) War? That war lasted from 1966 to 1989 until the National Party decided to betray their own people by stopping the war (making all blood spilled futile) and starting to negotiate with the ANC.

          Furthermore, what are you implying about “dignity”? Tell me what is wrong with white Christian civilization not wanting to integrate with the black masses? They weren’t “oppressed”. It was simply a matter of segregation.

    2. It’s a mostly well written piece but is no where near unbiased. It is clearly labeled as “comment” and is Keiths take on the situation.

    3. Why do you say you can’t ? I mean… of course you can !

    4. Nope the argument above is not concrete enough. Too many holes. I visit Bahrain every now and then and I am quite frankly, amused by this article.

      1. Like saying you Visit Columbo, Sri lanka…your point is?

        I guess the hundreds of families with dead husbands, brothers and fathers are not as amused. Neither are the thousands whose relatives are in detention.

        Nice that your life of privalidge allows you to smirk at others brutalisation

      2. I visit Bahrain every now and then

        So give us the benefit of your knowledge instead of sneering at people.

    5. I’m with you. Last year I wrote an article on the cancellation of last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix in an attempt to explain the F1 mentality to political activists and the political situation to F1 fans.
      (will reproduce the article in comments on request – the experimental background didn’t work out so well)

      This year well once again I yelled at anyone who’d hear me but it seemed that the people that mattered weren’t listening this time round. And now I hear that a protester has died away from the track. I won’t be watching the race live, I have other commitments but I will record it. A Grand Prix is a Grand Prix. I can’t just forget best part of 20 years as a Formula 1 fan. I think the Bahraini regime are scum but would happilly take a Molotov for any of the F1 people out there right now – other than Bernie whose stupidity led to this mess.

  2. A great post on a very difficult subject. I realise that you are forced into reporting the race, because, essentially, it is your job, and I applaud your stand. It’s an uncomfortable comprimise for you, I see. And I won’t be watching the race… but I’m still interested to know who won because it all counts to the championship.

    1. I guess the same applies to Bernie, who is forced to proceed with the race because it’s HIS job! If Kieth feels so strongly about the situation then he should not report on the race, otherwise he becomes part of his own argument. For me, I will be watching, as I believe the more media attention Bahrain receives the better. The more the situation in Bahrain is reported on, the more widespread the atrocities in the country become known. If you want to ague that Bernie and all are only concerned by the blood money then all I can say is wake up, this is the world we live in, how much do you think corporations are making out of the dead in Iraq right now?!

      1. Your point is interesting.

  3. Very strong views. Ideally I agree that politics and sport shouldn’t mix (just like politics and religion shouldn’t). But we all know that, in reality that is an impossible idealism to realise.

    The motivation behind taking the ‘F1 circus’, in my opinion, is wrong. From where I stand it is wholly financially motivated. However, with strong unbiased reporters in the country, maybe just maybe, the cause of the people will be brought to the floor. The reality is that tens of thousands of people who wouldn’t normally comment (maybe even be interested in) on such an issue are being forced to wrestle with the facts coming out of the Kingdom and inevitably form some sort of partially informed view.

    In short, maybe and only maybe F1 going is a good thing for the wrong reasons. Safety, however, is a huge concern.

    1. +1.

      Keith nailed it.

  4. Thank you Keith for this well argued and well referenced piece. The decision of Ecclestone and the FIA to go ahead with the race is so transparently mercenary it is shameful. It is so clear that the race is being used as a political tool, any claim of it being ‘above politics’ is complete nonsense. I will not be watching the race in protest. I just wish there was more that we could do about this. As it is, it is embarrassing to be an F1 fan when the sport debases itself in this manner.

    At least in the past with the South African GP, the sponsors were preventing teams from running (or removing their logos in protest) sadly there seems to be little similar pressure from any major authorities in Formula 1 today.

    1. Sorry, but I wish to correct you. Not a single formula one team ever withdrew from the South African GP’s nor did the sponsors remove their decals between 1967-1993. In case of the sponsors they had great financial interest in the country at the time.

    2. I have t, he same opinion. F1 is a passion for me, I haven’t missed any of the 60 previous races, but it hurts me that my favourite sport is used to make people suffer even more. That means I will not watch the race. I think that’s the only thing I can do as an ordinary F1 fan.

      I hope there will be more people who’ll do the same, but I reckon it’s a difficult choice to make…

  5. Is this an appropriate topic? What does the opinion of the average F1 fan count when it comes to the rights or wrongs of a specific form of government? F1 has nothing to do with the history, philosophy, religion or economics of Bahrain. F1 is simply there to race. Nobody is going to “make money” from the “misery” of the people living there. The people protesting are but a select few using Western sympathy and F1 to further their minority cause.

    Nobody questioned going to China a few weeks back. There the liberal idea of so called “human rights” is not recognized like in the West. There are camps and prisons there that would cause outcry. F1 plans to go to the US, but the US are slaughtering hundreds and thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Israel using the Jews as an instrument. The same goes for the UK working with the US and NATO. In Libya and Egypt the “Arab Spring” was nothing more than a fad. People crying for “change” without a clear idea of an alternative. It was mostly just a fun activity to divert them from the tediousness of daily life. In Britain and France the government cracked down on “protesters” at universities etc. burning down cars and the likes. Then they “keep peace and law and order”. If you do that in any other country, you are the Antichrist.

    This is just the point of view of the liberal West. Iranians would not have a problem with Bahrain. As a Boer I would be just as qualified to protest the GP’s in Europe, because I don’t believe in their ideas of homosexual marriages, immigration, asylum, or anti-nationalism. Or the Chinese ideology of Communism. Or the US GP as they are supporters of Israel. Or, as a Calvinist, the Sao Paulo GP in Catholic Brazil or the Islamic Abu Dhabi GP.

    1. @brolloks, are you sure you read the article, specifically the part appropriately titled “the China argument”? I think that counters your posts 2nd paragraph rather well.

      Your last paragraph seems to be to be taking cultural relativism far enough that it becomes meaningless, and makes everything nothing more than an opinion. That’s your right, the great thing about the internet is that we can all give an opinion, and many do. But as you say, that you have an opinion doesn’t make it meaningful, or relevant.

      In my opinion, there is by the way nothing fundamentally wrong with wanting to change things because you see clear wrongs, even if you don’t yet know where you want to end up, you can still try to stop matters going further in the wrong direction.

      1. I am not attacking Keith’s opinion or his article. I made a general statement. Your last paragraph is exactly what I am talking about – what you refer to as “clear wrongs”. Who are you (or anyone else) to decide what is right and what is wrong? This is not a maths test. To this day the British and Americans go on about the Holocaust. The British seem to simply ignore the fact that they starved thousands upon thousands of Afrikaner women and children to death in concentration camps during the Boer War. Yes, it’s true, it happened.
        Look at this 7-year old girl:

        So they were in the right and the Germans were in the wrong? I’m sorry, its not for anyone to condemn the Bahrain government. Read my last paragraph again.

        1. An unneccesary argument that detracts from the point. Comparisons to the Boer War and the Holocaust is flawed in obvious ways. You wouldn’t condone an F1 race in Nazi Germany, but arguing that line is flawed so I shan’t bother with it any more.

          The point here, as the article clearly and repeatedly states, is that the Bahraini government is using F1 as a platform for its politics. That is why this argument matters, and that is why we debate what is right and what is wrong.

          1. There was a Grand Prix in Nazi Germany in 1939, and it was part of the European Championship (the predecessor to F1).

            Video and Race Report:

            Grand Prix racing was highly political at that time. The German government funded Mercedes and Auto Union (the silver arrows) to become a symbol of German engineering superiority. The dominance and reputation of Mercedes (and Audi as part of Auto Union) is built on that political support of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Using racing for politics is nothing new, in fact you could argue that it is part of it.

            The world is made up of a broad range of people with different moralities. I believe it is for each individual to decide upon their own morality and to take a stance befitting of it. Grand Prix racing as a whole has always been fairly indifferent to the motives of its participants though, and if you are going to participate in a World Championship then perhaps you need to accept that the world is made up of elements that you may not like and that they may use racing to put across their ideas. You, of course, are free to do likewise and use the race to put across your ideas too.

            If you don’t then boycotting the race is a more powerful statement when you take a consequence from that action. The Bahrainis have a contract, they have a right to hold a Grand Prix; they are part of the World. The question is, what moral position do the individuals going to the race have, and do they feel strongly enough to boycott it when the consequence is potential loss of points or revenue?

        2. @brolloks

          The British seem to simply ignore the fact that they starved thousands upon thousands of Afrikaner women and children to death in concentration camps during the Boer War.

          Speak for yourself. I’m a British history graduate and I’m well aware of my country’s past.

          its not for anyone to condemn the Bahrain government

          Yes it is – I have my view, I believe it is informed and reasonable and not you nor anyone can deny me my right to express it. Of course that would not be the case if I lived in Bahrain.

          1. Thanks for that answer @keithcollantine.

            @brolloks, I didn’t say you attacked this post, but bringing up points that Keith already countered, without an explanation of why that’s not sufficient answer doesn’t seem like, discussion or interaction, just a repeat of moves, which made me wonder what the point of your post was.

            I think we all regularly decide what we find good, bad, or wrong. Of course, that doesn’t mean we have the right of it. In the case of the Holocaust, well, few who know the facts consider that the common opinion on that is wrong and the Nazi’s were in the right.

            The UK fighting that war on the side that history tells us had more reason to feel they were in the right doesn’t say anything about how right or wrong they were in other wars, like for example the Falklands (to mention a relatively recent event where opinion is seemingly divided between Argentina and UK supporting governments).

            Despite the Netherlands (I’m Dutch) also featuring in the Boers war, our history lessons didn’t treat it with sufficient attention for me to know if we or the British, or no one, was “the good guys”. I recently read that in the 30ties Germany also practised with concentration camps in what’s now Botswana (if I am not mistaken), it seems that in the late 19th and earlier 20the century people were starting to explore this as a way of getting rid of enemies. It is a good thing that after WWII we as a world decided such things are war crimes, and established basic human rights to fight such things happening again.

            Further about the WWII, and the period just after it. To this day, lack of information in Dutch history lessons exists for the Dutch “police” actions in Indonesia. It seems quite clear that Dutch soldiers committed very bad acts in the name of keeping our colony. Wider post-war geopolitics meant we certainly didn’t have broad support for that, and Indonesia gained independence. It is hard for people that were involved (and still living today) to accept that we as a country were wrong there, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t.

            So, to sum up this long, and quite of topic post, of course we can judge, sometimes with clear facts to base it on, sometimes not, and emotions get in the way, and all of that might change the validity and relevance of a persons judgement.

            But we do have, for good reasons, a set of guidelines to what is acceptable behaviour by governments. Depending on a lot of things, such acts might be done, and gotten away with. That doesn’t change that they were wrong, or that others should get away with them too.

          2. @bosyber Please never ever again refer to the Dutch and the Afrikaners as “we”. The Netherlands were NOT part of the Boer War, which was a war of independence and freedom fought between the two sovereign Afrikaner republics of the Transvaal and Free State against the British Empire. Adventure seekers from Europe came to South Africa as volunteers from all over – France, Germany, Ireland, America, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Afrikaners are, and never have been, Dutchman. We have our own distinct language. Even when Dutch was the official language a century or so ago, it was as foreign to most as English. Perhaps even more so. But I think we are straying far from the topic now.

          3. @brolloks, I’m sorry if I hit a nerve, I didn’t intend to.

            I think though that your greater knowledge of the Boer wars confused your reading of my answer. I didn’t talk of the Afrikaners and Dutch as “we”. As I said, I recalled that there was “a” role in NL concerning the Boer war, but as I said, had no definite knowledge of what role there was. Having read a bit more now, I agree, there were what looks like adventure seekers from a lot of European countries involving themselves, including quite a few Dutch.

            Still, especially in the 2nd war, the Dutch population was supportive of the Boer effort, though the government was reluctant to do anything as trade with the British was important. Apparently queen Whilhelmina did try, in 1899 to help via Diplomatic efforts, but wasn’t able to get much traction. Not much help, I suppose. So, I was right that here people made a fuss about it (and hence we have quite a few streets, and some statues, in our cities that refer to Boer heroes), but clearly we Dutch had little influence on the outcome.

            You clearly do have a view on these wars. I am not disputing your view, just saying that in this case, I don’t know enough to make up my own mind, so I’ll have to defer to yours in this case.

            About Bahrain I also don’t have all the facts, but from all the information I do see, it is clearly not all right, and thus a race that is “UniF1ng” is way too early.

        3. I think the difference between the South-African issues and the Bahrain-surpression is what happens if you think about the GP’s. ‘British GP’ doesn’t lead to ”South-Africa’ because people haven’t taken the British GP as a platform to protest against the things the UK has done in the past. This isn’t the case for the Bahrain GP, where there clearly is a political connection betweem the race and the issues in the country.

          1. Good point. While F1 is an elitist sport it’s still a people’s sport in the likes of Europe, and in the case of the GB race it’s organised by former racing drivers for the most part. It is not owned nor even endorsed by the government. The Bahrain GP is a jewel in the crown of the monarchy.

        4. @cornflakes It’s not clear why you view my comparisons as “inherently flawed”. I used them as analogy. Your idea that arguing about holding a GP in Nazi Germany is inherently flawed yet again refers to the point I am arguing. Why shan’t we debate the holding of a GP in Nazi Germany? You seem to be of the opinion that arguing about he pro’s of Nazism is absolutely out of the question. That is exactly what I am talking about! Why should it be? You are a liberal Englishman or whatever, I have my beliefs. Why are you allowed to declare yours but someone else is not?

          @keithcollantine As I said, I am not arguing against you or your article. If I did not love F1 or your site, I would not be here. “Incidentally”, I majored in Political Science. We all have our views, I agree with you on that, as you said – it “would not be the case if I lived in Bahrain”. Let’s debate on it. Even, as a Boer, I have a mild obsession with British rock music and comedy. It’s just the idea that certain ideas or opinions are not allowed to be declared, but others are, that I don’t understand.

          1. @Brolloks I specifically said my analogy of Nazi-Germany was used in reference to the point you were arguing, and is indeed flawed – which is my point!

            Why are you allowed to declare yours but someone else is not?

            Not what I said. Why are you allowed to declare your beliefs without debate? (A healthy debate, by the way. I respect your argument just as I hope you respect mine) :)

          2. Why shan’t we debate the holding of a GP in Nazi Germany?

            Perhaps because it doesn’t exist?

          3. @Brolloks Well said

            How about Western colonialism, till now most of them still not really offer lasting solutions.

        5. @Brolloks +10 Fully agree with you.

          1. @geemac How on earth can you compare the death camps in the Boer War to the notion of “Apartheid”. Children were starved to death in camps during the former, because the professional British army were being beaten by the rugged, God fearing fathers of those children on the battlefield.

            Apartheid is nothing more than a simple boo-word. It is simply a notion of segregation. Beautiful explanation here. The only difference is it got “a name”. Whites and blacks did not integrate (and were not allowed to) because it would inevitably lead to the collapse of white, Christian civilization – as is busy happening now. In the same way, the blacks (and they are not a homogeneous group) were allowed to protect their own culture and customs. Hell, we even went as far as giving them their own countries, but to the world it wasn’t enough.

            You cannot compare starving a child because you cannot measure up to his people, to not letting him play in another boy’s park, or to not let him go to the other boy’s school.

        6. The British do not ignore it. I have not read any history of the Boer War, written by hostorians of any nationality ,including British, that does not include an account of the concentration camps. I have not read anyhting that even mentions the idea that the British were “in the right” re the camps (other than your statement in your comment above). No one is trying to hide the history of the Boer War from anyone.

          1. Exactamundo, no one in the UK ever denies it. Having grown up in SA I’m sick of people who go on about the brutality of the Boer War concentration camps, which happened nearly a century ago, as these are often the same people (and I am by no means saying that the poster in question is one of these people) who tear into the ANC government for daring to mention “legacies of apartheid” by saying “that was over more than 20 years ago, get over it already”.

            Off topic rant over.

    2. +1,especially with the US’s poor human rights record. Why only slam the Arab countries or China?? Are the developed nations of Europe or the US itself any better???

    3. Just to level-set here.
      The US has THE HIGHEST quantity and proportion of people in prison – citation

      The police department in my city has guidelines ON THE BOOKS to perform warrentless invasions of privacy – citation

      Police Brutality is commonplace against political protestors – citation

      The only difference between Bahrain, and the US is better PR.
      Yet, the US is soon to have 2 F1 events on the calender. Where is the outrage for this?
      If one truly has “moral objections” to these things GO THERE AND DO SOMETHING. Boycotting a race is nothing but “armchair morality” something that makes you feel good untill you find another distraction. Either that, or a stunt of your own to avoid distain from peers.

      Put up or shut up, because these half measures and “do nothing objections” indeed, do nothing for those fighting for their rights over their.

      1. +1…
        The atrocities committed by developed countries are too often ignored. If we are going to object to Bahrain for a societal issue, then perhaps we should also object to the US and British races for the devastation they have dealt in there promotion of western ideology. Perhaps we should turn our sport into a political machine and or a moral barometer to determine where it should and should not go.

      2. @javlinsharp Full of bs. You must be one of the most ignorant kull people posting here. Which based on this thread, makes you one kull sob.

      3. @javlinsharp @enko Nonsense!

        1)Even if true-have all those people in jails been given fair trial in front of the jury? Are the judges independent from the decision makers? Because that’s not the case in Bahrain.

        2) Some infiltration of privacy is necessary to prevent much bigger crimes such as terror acts. It’s a pity that it took the 9/11 events to understand that.

        3) Such great citations you bring from totally impartial sources. Are you an anarchist, by the way, or just on the extreme left?

        To make comparisons of a democratic country like USA and autocratic oppressive regime like Bahrain, is misinformed at best and deliberately misleading at worst. To anarchists of course, they are all and the same. And to communists as well. Which brings me to the term “developed countries”. It’s incorrect in this aspect, and the term “democratic” should be used instead. Because despite the fact that democratic regimes can commit crimes too at least there are elements within, in whose power it is to hold those responsible accountable

        1. @kimithechamp @montreal95

          You completely miss the point – which was, for your benefit, that there are plenty of nations that do waaay worst stuff to their people than Bahrain, yet nobody complains about them, and I was commenting no the hypocracy.

          I will not argue with you because 1) you have completely misunderstood my statements, 2) My statements and their supporting citations represent my own opinion and I do not expect you to share it. I do support with published facts, but I cannot force you to accept these. As an American Citizen and NYC resident I say with clear conscience, it is indeed a fact that the US and State governments put more citizens to death than ANY other western nation, only topped by China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen, and followed by Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria. That’s a good place to be, isnt it. It is a fact that the US holds more prisoners than any other nation as well.
          It is also a fact that there is no outrage on 2 GPs in the US.

          If people in Bahrain are murdered, this is truely sad. It is also true that boycotting the viewing of that GP will do nothing to stop it.

          All that said, I will indeed watch the race, and I will do so in good conscience. I choose to apply my meager “world changing energies” to the things I CAN change, my local and regional communities.

          Mine is simply a commentary on the hypocracy of those who jump on the “cause d`jour” with little understanding of history and context. If some feel so strongly, Good, go out there and do something. If not, quit polluting the airwaves with bluster and hypocracy; but, this is the internet, we can say what we want.

          By the way montreal95, “he who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither” – Benjamin Franklin

          @kimithechamp – If you think the 15 years of Iraq and Afganistan have killed only small numbers civilians, you need to crawl out from under your rock.

    4. Uh, didn’t know we were slaughtering “hundreds of thousands of civilians” in the middle east… Where on earth do you pull some ignorant nonsense like that from?

      1. Try here for a start..

    5. My experience tells me that everything in a an autocratic regime is fake. Even minorities are not necessarily minorities and same is applied to majorities. I don’t know if you ever lived under an autocratic regime but nothing what you see is close to reality and for an ordinary citizen who use his/her brain it’s very frustrating.

  6. There’ll be some detractors, Keith, but once again, a professionally written article on a very sensitive on-going subject.

  7. Keith

    Congratulations! I really believe that the media opening space to discuss what really is happening is much more effective and useful to the cause than ignoring the event. Let us see how much of the mainstream media goes this way too.

  8. @keithcollantine – I’m disappointed:

    Some have claimed that as long as F1 races in other countries with poor human rights records, such as China, then it must also race in Bahrain. This argument is flawed in several ways. Taking a broad view, it is a mandate for F1 to go racing in – and lend credibility to – any regime, no matter how oppressive. Make way for the Iranian Grand Prix, or perhaps a race through the streets of Pyongyang.

    I’ve probably been the most vocal about the Bahrain-China comparisons ever since the question over the 2011 race was floated. And I cannot believe that you have so fundamentally misinterpreted the basic argument.

    I – and probably most of the people who have been making these comparisons – have not been arguing that if the race in China goes ahead, then the race in Bahrain must be held as well. We never have.

    No, the argument is this: if anyone in Formula 1 chooses to make a political or moral statment about the way the Bahraini government runs its country, then it will lead toa slippery slope that could crticailly damage the image of the sport.

    Say that everyone in the sport got together and said “We condemn the violence, and we refuse to race until it stops and the government introduces reform”. It will be what the fans want, what the activists want, what the media wants, and most of all, what the protesters want.

    And when it comes time for next year’s Chinese Grand Prix, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be some activist, somewhere that says “Tibetian monks are setting themselves on fire in protest against Beijing’s policies – are you going to boycott China the way you did Bahrain?”

    As you point out, China and Bahrain are not the same. But will this matter to the activists in China? Will a detailed explanation of why this is so stop them from calling for the race to be cancelled?

    No. Not even a little bit.

    So, when Formula 1 boycotts Bahrain, is asked to do the same to China, and then refuses, what will the reaction from the activists in China be? Simple: “you refused to race in Bahrain because of human rights violations, but now you’re going ahead with the race in China despite those violations”. The entire paddock will be branded hypocrites. And it probably won’t be limited to China, either – anyone with a pet cause in a country with a race that is supported by the government will jump on the bandwagon.

    And this brings us to the punchline, so to speak: the China-Bahrain comparison is not calling for the race to go ahead in Bahrain because the race in China goes ahead. It’s to point out that making political or moral statements about the country could be very dangerous. It’s not Formula 1’s place to do that – that’s for the diplomatic community to decide.

    Which brings me to my conclusion:

    The first, last and only reason why the Bahrain Grand Prix should be cancelled is because of concerns over the safety of teams, drivers, the media and/or spectators while in the country.

    (Although if things are at the point where protesters are hulring molotov cocktails at police, setting off home-made bombs in the capital and so on, the country is well past the point of “not safe for racing anymore”.)

    I’m surprised you didn’t get that this was the basis of the entire argument, Keith.

    1. @prisoner-monkeys

      if anyone in Formula 1 chooses to make a political or moral statment about the way the Bahraini government runs its country

      Which they already have done, as explained in the article.

      1. @keithcollantine – Last year’s race was cancelled at the request of the Bahraini motorsport foundation. The FIA followed a similar course of action, insisting that the race would go ahead until the request came though.

        You don’t think it’s possible that they are doing the same thing here, waiting for Bahrain to admit that the race cannot go ahead? If the request to cancel comes from the Bahraini authorities, it prevents the FIA from having to take a political stance on the matter. And if the race is cancelled by the authorities, they’re going to have a much harder time justifying blaming the protesters for the loss of the race than if the FIA pulled the plug themselves.

        1. @prisoner-monkeys I’ve never directly asked you this; don’t you think the FIA have already made a political statement?

          1. @damonsmedley – I won’t know the answer to that until 9pm on Sunday night (2pm local time) when the race starts. If the race starts.

            As I said in today’s round-up, the FIA’s stance can be explained by the FIA wanting the race to go ahead irrespective of the cost, which somehow requires them to bully the teams into racing, even though the teams could reasonably refuse to race without consequence because the FIA needs them more than they need the FIA. But it can also be explained by the FIA wanting the Bahraini authorities to admit that their country is in no condition to go ahead and requesting that the race be cancelled, a scenario that would require the teams to public present themselves as being in support of the race for the time being.

          2. @Prisoner-Monkeys Where are you getting this from?

            The teams normally arrive on Monday at a track for back-to-back races. They arrived on Wednesday evening to this one after staying in Dubai for the first half of the week… Does that really look like the teams are trying to show support?

            The simple answer is they’re not. There are people who are genuinely concerned for the wellbeing and then there’s the fact that the majority of the paddock is their against their beliefs. It’s a horrible situation for all involved because they’re effectively spending a weekend supporting the Al Khalifas in their quest to squash any opposition.

            And then there’s their families. How would you feel about someone you love being flown into that mess? Even if they were in no danger, I’d hate to think someone I love is being put in a position where everything they believe in is being betrayed because they simply have no choice. It’s unethical and immoral. I feel so sorry for all involved.

            And don’t forget that I’m not talking specifically about team principals (the only ones we’ve heard anything from) as they only account for about 1% of the paddock. There’s the mechanics, logistical crew, catering staff, press officers and the FOM team. Most of these people can’t argue with a team principal’s decision, but I know they are aware of the fact it’s not their principal’s decision at all.

          3. A few typos in there. Ignore!

          4. Does that really look like the teams are trying to show support?

            It looks like they are waiting until the last possible minute to enter the country. It does not, however, prove that they do not want to be there. They knew that there would be a new wave of protests starting on Monday. Given the way the protests have escalated recently to include molotov cocktails and home-made bombs, they were evidently waiting to see if something might happen that would irreversably change the situation.

          5. You’d be crazy to WANT to be in Bahrain right now and you’d be crazy to argue that anyone else does.

          6. @Prisoner-Monkeys

            It does not, however, prove that they do not want to be there.

            What more proof do you want? Why would they sacrifice valuable time they could be spending preparing for the weekend if they weren’t seriously concerned?

          7. @Prisoner monkeys:

            I won’t know the answer to that until 9pm on Sunday night (2pm local time) when the race starts. If the race starts.

            You see a statement is one moment, a pictureshot. It isn’t; a statement is continious through time (and can change). Right now the statement is: we heard the local authorities and we concluded basicilly nothing is wrong over there (while they very well know that these are the same authorities who surpress the people over there). If the FIA does back out the last moment, it’ll probably be b/c someone involved in the F1 gets killed. Then it will be a different statement, one of safety (and damage control). However, the previous statement can’t be erased that easily. Make no mistake: the FIA is not backing out simply and only b/c then they have to pay the money back. We all know that, and nobody on this site should be denying that.

            Also: the F1 is big organisation and has the responsibility, like every public figure or organisation, to give the right example. How far they should go to give that right example is up for debate. However, when a country is having such a high civil unrest and when it basicilly gets the payment from the authorities who are surpressing the people there, we can safely assume that the F should and must take its responsibility and withdraw. And there comes the comparisation with China: The F1 can effectively act like its nose bleeds, b/c although there is a high surpressing of the people there, civil unrest is kept to a bare minimum. Most chinese, and there is a huge diversity of chinese citizens!, there are actually comfortable with their government.

      2. If the first article in the FIA’s stature states that F1 cannot be used politically, then sanctons are in order, like when Turkey allowed a Turkish Cypriot dignitary to hand out prizes on ther podium – a slightly dubious sacnction id add, as I dont remember any overt politcal message being broadcast, simply that he is from Turkish Cyprus (which I know is contentious and political).

        So seeing as, in your words:

        “UniF1ed – one nation in celebration” – makes a mockery of the FIA’s claim of political neutrality. The race is being promoted as a salve for the social divisions that were exposed in the country last year.

        In local reports in the country F1 drivers are being used – most likely without their blessing – to endorse the race’s political message.

        A more serious sanction is in order? LIke the cancellation of the Grand Prix forthwith?
        This would satisfy the FIA’s dillema – here showing no political bias and punishing behaviour that politicises the GP, and therefore ommiting any inferred opnion on the political and human rights situation in Bahrain.

        1. Precisely. In fact, I asked one of the F1 journalists about this. The (strictly unofficial) FIA response was that there wasn’t enough time, which implies that either there is a political agenda going on or that it takes a long time to cancel a race (noting the FIA got asked at the start of the China weekend).

    2. Way to ignore the point about China that nobody in China cares about the race, whereas those in Bahrain care very much- for most of the world it is Bahrain’s only export, so is being supported by the government for political reasons and directly protested over.

      1. I’ll also add, this is the reason why the Olympics was controversial- the Chinese government was very using that event, which disturbed people. You managed to miss the one distinction in the article about why the China argument was most flawed, I assume intentionally.

        1. No, I find Keith’s argument weak in this instance. Keith’s argument that china is not a good analogy to me is not logical. Tbh is is fallacious.

      2. @matt90

        Way to ignore the point about China that nobody in China cares about the race

        … You were watching the Chinese Grand Prix, right? Because when the race results and championship standings were displayed on-screen, there was a clear shot of two absolutely packed grandstands. Just look a some of the photos from race day.

        1. Again, you miss the point. Nobody cares from a political viewpoint. Pretty bloody obvious what I meant, given context.

          1. Sorry, that should say ‘given the context.’ The existing context in my original reply. The screamingly obvious one.

          2. He didn’t so much miss it, as see it, turn away and run blindly into the arms of an unrelated argument.

        2. That’s besides the point, don’t you think? Shanghai is a massive city. If there wasn’t a big crowd, something would be wrong. And just because people like it, doesn’t mean the government do as well. But Keith’s covered it thoroughly already so anything I’d say would be merely echoing his opinion.

        3. That wasn’t in reply to you, @Matt90, don’t worry! :-P

          1. @damonsmedley Haha, that’s okay, I realised that. Although I agree- shouldn’t have said anything myself as Keith has already said it perfectly well already. All I’ve done is opened myself up to an onslaught where my phrasing is picked apart lol.

    3. @prisoner-monkeys So an event supporting an oppressive regime isn’t political? “UniF1ed” is not political? The money won’t go to the Al Khalifa family? They won’t use it as a propaganda tool?

      The fact is, that this race is as political as it gets. If FIA wanted to remain neutral, they should have canceled it. But it’s clear they don’t want to be neutral and they have no problem whatsoever with “manifesting political discrimination”.

      1. The money won’t go to the Al Khalifa family?

        No. I’m bemused that you think this is the case, because the money is paid by the al-Khalifas, not to them.

        1. @prisoner-monkeys The race generates hundreds of millions of dollars in an economy which is controlled and run by the Al Khalifas, who stand to gain by far the most from the race’s return this year.

          1. @keithcollantine How much will you make this weekend from advertising on the website? Postering with posts like this and cancelling competitions is easy, it becomes harder when it hits the bottom line.

          2. For obvious reasons I don’t publicise details of site earnings but at present it looks like this weekend will be much like any other from that point of view.

            People say things like “I’m not going to read your site because of your opinion on such-and-such” or “you’re only saying such-and-such to get more traffic” but as far as this weekend goes it seems to have made no difference.

            Some have suggested making a donation to an appropriate cause – that is something I’m considering and I’m open to suggestions.

    4. So you don’t think “It’s all perfect in Bahrain” (B Ecclestone), or indeed “UniF1ed One Nation in Celebration” are political statements, then ?

      “You don’t think it’s possible that they are doing the same thing here, waiting for Bahrain to admit that the race cannot go ahead?”

      It’s just about possible, but given Ecclestone’s recent public statements and obvious irritation at reasonable questions from journalists on the matter, I think it highly unlikely.

      1. obvious irritation at reasonable questions from journalists on the matter

        I did find that quite interesting – I considered mentioning it in the article but it didn’t seem appropriate.

        Still, Ecclestone tends to give very short answers to question, or answers that bear little relation to his actions. But to be calling journalists “stupid” and swearing at them, as he apparently was last weekend, does suggest he’s feeling the pressure a bit.

        1. He should be too.

    5. So you would support the S.A. GP even though it was used as a sign of ligitimacy of apartheid? Sir Don Bradman and others would have disagreed… You would support the Bahrain GP if all potential dissenters were imprisoned / executed before anyone shows up , no security risk then.

      1. The choice to sanction SA was taken at a state/governmental level. Big big difference. Sporting events were not allowed to proceed.

    6. “Some have claimed that as long as F1 races in other countries with poor human rights records, such as China, then it must also race in Bahrain.”

      Thats not the argument. the argument is that we shouldn’t be in either country. So if people are calling for the cancellation of Bahrain, but not China, they are inconsistent. Thats all.

      Thousands of people die in Chinese mines where they work as slaves. Thast just one example. Just because there are no major uprisings in china doesn’t mean everything is just fine. Same could be said about Turkey. Turks have been slaughtering Kurds for decades using US weapons. (peaked during the time of the kosovo bombing and wasnt reported much). But when Turkey got their race i hadnt seen any outrage in the media – social or mainstream.

      its good that people are taking a stand against the Bahraini government. Its a shame that this doesn’t happen in other cases, which are by no means less despicable.

      Bahrain is the main port for the US Fifth fleet. A democratic government might force them out, so naturaly they dont want that. Its in the US interest for the Al Khalifa family to stay in power. So dont expect much change in that respect.

      1. I am struggling with this whole issue and feel somewhat unarmed as some make very valid points, while some seem biased, while at the same time I don’t know if all the info is accurate eg. someone who lives in Bahrain saying on this site a handful of weeks ago that it is not nearly as bad as it is being made out to be in the media, and most in Bahrain are just trying to live their lives peacefully and are happy. So I must plead ignorance as to the ‘right’ answer.

        So my questions/points are…

        The Bahrain GP has been going on since 2004. As far as I know the same monarchy or the ‘cruel regime’ as it is now being described, existed. Where was the protests globally and by F1 fans back then? The disgust at BE? Is the difference now only that last year Arab Spring woke people up, and only now it is an issue? I understand it is also about the violence toward peaceful protestors, and at the same time I can’t sort out who threw the first rock and made it violent? If it was the protestors, then I can’t support that. If the cruel regime was allowing peaceful protests until the protestors brought violence into the equation, then I’m not saying the government was right to fight fire with fire…just saying it needed to be kept civil and done through talks, as violence doesn’t solve anything. I don’t support the trashing of cities that hold G8 summits either.

        So where was the outcry in 04 and the years between up until last year?

        Is anybody really surprised that this might be about money for BE? Hasn’t it always been? Isn’t that often the case with business entities? Are they not doing what they do to make money, to a large extent? Is that not how BE has become a billionaire, yet we have supported him in bringing us the F1 we love all this time. We have even heard BE say things like dictatorship works in the sense that when one person can state how it is going to be, then that is a lot faster and more effective in getting things done than holding democratic votes for everything and having everyone’s varying opinions heard which means much does not get done as the one in charge would normally have liked. Not saying I support that…just saying should anyone be surprised at BE’s stance?

        Does the regime in Bahrain force people to stay in the country? Were they doing so in 04 or before that? That is, if it is a cruel regime and the people are in misery, why do they stay? I know they are fighting now for their rights, but I don’t have a clear picture of how they were being oppressed before Arab spring? What was life like for them in years previous to last year, including before and after 04 when F1 started there?

        Is F1 going to race in Bahrain endorsing the monarchy? Or can it not also be a statement to the world that F1 is not afraid of the cruel regime, and is going to go there to support anyone interested in F1 and to show what an entity can become in the free world, and to draw attention to the issues there? After all, F1 was there between 04 and 2010.

        I’m still confused as to why China is ok…just because it is of much less significance to them? How so? Boycotting that race would cost the Chinese Government no less than it would cost the family in charge of Bahrain in my view. Sounds like the royal family doesn’t need the money, and since they are a dictatorship the people weren’t going to see any money from the race anyway I presume?…nor would the Chinese people…just the government. But I get the impression Bahrainians are far better off in their daily lives financially and with the comforts in life than many many Chinese people are. Isn’t the issue about F1 in China about the principle of it? Not just it’s level of significance to the country?

        I’m uncomfortable being told that if I don’t stand with the protestors then I stand with those who seek to gain monetarily on the backs of their misery. What if I stand somewhere in the middle and feel that there’s room for compromise? It reminds me of the resentment I felt when Bush said (albeit to the American public, and I’m Canadian, and I paraphrase) you are either with the terrorists or you are with me. I of course would never support terrorism, but nor did I support Bush. Nor do I support any violence as a means to an end.

        I’m absolutely open to being schooled on any of these points by any of you. I think I’m leaning toward PM’s ultimate stance which is that the only reason to not go to Bahrain is if anyone in F1 and the race’s spectators are in danger of physical harm now that protests and the backlash from the regime for said protests are a reality whereas up until last year there seemed to be no harm, globally, politically, no backlash toward BE, from F1 being in Bahrain under the same regime that exists today.

      2. To that one I would say: one has to pick its fights and start somewhere.

        So when there is a very clear and acute case of a government doing everything in its power to both quash opposition asking for change while at the same time doing a lot of PR with the race to show all is well, why not start there?

        If One wants the world to improve, its only reasonable to expect it will take a long time and go in small steps. So if we start with at least not actively supporting the opposite of that, we can then take further steps towards that goal.

        I am not saying that this is what everyone has to do, by the way. Just that it seems like a very reasonable approach to me.

    7. I’ve probably been the most vocal about the Bahrain-China comparisons

      A bit inaccurate, you mean you’ve been the most vocal (here anyhow) about making the Bahrain-China comparison the funnel through which any discussion over the ethics or politics of the Bahrain GP should be discussed.

      I think it goes a bit like this. You can pick human rights issues with almost any country on the planet, including where I live (Brazil), the UK (where I was born and raised), Norway (over whaling, say), and certainly China and the US. But there’s a vital difference between protestors wanting to stop a GP taking place at Silverstone over some issue and wanting it stopped in Bahrain. In the UK, government policy can be changed through the democratic process. But not in Bahrain. If the protestors choose the GP as a target for pressing for democratic reform, then I support them in opposing the race there. Who am I to judge by what (non-violent) means they can and should press for democratic reforms? I support democratic freedoms and freedom from government oppression and torture above any mere sporting event. The same would apply to China or, say, Brazil in the past during the dictatorship, if pro-democracy groups had called for the GP to be boycotted (I don’t know if this happened). And of course the same applied to South Africa under apartheid. So your China comparison is not invalid, it’s simply too simplistic. As most red herrings are.

    8. Seriously. Its not about china.

      It is about the fact that nobody has questioned the methods of the protesters. You will find authorities use progressively stronger force directly proportional in response.

      I suggest that the protesters in Bahrain are a bunch of aggressive fools who have not received any significant international support (please don’t mention norway, they would support the launch of a radical new toilet seat).

      If the protesters were reasonable and squeaky clean protesting peacefully they would have had all sorts of support. The protesters are bot the reasonable peaceful means sort therefore are receiving no support and the swift proportional response from the authorities.

      Change needs to be brought about by the majority peacefully.

  9. People always mention China and the US in defense of going to Bahrain, but I don’t really think it is the same. Bernie won’t be out on the grid holding Rumsfeld’s bloody hands or the Chinese equivalent. In Bahrain he will.

    1. You didn’t read my post explaining the China-Bahrain argument at all, did you?

      1. Would the answer to that effect the attention you paid to his post?

      2. Wasn’t at you. I guess I just don’t like seeing tyrants in dresses on the F1 grid mixing with rock stars, drivers and Bernie. I also don’t like that poster for Bahrain. UniF1ed. Todt says it’s a non-political sport, but obviously it is for the ruling family. F1 becomes a political tool in Bahrain. Not so in China or the US.

  10. Nice work Keith.

    One hopes that should the Bahraini people depose their rulers and establish a democratic government they will extend the same ideals of human rights, fair working conditions and dignity to the millions of guest workers from the sub-continent and SE Asia in Bahrains households and workplaces.

  11. Fantastic article. It’s difficult to know, as an average fan, what you can do. I know I can promise not to watch (relatively easy considering the awfulness of the track) but how will anybody know, or care?

    1. If enough people do it then it will show in the viewing figures & may make the sport & sponsors think more carefully next time. Admittedly it’s a long shot.

      I feel strongly that the race should not go ahead, and think that Keith has nailed the arguments against it completely.

      Given my views, I think to watch it – and so to support it indirectly – would be completely hypocritical. I won’t be. It will be the first race in my life that I can remember missing through choice – 30+ years of viewing starting with Dad as young kid.

      I’ve watched every session live since the practice sessions started being shown live, no matter the time of night. I plan my (self employed) work schedule around the Friday sessions. My holidays are fitted in the gaps in the season…

      I may be an obsessive fan, but I’m not a hypocrite. #BoycottBahrainGP

  12. I generally believe the FIA doesn’t want any political involvement in this, but it looks to me as if they have no choice. Formula 1 will be used as a platform for Bahrainis to express their oppinions, wether they are the oppressing leaders of the country with the message ‘we are one country’, or wether they are the protesters saying ‘this regime doesn’t make any sense to us’.

    Based on this my only conclusion can be that the race should have been cancelled for political undertones. I’m appalled and sickened by the FIA’s decision. True Formula 1 races should be entertaining, you take a break from everyday life to watch an F1-race.

    I’m going to watch the race, hoping the race itself will be the point of interest for the media.

    1. I almost forgot, superb article Keith.

    2. Good grief! The grammar is just shocking! :P

  13. Strange comparison between Bahrain and China – in China the moral questions of human rights can be ignored as “noone cares about the race” as opposed to Bahrain.

    So if someone steals a car from a person who already has 15 cars, he should be left free, as, most probably, he “wont care about the one car stolen as he has 15 left”.

    Besides i quit dont like this “either you are a freedom fighter or money loving moron” attidue – i think everyone know that F1 is about money.

    1. So if someone steals a car from a person who already has 15 cars, he should be left free, as, most probably, he “wont care about the one car stolen as he has 15 left”.

      Read the frigging article –

      The same is not true in Bahrain. The ruling royal family who own the circuit are the same people who stand to profit from the race happening and who have crushed demands for reform over the past 14 months

      i think everyone know that F1 is about money.

      Give me one global sport that isn’t financially driven.

      1. So in China the money is spent on unicorns?

        Besides why involve the money earner if the fuss is about “human rights” – if some other Bahraini guys (not the ruling family, but, lets say, Organization of Retired Bahraini Clowns) get the money for F1 race there won’t be such outcry?

        1. Probably not, because the government might not care about the race, and might not be pushing their own political stance on it.

          1. Well in such case it would be good to be more detailed in opinion – of course it sounds nice to fight for human rights, but right now, as i understand, it is a combination of who rules the country (with human right problems – just like 1 other race country) and who get’s the money for holding the race (guess Bahrain has the uniquality card here).

      2. “Give me one global sport that isn’t financially driven”.

        Do you realy want to see ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the sake of exploring and breaking their limits? A global event which is not driven by money, politics or any other obscure interests? Spare some time after London 2012 and watch some of the Paralympic games. It gives me some hope for the humankind.

        1. @claudioff Oh I don’t doubt that almost every athlete competing in sport, whether it is the Paralympics or F1, do so because of their passion for ‘exploring and breaking their limits’. The unfortunate truth is that they have the platform to do that because of commercially driven sports. The Olympics is bid for by countries for the advertisment, tourism and regeneration of the country. Yes, sporting excellence is also a factor. But, although I sound really cynical, nothing is done solely for sport in a capatilist world – sorry to be cynical.

          Anyway it’s easy to detract from the point of the article.

  14. An eloquently written article, one of the best I have read on this site. Commenting on political matters on a purely sporting website is a difficult and sensitive subject, yet you approached this excellently. I hope other media sources read, cite, and distribute your article.

    1. PS The first article of the FIA statutes needs a hefty revision!

      1. Left to the FIA it would include a concluding caveat to the effect “all the above are subject to how much money is paid for exemption…”

  15. Great article, sumps up pretty much everything about this whole mess.

  16. Good article Keith.
    I really see the idea of the F1 circus in Bahrain as a totally unneccessary security risk and it’s patently obvious that they have no business there in the current climate. The FIA should be leading by example and using the fact that the violent crackdown of protests there has become such an international issue to their advantage by doing the right thing: staying out.

    However, as so often is the case, there’s a lot of money at stake. For example, as many of you probably know already, a major Bahreini holdin company, Mumtalakat, has a significant stake ( I think over 30%) in the Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes team and of course Keith has already commented extensively on where the priorities lie for Ecclestone and the rights olders. Contracts of the powerful must be honoured and so voila, there they are in Bahrain.

    This is about money, pure and simple. It’s painfully obvious they shouldn’t be there but it’s the money doing the talking. I also don’t look upon this fiasco as a “moral issue” see it as more of a moral “dilemma” or a case of what one could call “distorted morality”. By that I mean that people often tend to stand up in favour of human rights based too often on an incomplete picture, or when it suits their agenda. So when there are obvious breaches of human rights taken place (ususally perpetrated by states on the otherside of the world) we are quick to invoke morality, human rights, boycotts etc. I don’t go along with that simply because many other countries wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny if you examined their record in detail (or even if you took 2mins on google to find out where the weapons are coming from). And in fact, this Bahrain debate is the perfect example for British readers of this blog. Would you be willing to boycott the British grand prix if you knew that much of the brutality and violence inflicted upon the Bahraini protesters are being supplied by British arms firms? (courtesy of Prince Andrew, and, of course, the taxpayer no doubt).

    That’s a serious question one has to ask and again reflects the extent to which our “moral conscience” is often defined by the mainstream media’s careful selection of issues, framing of questions and bounding of the debate.

  17. A very well-written opinion. I fully respect and understand the opinions against the race.

    I have a different view because of several reasons. First, yes it is right that F1 does make a political statement by going to Bahrain even if it doesn’t want to do so. It more or less helps the current regime. However, not racing in Bahrain because of the ongoing human rights violations would be a political statement, too. It would help the opposition. While at the moment it seems the right thing to do, it is impossible to predict the possible consequences. What if, as a result, a revolution happened and radical islamists came to power? I don’t think this is a totally unreal scenario. Fight for democracy and human rights often isn’t just that, particularly in Arab countries.

    The problem is that governments and probably also people in countries like Bahrain, China, UAE, India etc. have different values and different understanding of what is right and what is wrong. For example, China still execute a lot of people each year – maybe only dangerous criminals are executed but, in totalitarian regimes, you cannot be sure about that. Tortures in Bahrain have been widely reported already before 2011. Terrible as it may sound, the governments of these states often torture and kill their people because these things in these countries aren’t considered as unacceptable as they are in Western democracies.

    FIA and FOM knew all this when they decided to go to Malaysia, UAE, Singapore, China and Bahrain (because of money) a few years ago and they have never cared about people being tortured, imprisoned and sentenced because of their political views, sexuality or whatever. If they had decided to call Bahrain off just because of pressure from fans, media and human rights activists, then that would be just showing off, without a true intention to change their attitudes.

    1. Girts,
      You read my mind. If you actually step back and think about it from a neutral standpoint… why is it the West always feels the need to inflict its lifestyle on the rest of the world. It is how it is, and I totally value your point on revolution reforms.

      Its ironic, as the east probably looks upon European Human Rights laws as a complete joke regarding the case of ‘Anders Behring Breivik’ (norwegian massacre); He openly admits his crimes and smiles at evidence of the pain and suffering he caused…. and yet he will have a 10 week court trial….. for what, execute him already (or prison).

      Whether you agree with that ruling or not is purely an opinion, but from a neutral point, neither is right or wrong, thats just how it is.

      Unless your a well traveled individual, chances are if you hear the word ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, you’ll automatically associate it with the word ‘terrorist’. This is all down to social conditioning by the media, you only ever seem to hear those words when discussing something to do with terrorism or recent wars.

      1. @dal The importance of a trial is not merely for the end result. It is enshrined as a right to access to justice in every European constitution and the ECHR (Article 6). It is highly important for a society to have a judicial process with no exceptions, it prevents abuses further down the line and helps inform the public as to the operation of the law.

      2. “10 week court trial….. for what, execute him already” ….dal, is that you, Al Khalifa?

        1. I’m a British citizen mate, my background is Indian (Sikh), I have nothing to do with Islam, Im just taking a view from a neutral point without media/western influences. My point about the execution was to illustrate the viewpoint of some eastern cultures, and how western cultures try to make it look compleley wrong despite the fact that in reality, it’s just different. Girts point is spot on.

          1. So killing people in cold blood (execution) isn’t wrong? OK. You have your inbiased view and I have mine, in my morality it is wrong to kill anyone in cold blood. It is interesting that support for capital punishment is usually linked with fundamentally illogical (religious) belifs. Better to use reason and logic, someting I wish Al Khalifa could look into, see that true democratic constitutal monarchy will work better than the current sham democraship, he could be a hero of the middle east, the first despot to learn from the West, instead, he is just a despot.

    2. Rick Collopy
      22nd April 2012, 11:04

      When London was ablaze in social violence against the system and people were being murdered in the streets with people leaping from burning buildings did I see an international call for the cancellation of sporting events in Britain. Why does the West think it has the right to lecture the world. Its own bloody history of extremist violence between Catholic and Protestant and between the people and their rulers only mirrors the current conflict between Christianity and Islam and between Sunni and Shiite ruling classes. Peoples and races and religions will resolve their own differences over time without external judgement and criticism by those who really understand little of what they see through the commercial media.

      1. Because you are making a superficial connection between two entirely different situation. The London riots were not political demonstrations.

  18. I’m going to be calculating Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships without reference to this “non-championship” event. Not watching and very worried that Brundle and Humphreys, not being journalists, will give the Ruling House masses of live airtime. Great synopsis guys

  19. Superb article Keith.

    It’s obvious that for Ecclestone and CVC the flashing dollar signs are far more blinding than the moral outrage of a regime which suppresses dissidents using lethal force. It’s utterly contemptible that F1 is even considering going. For me the situation is without precedent because by holding the race, one which is so important financially to Bahrain’s ruling caste, F1 is effectively funding their cause and allowing their time in power to be perpetuated, increasing the likelihood of further violent crackdowns in the future.

    It’s not as though Jimmy Carter forbidding his athletes to attend the Moscow 1980 Olympics or the controversy surrounding the Beijing games effected any change – for the regimes in place at the time the two events were important but had no real bearing on the country’s problems being resolved. The same goes for apartheid. F1 was merely a blip on South Africa’s political radar and it was only when de Klerk and Mandela negociated constructive changes of policy that things took a turn for the better.

    This time F1 has a real chance to make a difference as Bahrain’s leaders rely heavily on the Grand Prix for income and investment. The sport must take a back seat when more important moral issues are at stake. Thankfully I’m running a marathon when the race is on so won’t be watching!

    1. I suppose one question would be ‘Would you watch it if you weren’t running in London’?

      On a lighter note, whilst you are running, can you smuggle an egg with you and get Bernie in the face?

      1. I’m running in Madrid as it happens but even if I decided to watch it it would only be on stream! And though I’d love to pelt bernie with some form of missile to register my discontent, I doubt it would make much difference. As Keith alluded to in his article, Bernie has a history of selective hearing when it comes to complaints about his sport. Avoiding SA in the 80s was due more to commercial pressures than any moral scruples about supporting horrible regimes.

    2. F1 was more than a blip to a international sport starved SA.

  20. By far the most unbiased article on a really controversial topic. Great stuff

  21. I’m a race fan, and if there’s a race, I’ll watch it – particularly as the last one was so good. I’ve watched Grands Prix in disgust before, thinking “why have they gone all that way just for this hole”, and that feeling will be stronger this time, but it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference if I turned my TV off.

    Almost relieved I can’t see it live though, thanks to Sky. Don’t know real the threat is, but I just hope nothing kicks off this weekend, for the safety of everyone who’s there making the race happen. And I hope the BBC highlights recognise their efforts and just show the race. Anything else belongs on the news with proper journalists, not wacky “character” presenters.

    Thanks for the balanced debate – very welcome as it’s been tough to form an opinion with all the dogmatic ranting on this subject in news reports as well as comments on this site. Much regurgitation and reinterpretation of the same few images and videos.

  22. I don’t know if it’s relevant to this discussion, but Dani Clos will replace Josef Kral for the Bahrain races. No reason has been given for Kral’s replacement, and the team has not commented on whether Kral will return to race for them in future. It could be that Kral has run out of money, or that the team were unhappy after Sepang … or maybe he had reservations about racing in Bahrain.

  23. I really can’t wait to get this weekend over and done with. It feels really weird that we are hardly talking about the usual stuff, like the championship battle, teams, drivers, cars. Yes, it’s interesting in the sense that this is history in the making for F1- we will always look back at this year’s Bahrain’s grand prix, not to do with the racing, but to do with the political situation and the FIA.

    I really hope nobody gets hurt at the Bahrain GP this weekend, but I have this horrible thought that the FIA/Bernie will only open up there eyes and realise the mistake they are making if there was a violent disruption to the race? (e.g. protesters getting onto the track etc).

  24. How can this article claim to be unbiased when the first sentence make this claim (my CAPITALS highlight the prejudicial views expressed by Keith):
    “The protesters of Bahrain have taken a stand against a CRUEL regime. You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to MAKE MONEY out of their MISERY.”

    p.s. The whole world is run on the concept of making money from the misery of the poor. Otherwise it would be a communist world with everyone on equal income.

    1. It’s called an introduction. It summarises the article and provides a signpost to the reader of what’s to follow.

      How can this article claim to be unbiased

      Please point to the part where I said “this article is unbiased”.

      1. Okay, are you now saying that it was not your intention to write an unbiased article, event though you did say “I will continue to listen to, research and read about both sides of this complex debate, give coverage to both”?

        Some of your readers certainly think you meant it to be unbiased. Just take the first comment in response : “this is probably.. the best, most un-biased article on the internet at the moment.. ”

        Bahrain has a democratically elected parliament with a Monarch (as has the UK). The ruling faction is a minority of very rich people (as is the case in UK). The majority did not support or vote fro the ruling party (as is the case in the UK).

        The Bahraini violent protesters are alleged to be arrested and jailed(as were the recent London rioters, Student fee rioters, etc. in the UK).

        Protesters are jailed without trial (as were Al Quaida and IRA terrorist suspects in the UK, and Abu Quatada and Abu Hamza had been held in prison for many years before the UK Govt. was ordered to release them by the European Court of Human Rights). Libyan activists were allegedly “renditioned” by the UK Govt. (Straw and Blair alleged to have given permission) colluding with the CIA. The UK is viewed as having killed many innocent members of the public in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        I am afraid that once you start to take a “moral” stance on political matters, depending on whether you see yourself on the side of the “freedom fighter” or see them as “terrorists”, you find yourself withdrawing from many daily activities which are in one way or another tainted by these politics. The IRA, PLO, Taliban, ETA, ANC, …. – do you think any of them are/were terrorist or freedom organisations whose use of violence and killing (of ordinary citizens, Police and Troops) justified the end?

        Also, remember that there is a threat against the Olympics from “terrorists”, belonging to the same organisation that bombed the Tube and Buses, and there will be a massive military and police security presence in London as a result. Do we therefore expect the Olympics to be cancelled?

        1. are you now saying that it was not your intention to write an unbiased article

          No. Stop trying to put words in my mouth. I never made any claim about whether this article is “unbiased” or otherwise.

          As I said at the end I try to keep an open mind and will continue to. This is an expression of my opinion at the moment.

          1. Okay then, you do not make “any claim about whether this article is “unbiased” or otherwise.”

            You can read some tweets from three UK based and respected journalists who are already in Bahrain, here:

          2. I don’t know what makes you think I need that pointing out to me given that I’ve referred to several of them in this article, and they have all been listed in the Twitter directory for some time:


        2. Do we therefore expect the Olympics to be cancelled?

          That is hardly a comparison as Olympics (being a once off event in a said country) takes massive amount of construction and preparation and there are thousands of athletes from hundreds of different nations competing in hundreds of different events. To save me from copying and pasting Olympics 101 class, if you go here half way down the page you will see that even Olympic games can come under threat due to violence, war or terrorism.

          But if you have a choice to cancel one event, and that action was fairly easy to implement (as is the case with the F1 race in Bahrain), then why would you not cancel an event?

          Furthermore, why would the Bahraini government and Bernie Eclestone INSIST that everything is fine and no need for concern, when we can clearly see that NOT everything is fine. This is where it turns into politics, hence the point of this article.

        3. I suspect the following won’t happen in London, from the UK authorities

    2. P King – where did you miss the part saying this is a “comment” article, i.e. expressing Keiths opinion, and giving his arguments.

  25. I have a feeling that this weekend is going to end up being a bit of a farce. SOMETHING is going to go wrong.

  26. Andrew Jacobs
    18th April 2012, 12:29

    Let’s just hope Jake and Simon Lazenby remember they are foremost journalists and reporters and not sycophantic puppets of the F1 powers that be.

    My major dissapointment is that team bosses, a couple of whom I know personally, have not at least said they don’t want to go but have to under the concorde agreement.

    The decisions to go sit firmly with Ecclestone and the FIA. My personal view is that in a perverse way the F1 circus in Bahrain adds worldwide media interest and support to those protesting. But then Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain and his old fella will generate a few hundred million dollars for the country that they in effect own, by claiming “UniF1ed”.

  27. I love watching F1, wherever it is. But it is difficult to enjoy a race when you know that, for the race to take place, an already-oppressed person had to be put in jail or killed to stop him from protesting against the oppression. There are many things F1 fans turn a blind eye to – the race in China, for example, really shouldnt be in such a country, run as it is by an oppressive, unelected dictatorship. The McLaren F1 team is another – part-owned by the same Bahraini “royal” family, the Khalifas, through their holding company Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company(three Al-Khalifa members sit on the board of the holding company).
    I think a time comes to make a stand, but how comfortable would we be to not just condemn and boycott the F1 race, but also, after that, to reject McLaren Mercedes because of their connection to the murderous Khalifas?

  28. I really wish that drivers take the initiative to protest it, even if silently, for example by not spraying champagne during the podium celebration.

    1. Well, they won’t be spraying champagne on the podium – but that’s only because they’re given ward instead (a blend of fizzy rose water, pomegranate juice and trinj – an orange-tasting fruit).

      1. @keithcollantine Why is that? The Islamic view on alcohol or something?

  29. I don’t understand.when I say I’m a Bahraini and happy to have F1 back I ( we ) get ignored,but when an Iranian/Bahraini claim they don’t want f1 coz(regime r killing them) guys like u get excited and believe them and help them spread their lies !!!!!

    Shame !

    1. I’m not ignorant of the fact that some Bahrainis don’t support the protesters and do support the race. I have heard from several through the site and one such person is a regular commenter whose contributions have been valuable and informative. That does not mean I am beholden to agree with them.

      The claim that Iranian infiltrators caused last year’s protests was debunked by the commission of inquiry report linked above:

      The evidence presented to the Commission by the [Government of Bahrain] on the involvement by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the internal affairs of Bahrain does not establish a discernable [sic] link between specific incidents that occurred in Bahrain during February and March 2011 and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

      That has not stopped those trying to discredit the protesters from repeating the false claim.

    2. Well said,sir. Frankly,articles such as this one are way too simplistic,it takes a lot to realise that such issues arent as black-and-white as they are portrayed to be. Its very easy to romanticise a “fight for freedom” against an “oppressive,tyrannical regime” but it isnt as easy to look at the greater picture.

      1. Who are you quoting there? Because neither of those phrases occur in the article.

    3. Good for you mate. I honestly do believe you. There is a decided lack of support for the protesters from any State/government.

      These protesters are badly deceiving people including Keith and other readers that they are being brutalised. The fact is that there is no evidence of any brutality.

      The evidence simply points to the government responding to violent protest with appropriate reasonable force.

      1. Looks like you neither read the BICI report nor the Amnesty International report released Tuesday, which gave an update of progress, or rather lack of progress.

      2. I suppose these posted today are the product of “mainstream media sensationalism”!/AlWefaqEN/status/192886394006421504/photo/1

      3. the government responding to violent protest with appropriate reasonable force.

        As documented extensively above, the protests were peaceful when they began and the government responded by killing people, unlawfully imprisoning them and torturing them, sometimes to death.

  30. Great article @keithcollantine, I think that you have addressed the China comparison particularly well.

    I will also be watching the race. I have not missed a race for years and if it is good enough for the teams to go, providing their safety is ensured, it is good enough for me.

  31. I’m glad the race is set to go ahead as it will put the spotlight properly on Bahrain. Too many countries’ problems are ignored because there’s no media interest in the West.
    If I was protesting for change then having the world’s press onmy doorstep would be a great help!

  32. Found this this online:

    Apparently Schuey and Seb have “lauded initiatives taken by the wise leadership of the kingdom”. Must have missed that one!

    Sounds legit.

    1. That was linked in the article.

      1. I just can’t win, can I? What am I doing wrong? Am I not sufficently blinded by my own mroal outrage? Am I not making demands of the sport without thought for the consequences? Am I exercising too much rationality in my judgements so that I end up alternative and equally-feasible explanations for events? Or does this just go all the way back to the way I don’t assume the FIA is absolutely and inherently corrupt because they do things that I don’t agree with.

        Please, tell me, because I’m so very curious as to what I’m doing wrong.

        1. Andrew Jacobs
          18th April 2012, 13:33

          Understanding that the FIA is corrupt

          1. Andrew Jacobs
            18th April 2012, 13:36

            Sorry, Not understanding…

          2. Show me the proof. Actual, physical proof. Not hearsay or supposition.

        2. You ask “What am I doing wrong?”. Is this a rhetorical question or do you really want to know?

          1. See my comments posted 14:09

        3. @prisoner-monkeys What are you talking about? All I said was that you were posting a link that is actually in the article.


          Exactly PM. You can’t win cause the guys on the other side Keith and all are arguing about something that they have no proof of.

          They are willing to listen to anyone willing to say the Bahrain authorities are bad yet won’t apply the same burden of evidence on the other side claiming it is untrue and that the protesters are violent. It’s just not logical.

          1. Have you still not read the BICI report? Have you not read what Amnesty International said in its report released Tuesday?

          2. @bearforce Denmark and EU has exerted a lot of effort into freeing Al- Khawaja, who was sentenced to lifetime for arranging demonstrations for democracy last year. Because he is a Danish citizen the EU and Denmark has pulled a lot of strings to get him out of Bahrain to no effect. UN has also demanded for his release. I don’t need more proof that something rotten is going on.
            But it is free of charge for me to boycott the race, how is the situation for teams, FIA, sponsors, commercial advertisers etc. FIA should have cut Bahrain out already last year. It depressed me to learn that McLaren are linked to this regime.

        5. I just can’t win, can I?

          Are you trying to win something?

  33. Mark (@canadianf1fan)
    18th April 2012, 13:19

    The safety issue is an important one, but I believe the bigger issue in the long run is the issue of F1’s reputation because of the decision made by the FIA.

    Article 1 of the FIA Statutes state:
    “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.”

    The Bahraini royal family is both the circuit owner and the race promoter. There is clearly an internal division in the country, with some of its citizens in the majority feeling their lives under the leadership of a minority king are no longer acceptable. This is not the FIA’s business.

    But the FIA’s decision to continue with this race, in full knowledge of this internal political conflict is in direct violation of Article 1 because the Bahraini ruling regime is blatantly using this race to bolster the legitimacy of its leadership. “UniF1ed” and “One Country” are overt propaganda.

    I cannot believe this is the same organization that fined the Turkish ASN millions for politicizing F1 by using a Turkish-Cypriot official during a podium ceremony. How subtle was that act when compared to the PR assault led by “UniF1ed”?

    F1 has no place on either side of this issue. And by not acting decisively to steer clear of this mess, Jean Todt has demonstrated extremely poor leadership. One got a strong sense that he was trying to find reasons to let the race occur, instead of focusing on what was right for F1. Many blame Bernie, but Bernie is what Bernie is. At least he has been consistent. His ideals are financial. He measures success by the profit in a deal.

    Those who argue, “we’ve been in Bahrain before” as a justification miss the point. Perhaps there was an opposition back then. But there is no mistaking there is one today. And F1 is being used by both sides to further its cause. The argument that China, Singapore and others are repressive governments but they are allowed to race is an interesting one. There are many countries with questionable human rights positions. The US has capital punishment. There isn’t a lot of black and white left in the world, so it requires some perspective and judgement to decide whether racing in a country violates the FIA charter. Is the promotor using the race for overtly political purposes? Asking questions and challenging the FIA on this issue is important. It’s a way of ensuring accountability.

    The protection of F1, its people, participants and its reputation is in the hands of the FIA. It’s unfortunate its current leadership hasn’t kept faith with its founding principals.

    1. “but the FIA’s decision to continue with this race, in full knowledge of this internal political conflict is in direct violation of Article 1 because the Bahraini ruling regime is blatantly using this race to bolster the legitimacy of its leadership. “UniF1ed” and “One Country” are overt propaganda.”

      No it is the other way around. If the FIA decided not to go they would be in direct violation of Article 1.

      The race was arranged prior to any of this political agitation. Therefore it should proceed so as not to make a political statement.

      1. You said “the race was arranged prior to any of this political agitation”. Can you back that up? You will have to finally do some reading starting with the BICI report …

  34. Something that gets lost in this discussion is that neither Bernie Ecclestone nor the FIA are international political bodies. F1 is a sport, and its governing body should not presume to attempt to extend its influence beyond the remit of the sport: it’s not their area of competence. They should, of course, be concerned about the safety of their personnel, but beyond that the political affairs of sovereign nations are not their responsibility or concern.

    So why on earth do we jump up and down when they refuse to unilaterally declare sanctions against a country? Why the FIA? Why Bernie Ecclestone? If we object to the situation in Bahrain, which I certainly do, we should be shouting at our politicians! That’s what they’re there for. This is their area of competance! This is their responsibility! If our politicians want to sanction Bahrain, they should bar F1 from going there as part of a coordinated strategy.

    Remember that F1 is not alone in this. Cricket has had a number of these media storms over the years, and I have felt the same about those too. Sporting bodies are not surrogates for government: we wouldn’t want them to be, and we shouldn’t shout at them when they make it clear they aren’t.

    1. Um…and how would our government do that exactly?

      You’d end up in a circular argument, where the FIA repeat the mantra that ‘F1 is not a political tool/enterprise…’

      What makes you think the FIA would listen to David Cameron’s views on whether or not there should be an F1 race in Bahrain..??

  35. I will be watching the race. Doesn’t mean that I support the Bahrain ruling elite, or wish to compound the misery and suffering of the citizens of Bahrain. I have argued on this site about the “China comparison” and I feel that @prisonermonkeys does a very good job of explaining the flaw in Keith’s argument about the flaw in ours.
    Finally I still believe that over politicising any sport is dangerous to the extent that it can be used for an agenda. Keith’s article actually addresses this point by stating how the ruling elite are manipulating the Grand Prix for their own political ends. If they could, the protesters would manipulate it to the same extent. In the end it would be using a sport beyond its societal function and purpose, and thereby diminishing it to the role of a mere tool or instrument of propaganda.

  36. I might be old-fashioned, but isn’t this a forum about Formula 1 motor racing? There’s going to be a race this week-end and I’m looking forward to it – just as I have done for more than half a century.

    Keith, you write “I have chosen to use this platform to condemn it.” It’s your website, therefore your rules — and I fully respect that. I’ll come back here for the Spanish GP when hopefully you will have put all this irrelevant-to-the-core-of-F1 madness behind you.

    In peace, friendship and respect — Paul
    “who knows Bahrain quite well, has a number of friends who live there, and who actively participates in appropriate political forums.”

    1. That’s the best thing that has been written about this whole situation. May everyone have a safe and enjoyable race weekend. :)

    2. I agree with you Paul. Just like you, I’ve been following F1 since half a century. It seems to me that the globalization makes people feel entitled to judge what’s going on in every country in the world without real knowledge of each situation in particular. I have traveled business wise worldwide during the last 25 years and through all those years I learned a lesson: if you want to be informed don’t trust what the media tries to “sells” you. I would be more than happy to discuss Bahrain’s politics with people with actual real knowledge and experience on the matter (I’ve also been there business wise many many times) but not in a F1 forum.

      I do respect Keith’s choice to express here his point of view on the subject, but as you say, I think that the right place to do it is in a political forum. By the same token, I won’t express myself here on Bahrain’s current political scenario although I’m very much aware of what’s going on there through my own personal and first hand experience.

      Paul, maybe you are right and we are old-fashioned. In many cultures around the world where age is respected, our opinion would be taken as a wise advise. Unfortunately in the western society it seems like in general we are considered just “old retired guys”.

    3. I might be old-fashioned, but isn’t this a forum about Formula 1 motor racing? There’s going to be a race this week-end and I’m looking forward to it – just as I have done for more than half a century.

      This is a massive issue about F1. If you only want information on what’s happening on track then there would only ever be articles on a race weekend :P It isn’t inappropriate either when F1 is being used as a political tool therefore F1 is politics.

  37. I’ll watch it, F1 is F1, similar to Luis Suarez racism thing, I support him, doesnt mean I supported what he allegedly said, just because I watch it doesnt mean I support going there

  38. I will be watching the race and honestly, I doubt the situation will really quell my enthusiasm for it.

    I have my personal feelings on the matter but I made a concious decision a while ago to not discuss them where I personally don’t feel appropriate. I emphasise that’s only my opinion on my thoughts, I fully respect your willingness to put this article up @keithcollantine and you provide a necessary service to the wider world.

    I’m under no illusions about what the media is reporting out in Bahrain and while many may read my comments and think I don’t care, that’s simply not the case.

    It’s very rare I’m up in arms about anything these days. I attribute it to realising that is human nature to be cruel to each other. I’ve never subscribed to calling people ‘animals’, we’re worse than that.

    I hope that the people of Bahrain find some unified peace. I do not condone violent protest just as much as I don’t condone violent rule. Those who put others in harms way should be punished accordingly, irrespective of their side of the argument.

    Enjoy your weekend folks, F1 or not!

    1. COTD well said!

      1. Thanks :D

    2. @andrewtanner I agree. I’m not really opinionated on the topic, it’s not for me to decide whether F1 goes to Bahrain or not and what happens there, and I can’t help the Bahrainis. Also, I’m not knowledgable about the topic and I’m not going to pretend I am.

      I’m just going to enjoy the weekend and hope everyone is safe.

      1. I’m just going to enjoy the weekend and hope everyone is safe.

        I will too enjoy the weekend and hope everyone is safe. But the point is we shouldn’t even be thinking about these things. But we are.

  39. Chris Goldsmith
    18th April 2012, 14:02

    The FIA and F1 as a whole would be wrong to refuse to go to Bahrain on ethical or moral grounds. One of the wonderful things about sport is its ability to bring together nations and groups of people to enjoy a common spectacle. One of the things which really irks me is that people feel that sport should be used as a means of punishing those we perceive to have done wrong – ‘evil’ regimes shouldn’t be allowed to host or participate in international sporting events, apparently. This is completely backwards. Sport should be used as a platform for good; using its influence and exposure to highlight the parts of the wrld where change is needed, and to invite those who need to change to look critically at themselves. By cutting off places where basic human rights are oppressed, you also remove a platform for publicity.

    Bahrain wouldn’t be in the news whatsoever right now if it weren’t for Formula 1. People would be just as badly oppressed, but nobody would be looking, nobody would care. Formula 1, by going to Bahrain, is actually highlighting the plight of the people there.

    However. Despite all of this. There does come a point, which is well set out within the mandate of the FIA, where F1 should not allow itself to cause civil strife in the world. F1 should never be anythng other than a positive force in the places it visits. This is probably the big distinction between China and Bahrain; in China, the race is simply a sporting event. Some people like it, others don’t really care. Nobody is harmed by it, and it doesn’t impact negatively on the lives of the people there. There’s a danger, in the case of Bahrain, that the presence of F1 could cause large amounts of civil unrest, leading to arrests and possibly even deaths. If F1 does decide not to go ahead in Bahrain, it should be for this reason and no other. As I say, sport shouldn’t be about making moral judgements; it should take its message of free and fair sporting competition and use itself as an example to people. But sport is not so important that it should go ahead in spite of causing harm to others. If the race goes ahead and none of the predicted unrest occurs, then it was the right thing to do. If people do get harmed, then serious questions should be asked about why exactly they didn’t use their mandate as the reason for not going there.

  40. What an unbelievable article. I expect better of this website.

    The issue is not nearly as dichotomous as you say it is. Your statement is similar to George W. Bush’s when he said “Either you support the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, or you support terrorism.”

    Wheres the third option of supporting the decision of the party in the best position to make a decision?

    Where’s the fourth option of not making a judgment call politically on an apolotical event of which we are only fed the sensationalist stories of the mainstream media (Wh seeks to make a buck, as well.)

    1. Clearly you struggle to enbibe information. The point is clear. The FIA make an “apolitical” judgement to race which is then hijacked by the promoters of the race in support of their political viewpoint with the “UniF1ed” banners.

      The protesters have no way of promoting their viewpoint via the F1 machine. This is clearly an abuse of power and position. Something suprisingly the Bahrain rulers have been accused of and now proven.

      1. Chris Goldsmith
        18th April 2012, 14:31

        It’s not true that the protesters won’t benefit from F1 being in town. F1 brings with it one of the largest media circuses going, and that’s before you factor in all of the added interest about the situation around the world. F1 and Bahrain have been mentioned in the mainstream news headlines outside of the sports sections, and the coverage has specifically focused on the demonstrations and included recaps of all which went on last year. If F1 had simply said weeks ago that it wasn’t going to Bahrain, it wouldn’t be in the news at all at the moment. F1’s presence is raising awareness of the issues in Bahrain, which I think would be difficult to argue as a negative thing.

        What would be awful however would be for violent protests to spring up as a result of this increased coverage. We just have to have faith that the people in Bahrain are sensible enough not to do that while the world is looking.

        1. I didn’t say the protesters may not benefit from the media being present. However, the locational restrictions placed upon the F1 media under the auspice of “safety” and the distance at which the protesters are being kept is hardly an opportunity for them to make their case to the world.

          The problem is that the race promoters are the criticised ruling family. We will see the Crown Prince et al all being accepted as friends and supporters of F1 on the grid thus validating them and their views alone.

          This together with the exclusion from the country of many reporters wishing to report on the protests specifically eg Nicholas Kristoff (award winning NY Times journalist).

          As I said earlier we have to hope the likes of Jake and Lazenby step up to the plate and remember they are reporters and not sycophantic puppets of the F1 authorities.

          1. Chris Goldsmith
            18th April 2012, 15:00

            I think this is a very naïve view though, or at least a very simplistic way of interpreting it. Consider the reason why we’re having this discussion; as a result of an article stating opinions which have been formed by Keith as a result of him looking at the mainstream media. An opinion which seems to be fairly popular here, which most people had also reached by themselves without his direct input. This at least suggests that what is reported by the mainstream is not influenced by the PR of the ruling party, but instead focuses on the human story of the protesters. I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that this would change, just because F1 is going to Bahrain this year. I can’t see any headlines saying “F1 Endorses Bahrain: Situation Presumably Now All Fixed”. No, instead what we’re seeing is increased media attention on a place which wouldn’t be getting any otherwise. It may well be the case that no reporters will get close enough to the protesters to be able to give them a direct platform from which to voice their concerns, but that’s not really needed. The increased attention will regardless be damaging for the Bahrain ruling family. There’s certainly not going to be any kind of whitewash or naïve reporting suggesting that everything is ok now just because F1 has gone there, any more than they did when China hosted the Olympics.

      2. First of all, lets not state anything too “clearly” here. Because you are not a person of knowledge. You are an armchair human rights activist. Secondly, I have IMBIBED as much information as necessary to understand this is a complex issue. Why should WE blame the FIA for what the PROMOTERS have unilaterally done?

        So think about it this way: would you fire Stefano Domenicali if Massa crashes into the back of Alonso because hes sick of being #2? Would you suspend the operations of the team? No. You cannot blame the FIA for something the promoter wants to do with their billboards. Sheesh.

        1. @dv30

          You cannot blame the FIA for something the promoter wants to do with their billboards.

          Given it violates their own statutes, I disagree.

          1. Depends on how you characterize the billboards whether it falls afoul of the FIA rules, no?

        2. Clearly you do not posses “all the information necessary..”

          The FIA heavily criticised and fined ($5m) the Turkish promoters of their race in 2006, for…

 part of the podium ceremony after the 2006 race, the winner’s trophy was presented by Mehmet Ali Talat, who was introduced to television viewers via the captions as the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state which is recognised only by Turkey. The FIA announced they would be investigating this incident, as a possible breach of the organisation’s political neutrality. The identity of the person who would present the winner’s trophy was left to the last minute, leaving the FIA no time to veto the choice.

          We’ll see if they are as even handed with the Bahrain Royal Family who have commited their manipualtion of F1’s nuetrality by using banners with “UniF1ed” prior to the race and as such there is an opportunity to deny them personal publicity by affording them grid walks etc.

          1. Unlike your example here, the Bahrain government is still legitimate and still in power, recognized as a sovereign state by all other international bodies.

          2. I believe Turkey is internationally recognised as legitimate by most nations

          3. But not the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, you silly goose.

          4. You clearly are just being fatuous as no one could be so innocently ignorant.

            It is any politising of an F1 event by promoters that is against the FIA statutes, and by race promoters/Bahraini rulers claimng their political domain is “UniF1ed” that puts them in breach.

          5. are you an attorney? Can you prove breach of contract?

    2. @d3v0

      we are only fed the sensationalist stories of the mainstream media (Wh seeks to make a buck, as well.)

      Is F1 Fanatic mainstream media? Clearly not.

      Is it sensationalised? Do you think I have only written this article to make money? I hope you agree the answer to both is “no”.

      Besides which, it’s a knee-jerk view to dismiss the entirety of mainstream media as “sensationalised”. Yes, some of it is. Much of it isn’t, and the article above is replete with examples.

      Had you bothered to look you would also have found references to studies by human rights organisations and a 500-page investigation into what happened last year. More sensationalist mainstream media? I think not.

      1. @keithcollantine Of course I dont think your blog is in any way “mainstream media” but I think the views herein are greatly influenced by it. In addition to the large investigation into last year. What I am saying is all of that is irrelevant. It is not in the court of public opinion where decisions are made. That is the place of the FIA.

        What is being said in this blog and elsewhere is that FIA is incapable of making a decision in Bahrain because of money. And that they are ignoring reports of human rights violations. The issue here is whether we can supplant our own opinions, plus the media coverage of some burning signs and a report of LAST YEAR’s violations – for that of the FIA. I do not believe that is our place – we are effectively being armchair human rights activists.

        And its not whether I have bothered to look – I am not the important person here. My opinion doesnt mean much. Because I am not a person tasked with the duty of making a decision with potentially severe consequences – I am sitting in a computer chair. Therefore, I leave the decision left to those best able to make the call and who are also those with the most to lose- the FIA..

        1. Additionally, consider the consequences of the view that the FIA cannot make a decision because they have dollar signs over their eyes. Does this further make any subsequent actions of the FIA suspect due to money? Are ALL decisions invalid because of money?

          1. When an organisation is corrupted, all its decisions and actions tend to be tainted

          2. Says you.

          3. Try reading the anuls of history. You might find the odd thousand or two examples

          4. Even consuling the ANNALS of history, you cant just make mere conclusory allegations in support of your argument, “judg.”

        2. Well @d3vo, given that the situation hasn’t clearly been improved since last year with, as reported by several human rights organisations, the Bahrain government showing very little signs of implementing actual improvements for those that protested (including still arresting people for protesting), but rather more enthusiastic about giving a positive message to the outside world, to the effect that they deny and block protests, it seems quite sensible to hold that same report against them still.

          I don’t think believing that the protesters are serious and not just intent on making trouble is supplanting our own opinion. The FIA opinion seems to be happy to align with that of the Bahraini government, which they say themselves is the only source of information they listen to (the media is said to be overreaction). In effect, FIA have no independent opinion, but that of one of the parties in this disagreement within the country, despite clear indications that party don’t want to provide the whole picture.

          It isn’t invalid to question that, surely, without having to go and trust only what the other party in the conflict says is the truth, especially if you do have journalists, and internet sources to check and attempt to compile a more complete picture. And that picture clearly shows everything isn’t okay, and that the government could, and thus, being a government, should, do a lot more to end this conflict to general consensus as best as they can before claiming an UniF1ng event.

          1. oh, it’s a 0, not an 0 @d3v0? Sorry.

            While we can’t decide to have the race happen or not, one of the things that we all can do individually is choose to signal our opinion about it – it might even influence our own governments, and perhaps the FIA in the future somehow, to act. Doing nothing won’t accomplish anything, and if no one listens, it is only our time wasted.

          2. @bosyber Fair enough. I think that we can choose to believe which side we want to believe, and if a person falls on one side rather than the other based on the information that they have researched – that is fine.

            If their opinion is to call down the race, I think this is clearly not an opinion the FIA should take seriously. However, even if they have taken it seriously (which I believe they have, since they have sent multiple people into the country to investigate first hand) shouldnt we put at least some measure of trust in the governing body of motorsport? Afterall, they have the most experience with this sort of thing and have been sending races all across the world during many volatile times.

            In any event, I will not be very productive today (and therefore unable to watch free practice) if I keep defending my opinion on this website.

            But my key point here is that my opinion is simply that – an opinion. I chose to place my trust in the FIA, which I place my trust in for every motorsports event before and after Bahrain. If it turns out they have made a mistake – I will re-evaluate. What I ask is that those calling to cancel the GP wait to see whether or not there would really be any reason to have cancelled it in the first place – but to delay such opinions until after the event, putting some trust at least into the FIA.

          3. Nothing like blind faith. I guess you believe in the tooth fairy and Easter bunny too!

          4. mmhmm sure, chief. You call it blind faith, becuase you obviously deny everything. I dont call it blind faith, but rather logic – because (since youre a “judg” I am sure you can interpret a syllogism)

            if the decisions the FIA makes are in the best interests of Formula 1
            And the FIA decided that the Bahrain GP is fine
            Then the Bahrain GP is in the best interest of Formula 1.

            Do you care to create another one?

          5. Yes.

            If Max Mosely sells the commercial rights of F1 to his mate Bernie Ecclestone for $1m a year for 99 years (2004)
            The revenue for F1 at the time is close to $1b a year
            Then that in the eyes of most people is corrupt.

      2. @keithcollantine

        Besides which, it’s a knee-jerk view to dismiss the entirety of mainstream media as “sensationalised”. Yes, some of it is. Much of it isn’t, and the article above is replete with examples.

        Had you bothered to look you would also have found references to studies by human rights organisations and a 500-page investigation into what happened last year.

        Well, I find myself in synch with Keith’s views on this one. And completely mind boggled with people who insist to downgrade or ignore the severity of the situation. Article appears one sided as stated but it is justified as described within. Yes, lot of the mainstream media is sensationalised, but it is with good reason. Mainstream media is always sensationalised regardless of what topic it is about. Perhaps this comment “You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery.” does remind me a bit of George W B .. haha. But that is fine because general logic is correct.

        Bottom line is, there was no need to take risks with the Bahrain GP (due to both safety of staff/teams the general audience and the image of what F1 represents). And then there is the political reason as well. But greed of those in power has won out. What else can it be.

        1. How on earth could you argue the FIA would stake the lives of F1 team members and its entire reputation for a measley $40m hosting fee? thats utterly ridiculous. That’s like jumping in front of a bus for a $20 bill.

          1. Tell that to the Force India guys who nearly got blown up by a molotof cocktail.

  41. Great article. I’ll be watching the race, although I feel a little tense whilst watching it. The protestors shouldnt disrupt the race, that is not their intention or what they’re condeming. They’re fighting for reform. However, a small minority of the protestors may use the race as a platform for a global audience to view, and make a point. I do fear for the safety of the drivers, media and personnel this weekend – less so for the FOM and the FIA for deciding to go racing there.

    As we saw in the London riots last year, it only takes a small minority to break away and unleash havoc. Let’s hope this doesnt happen this weekend.

  42. Marc Richard
    18th April 2012, 14:27

    I have spent some time reading and forming a view on this and I believe that F1 should not be used as a political tool by anyone. As soon as the Bahrain government intimated the race united Bahrain and politicised it, the position of the sport in the country became untenable. F1 should not race in Bahrain and it a shame that it is now embroiled.

    Ecclestone wishes to make money and so his motivations are obvious. F1 is intrinsically linked to Bahrain through its McLaren ownership and substantial fees that they pay to host the race. Another frustration is the lack of knowledge or desire to form a view by drivers and team owners no doubt partially motivated by the politics involved.

    The only way for F1 to redeem itself now that they are there racing would be to give a platform to the people of Bahrain, but this would never happen given the controlling influence of the government. The only way for broadcasters who are attending to redeem themselves is through promoting the issues in an unbiased way and educating the world on the conflict between people and government. I hope Sky and the BBC take this opportunity and do not skirt their responsibilities.

  43. Frankly I am disgusted and it is a disgrace that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead. This is cynical and unethical as people are being killed whilst Mr. Ecclestone receives money for the race. I shall not watch the race or even take any interest in the race result out of protest. This is shameful and F1’s image has undoubtedly been tarnished .

  44. A very well written article article, Keith.

  45. Excellent article. I just hope the debate can continue in a civilised manner and not degenerate into another flame war.
    Anyway; as Andrew Jacobs has already pointed out, no matter which view you choose to take about the event going ahead, it has once again brought international attention to the situation in Bahrain. The story had been pushed into the shadows by the media over the past few months, and the involvement of F1 has brought it back into the spotlight. I think that’s a positive outcome of this mess, even though it has brought a dark cloud over a sport we enjoy (which is a small price to pay IMHO).

  46. I say while McLaren have a good shot at winning, lets go racing!!

  47. Your China Argument is flawed. China just like Bahrain stands to benefit from both Money, and Reputation. Regardles of wheter is a direct association or not.

    1. Not true. China is not perfect but Bahrain is its own Tiananman square phase, and if F1 was suggesting racing in China at that time in Chinese history, there would have been a bigger outcry

      1. People die in china for blogging about freedom.

  48. F1 reporters: Kevin Eason, of The Times; Tom Cary of the Telegraph; and Ian Parkes of PA reporting live of being in the middle of a demo in the City Centre right now:!/easonF1
    “Kevin Eason ‏ @easonF1
    How much longer will police allow this #Bahrain protest go on? An hour now
    3:30 PM – 18 Apr 12 via Twitter for BlackBerry® · ”!/tomcary_tel!/ianparkesf1

  49. John Kilmartin
    18th April 2012, 15:57

    I am not sure whether you intend to cover the race or just discuss the controversy surrounding the event.

    I do not see how you can watch or report on the race without being a monumental hypocrite so I hope you will not be doing so as I integrity is important, whichever side of the debate you feel drawn towards.

    1. So a reporter who believes a war is unjust would be hyprocritical should they report it?

      1. John Kilmartin
        19th April 2012, 12:13

        You clearly failed to comprehend my point. Your straw man argument is moot and irrelevant.

        1. Your facile and pejorative point was clearly understood together with the mentality behind it.

  50. I hope you will attend the race.
    It is important that you should be there to witness the real situation and talk to the people of Bahrain.
    You will then have first hand knowledge of the truth.
    Don’t be a wimp. Don’t be afraid. Be brave and come and see the peaceful 95% silent majority of Bahrain.

    1. Can we visit the jails and detention centres too please.

      I believe the population in 2010 was 1.2m. 60,000 (5%) vocal protesters seems relevant. Though international observers seem to think the dissenting % is much higher

    2. It’s amazing that crackpot dictators always have their share of supporters who somehow come to cast them in opposition to ‘mainstream views’ that obviously can’t reach their level of insight and lucidity or grasp of the really real truly truthful truth of reality.

      There’s much to be said for improving the way media outlets approach news coverage in general, no quaetion – but assuming that whatever they say must be false is just plain lazy thinking. I would like to hear one, single, real, convincing, logical, rational argument for what the ‘mainstream media’ stand to gain from fabricating popular unrest in Bahrain and at least one example (bearing all the same qualities, please) of ‘non-mainstream’ media saying something different.

      1. The supporters are usually in a grace and favour position

  51. Keith – Thank you for an excellent review of a very troubling situation. Please give some consideration to standing for President of the FIA – the organization could us a person of your caliber and balanced perspective. I would back you all the way!

    1. Gets my vote

      And reclaim the commercial rights of F1 sold for a pittance – $1m a year to Ecclestone for 99 years. Then F1 wouldn’t need to harge such vast fees for Free to Air TV companies.

  52. This is getting ridiculous. Regardless of whether you feel F1 should or should not be going to Bahrain it doesn’t matter; they are going and nothing any of us rants about to the contrary is going to amount to anything. What this F1 race has given the Bahraini people is the international medias attention again. Bahrain is letting in more media than it has in months and people are focusing on the situation in the country. There would be a fraction, if that, of the current international outcry and attention if F1 was not going. And whatever is said about the Bahraini government making it seem like everything is a-okay, well, the fact we already know they’re faking a shroud of peace shows how ineffective it is now doesn’t it.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at in this opinion piece here Keith. It sounds as if you are condemning the race and those that do not mind it going there, yet are going to cover it this weekend. If you stick to what it seems your opinion piece is about then covering the actual race in any capacity would be hypocritical. I’m curious as to how this plays out on F1fanatic this week.

    1. Many war correspondents must be hyprocritical then too!

      1. I don’t think you understand what I’m getting at. Keith opens with this statement: “You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery”. By covering the race itself, results and all that just related to the race, Keith stands to make money “out of their misery” from the page views resulting from such articles. Posting articles and stories from the political side is different, and in the case of war correspondents, they report the political nature with no ulterior motive for other events going on in the warzones. You don’t see war correspondents covering the local beauty pageant and earning money from sponsors and page views from that now do you? They stick to what they’re covering.

        Personally I hope Keith covers the race as his detailed and thorough coverage of Formula 1 is the reason I come to this site. But it does raise some hypocrisy in his statement and outright condemnation, “if you support F1 and stand to make money off of the race here you support the regime” so I’m interested in seeing if it was a little too emotional of a statement whose full meaning comes of rather stronger than intended or if Keith plans on not covering the race in Bahrain as in depth as we’ve come to expect and will instead post information regarding the situation in Bahrain and make it about the people and not the race.

        1. And I don’t think you understand how this site works. Keith will make no more money whether he wrote this article or something else. In fact he risks possibly alienating some traffic to his site by people who unreasonably object to his opinion and boycott F1 fanatic.

          Its clearly not an either or situation

          Knowing the quality of Keith’s work he’ll still cover the event with the same thouroughness and insight as usual. Whether the anchor’s at Auntie and Sky will risk upsetting people whose grace and favour they enjoy is a different question.

  53. Great article Keith! Nothing to add really, but to offer my appreciation

  54. Brilliant article taking a well-thought out and strong ethical stance that doesn’t try to skip the problem with the unfounded argument that sport has to be ‘above’ politics. Congratulations Keith, I hope this receives the attention it deserves.

    1. What’s unfounded is this stance.

      1. Its an opinion and fairly well argued and substantiated

      2. How so? It’s clear that running the race is of benefit to the current (undemocratic) political regime. It is also being opposed by pro-democracy activists and opponents of the regime. So it’s spurious to argue Formula 1 shouldn’t become involved in Bahrain’s politics – it was from the day negotiations for the race started. This is without getting into a deeper argument as to why any large-scale economic investment of this kind has political implications (how money is being invested in the country in detriment to other areas, the political and legal implications of how people and companies like Ecclestone etc. operate globally, the kinds of investments made by Formula 1 companies like McLaren and the political deals these imply). Feel free to ignore the issues, many do, but ignorance doesn’t make them vanish. Even less solve them.

        1. Its the direct association of the royal family as promoters of the race that is problematic.

          The people who gave the order to arrest, brutalise and kill their own citizens will be stood on the grid, celebrated and given deference from the FIA.

  55. Don’t you just love the superb moral compass of F1’s commercial rights holders
    CVC Capital Partners and their over-lovely mouthpiece Mr B C Ecclestone ?
    Where any financial vehicle that continues to pay off their massive debt burden
    is quite OK with them. Dead Children, Tortured Women, Slave Economies……all just
    fine and dandy to these wonderful guys, so long as the big bucks keep rolling in.
    So medieval barbarism as a political system is just fine, guys. Just keep coming to
    watch F1 and keep paying our crippling charges to do so.

    The stench of corruption and moral bankruptcy is overpowering.

  56. if we really do care why dont we boycott whole remaining series id would be sad for us F! fan, but for the best of all i think

  57. Well… I have made my decision and won’t follow the GP on TV. Me not tuning in will reflect on the audience recorded by the channel. It’s the only thing i can do to show my caring for the situation.
    I will of course turn to this very site later and read results and analyses, but that’s all.

  58. From the moment the “UniF1ed – one nation in celebration” slogan was revealed earlier this year is was obvious the race would be used for political leverage and that, along with the concern for team personnel, FOM employees and journalists etc meant I was against the race going ahead.
    Now I’m sure the drivers and in particular the three leading drivers and constructor’s representative on the podium will become part of a political show, when some official member of the regime presents the trophies.
    What I hope is that those four men listen to the anthems of the winning driver and team and then leave the podium ceremony.
    It’ll be a brave stance to take but would surely send a message to the regime and the rest of the watching world.

  59. A more logical look at the situation not many will echo:

  60. “You will be welcome here because you are guests in my country but you will be racing over blood this weekend.”

    Enough said.

  61. Sangeen Khan
    18th April 2012, 18:10

    So a country which attacks another country under the false pretext of WMDs resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men,women and children can have two races and not be pointed at regarding the terrible human rights atrocities at abu graib too.

    1. Ask the 20,000 kurdish families who had their loved ones murdered whether they want Saddam back

  62. Well argued self opinion and approach. Every oppressed individual or group is grateful for any kind of expressed support. Even here out of mainstrem media it has its worth.

  63. UniF1cation is the argument making everything else obsolete. But, and I provided a link earlier, last year Ecclestone waived the fee. The Bahrainy chose to still pay it, but Bernie waived the fee.
    My 5 cts are that Bernie wants FIA / Todt to look bad and take the flak. For him it’s about the game and money’s just part of it.
    As I am, a modern European father, I’m already consuming my *** off, in things made by underpaid workers, or even slaves. So I Will watch and let myself be entertained. In a few years, there’ll be a movie about it, which we all Will watch, just like all Vietnam movies. Entertainment…

  64. Hi, long time lurker, first time poster. Just felt i needed to throw in on this one.

    The FIA, F1 as a sport, Bernie, the teams and everyone else involved with the race are really caught in a difficult position. They are not a political organisation yet everyone including the media are treating them and their stance on the race as if they are. Calling off the race won’t solve any problems, but neither will unnecessarily over-involving themselves.

    As yet, there has been no further extension of F1 into Bahrain beyond this race, i haven’t heard any renewal talk, and neither have they retracted from it. This is exactly the stance they should take: neutral. By no means should the actions of the Bahraini authorities be advocated, but neither should the actions of the protesters. You may tell me the vast majority of the protestors are peaceful and perfectly likeable, and i’m 100% sure you’re right. Likewise the vast majority of Bahraini laws aren’t breaking human rights and withholding freedom; unfortunately the extremes are often the most obvious representatives, or at least most associated in the news, with a movement.

    In a continuation of the logic used to associate the FIA and Bernie with the current regime, surely pulling out of Bahrain would associate them with violent molotov-throwing dissidents, would it not? Is this any better? Will any new government be better than the current? We can’t say for sure, but we can find out a little from looking at the results elsewhere in the Arab Spring.

    By no means should we encourage the Bahraini governments current tactics, but equally by no means should we encourage the protesters tactics. Both are currently reliant on fear and terrorism.

    And key to all of this is that is has nothing to do with F1, and whether or not the race goes ahead bears no significance to the movement, or to the lives of the oppressing or oppressed Bahraini people. Your moral standing has no bearing on the situation, and neither does F1, so we should not let our moral bearings interfere with F1.

    However, when safety is a concern, as it may well be, pulling out is the only sensible option. So i too am questioning whether Bernie and the FIA have in fact revealed that money talks louder than sense.

  65. A good article on a complex subject Keith, well done.
    The FIA’s and Ecclestone’s decision to go ahead with the race was based purely on greed (as usual) but you’re right, if the race is going to go ahead then this should give everyone a platform to condemn the FIA, Bernie and especially the Bahraini regime.
    I just hope that we have a safe weekend so that come Monday morning, we are still debating if it was right to go there rather than discussing a tradegy.

  66. Morally, its a non-issue. The safety is the only issue with this one, and I hope no one gets hurt. Its not OK to go around the globe and push some liberal western idea of democracy and human rights upon other nations and kingdoms. Its their business. When you go down that slope and you want to be consistent you ought to advocate for military intervention in that country to “free” those people. I can already see in a couple of years. UUU poor gays can’t marry in wherever, we must boycott F1 race there, uuuu.

    1. I’m sure Jenson Button or whoever wins will be delighted to receive the trophy from the person,or his son, brother or cousin who ordered 1000’s arrested, brutalised and killed.

      1. We should send military down there to free the people and arrest the government!

        1. Sangeen Khan
          18th April 2012, 20:18

          Yes just as it was sent to iraq.They are really free now.

          1. I think the families of 20,000 dead kurds probably appreciate Saddam is no longer around.

      2. Oh booo hoo hoo. Get any more sensational.

        The authorities would have responded with the appropriate reasonable force needed. This is also supported on this forum by people who are Bahraini and also people who have lived or travelled there. This is to say that the protesters are not peaceful activists.

        Keith even acknowledges these people but says he is entitles to his own opinion. For me it just seems a strange way to weight the evidence in ones mind.

    2. Well, we’re up to 116,000 civilian deaths since we in the west brought them freedom; I’m not sure anyone in the country appreciates that.

      1. sorry, meant as a reply to thejudg13

        1. Great arguement for leaving all tin pot dictators and genocidal murders in charge. Why? The masses are too uncivilised to govern themselves? Better keep them repressed for their own good.

          I didn’t realise God/Allah was part of this discussion

  67. At first I was against the race being held as I felt this was the best way to take a stand against such human rights abuses. However, I have changed my position and believe the race should be held for the simple reason that it shines the international spotlight on the situation. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on there until this F1 controversy blew up. I think holding the race, although leaving a bad taste in my mouth, may be the best way to make a difference in the situation.

  68. Hand Ringers!
    18th April 2012, 19:35

    I’m sorry another fairly weak justification for why Bahrain is bad, but going to China is okay (as if anything in that (one party) state is not state sanctioned, anyone high in business, and sports is still going to be party connected), F1 has been whoring itself forever and it’s GPs as a “showcase” for a country, you only have to look at the TV pre race build ups and inserts, they look like a tourist holiday programme, “look how thoroughly modern outward looking we are here (in Turkey, India, China, Malaysia, Texas,) and different but like you in so many ways, like Britain, Germany, etc, etc, look we drive your cars,” so I hardly think the chinese government would allow the Chinese GP to go ahead, if the broadcasters were doing spots about Human Rights, Tibet and democracy movements, the Chinese GP has the Chinese state, directly or indirectly all over it, whether funded from the tourist board or local business. I’m afraid this part time conscience/hypocrisy stinks, and while were at it US 5th fleet, thats to keep the oil flowing, so you (we) don’t go riot over petrol shortages and high prices, it is based in Bahrain, you won’t care about human rights a long way away, when you’re screaming over petrol pumps, and about your poverty back home due to high oil prices, you’ll just demand your government gets it. And it begs the question why are you not calling for a boycott of the US GPs, the US, indeed it’s UK stooge, if you are walking the talk, what about predator strikes killing hundreds & thousands in afghan, Iraq, Pakistan, without due process. Indeed watching BBC2s Modern Spies documentary, this week the US had killed it’s own citizen by drone strike, fundamentally depriving him of his 5th Amendment Rights to the US constitution, let’s not get started on rendition, and the status of detainees in Gitmo. Or why not Malaysia which has some dubious practices, upset about waterboarding, what about their caning? We would find abhorrent in the West, or Japan’s whale hunting, or have a read of the Human Rights in Brazil wiki, or India…

    My point is if you’re taking to get on your high moral horse, either apply it across the board, walk the walk, all the time, and be prepared to pay for your principles, not just when it costs you nothing.

    As to this article, and I wouldn’t set my moral compass by James Hunt, a drug taking, serial adulterer (oh and my first motor racing hero, which he can be because I don’t expect him (or my other heroes to saints, indeed I expect them to as full of moral compromises and ambiguity and contradictions as the next man or woman), and to the point, yes may have lambasted SA in a commentary, but I don’t recall him refusing to race there during his driving career. What he only found out about apartheid post 79?

    At least there is no doubt why Bernie is there. Money.

    Personally, I just wish these so called motor sport journalists who have rationalised, “its terrible, but I’m going”, “journalists”, I’ll be investigating the other side of the story (between the airport hotel and the press room), and who don’t deserve to use the same title as Marie what’s her face who died in Syria, just kept quiet, or at a push admitted they know their access (livelihood) is more important to them, and want both their passes and contracts renewed (food on the table), and put that ahead of their morals. (at least it would be honest). Or said I thought western liberalism was at the point where we’ve stopped imposing western (imperialist) values (like democracy) on other cultures and parts of the world, although as much as you handringing liberals with a politics degree, want to see it flourish, you won’t want another hard line sharia islamic state, fertile ground terror, so it’s only the kind of democracy we (in the west) like, okay, so the fleet can be based there, and oil keeps coming, fairly cheaply.

    Rather than trying to come with selective and elaborate justification for their lack of moral integrity, which is only exists so long as it costs them nothing. I’m assuming this blogger doesn’t need F1 paddock pass, risking his continued livelihood. And much like me from the comfort of my UK sofa, & my own moral ambiguity, and daily compromises will indeed sky+ the Bahrain GP, thankful to God (should he exist, or an accident of birth, if he does not) that I was born in Great Britain, which for all it’s imperialist past, that the handwringers tell me I must be ashamed of, but yet still enjoy from under it’s fading umbrella, like me, it’s last vestiges of privilege – relative safety, wealth, freedom & democracy without getting on a part time fair-weather, bed wetting, moral high horse.

    It was so much easier when F1 was the worldwide advertiser for nicotine delivery systems, oh hang on…

  69. dysthanasiac (@)
    18th April 2012, 19:46

    “You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery.”

    I don’t know whether to be amused by the naivete betrayed by this statement or offended by its rank hypocrisy. Either way, I think it’s clear that F1 journalism is way out of its league when it turns to politics.

    Much like this website, which, despite the professed stance of its owner, will remain online and collecting ad revenues throughout the Bahrain Grand Prix, I guess I stand with those seeking to make money off of the misery of others. I’m not going to stop buying the gasoline that makes up 60% of Bahrain’s export market; I’m not going to stop watching F1 and the teams that will inevitably accept funds from Bahrain’s race fee; and I don’t think McLaren, which is 50% owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain, should be banned from motorsport, nor do I think it’s incumbent upon Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and other McLaren employees to return 50% of their pay.

    Actually, I think I’ve just decided to be offended by the hypocrisy.

    I didn’t like it very much at all when my former president coerced support for the so-called “war on terror” by saying to the world, “You’re either with us or against us.” Seeing the same kindergarten logic applied here is no less idiotic.

  70. I just hope anonymous won’t come and take all the streams down because of their high moral stands.

  71. Very well written article, sums up my thoughts perfectly

  72. My main concerns are not where FIA/Ecclestone support lies, because both those parties go wherever the money is (one, just more obviously so than the other), and I wouldn’t give a flying toss if they lose money.

    My concerns lie with the safety of the F1 paddock and ALL associated personnel and visiting fans. It seems to me with the current violent situation that there is FAR more cause to cancel the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix than the 2011 one, as there have already been reports of personnel and media getting caught up (I could have predicted this weeks ago, so this is no surprise).
    Even if you ignore renegade so-called reporters who have actually travelled TO the violent areas to then report on the violence as if the pit buildings had already been levelled to the ground, there are reports flying around, admittedly not ALL corroborated, of violence closing in on Sakhir and those trying to travel to it being caught up near danger zones, even at their hotels. There is even photographic evidence of protests being directly against F1 being there, and burning of advertising billboards for the race. For my money, you can put all the Police etc that you like in their way, but that will not guarantee the safety of those travelling to the race for whatever reason, or staying nearby.

    Already there have been incidents that basically confirm my fears for the safety of F1 people in Bahrain, I hope my fears are not worsened over the weekend.

  73. There have been constant claims the race should be abandoned on safety concerns; however, the situation isn’t like in other Middle Eastern countries, where missiles fly across the sky and there are attacks aimed at killing people. In Bahrain it’s the civils that are protesting, and despite how much they can put efforts in their protests, they won’t get too dangerous. Not if they continue in aiming their protests at expressing their disappointment with the government.
    The Al Khalifas aren’t stupid enough to attack the Bahrainis if they do nothing – they’d get loads of bad publicity, and they wanted the GP, so they’ll definitely be wary of the risks. If the civils attack, then I expect the Government to respond – but, still, not as hard as it did when worldwide media weren’t present in such quantities.
    Therefore, in a way, the only real safety threat during the weekend (and the following one, as GP2 have two races there) will be the civils. If they are, as they say, peaceful, they won’t put others’ lifes at risk.

    Saying the race should be cancelled on political matters is another thing. However the FIA’s article which states that “the FIA shall refrain from manifesting political discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect” clearly forbids that. I doubt any of the people involved in F1, including Ecclestone and Todt, approve of the way the Al Khalifas are reigning the country – but that isn’t accepted as an excuse for leaving the country.

    I genuinely hope everyone uses good sense and that nothing dangerous happens, not only during the motorsport events of this and next week, but from now on. The Bahrainis are legitimately asking for their rights, and I don’t definitely mean to say that Bahrainis should put their own lives at risk, once F1 personnel has left the country. However, I trust them when they say they’re peaceful, and they won’t, in the majority of the cases, attempt attacks to F1 staff.

    1. but the problem with that statement is that quite clearly, at least a portion of the protesting is being aimed directly at F1 being there, not JUST at the Government (who from what I can see are engaging in violence themselves, just because they’re not carpet bombing or attacking with missiles right now doesn’t mean they’re not also being violent).

      1. This may suggest they are protesting at F1. I’m sure those in denial will accuse mainstream reporting of fabricating this picture.

  74. Superb piece Keith. Spot on.

  75. Difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been said… kudos to Keith for laying out his considered view which, whether you agree with it or not, is much more than can be said for too many of the people who for some reason find it infuriating that someone wants to have principles.

    Random thoughts are:
    Comparison with China is not easy to cut through. On the one hand, F1 probably shouldn’t be there, on the other if F1 was going there during the Tienanmen Square events, I sure would know that it shouldn’t be there. I’ve never heard of any Chinese oppositionist criticising the GP, which is most certainly not the case in Bahrain.

    The slippery slope argument is really… slippery. I mean it,s a slippery slope to what? Saying that F1 should have some sort of conscience? Heaven forbid!

    If sport should be always apolitical, here’s two questions – why? and if sport shouldn’t be used for political purposes why is it ok that it’s shamelessly used for corporate purposes?

    And, to boot, the word ‘political’ has been absolutely abused in this debate. Criticising someone who holds political power because you want to get something out of it is politics. Criticising someone who holds political power because you find their morality suspect is ethics. There’s a difference. Like the one between bias and opinion, which also many people just don’t seem to recognise.

    Having opinions that ‘don’t follow what the mainstream media say’ does not automatically make you a rebel privy to truths no one else is smart enough to grasp.

    Fingers crossed nothing horrible will happen this weekend, to anyone.

    Ummm.. oh yeah and Bernie Ecclestone is a total tool.

    1. One would hope corporate sponsers don’t order the arrest of 1000’s of citizens and their subsequent brutalisation and in some cases death.

      Hell, ethical shoppers have grown by a factor of 10 in the UK in the past 8 years according to a survey by the retailers association. So the corporate world is having to modify behaviour.

  76. Bahrain authorities, F1 powers et al can say whatever they want, but their words rang hollow after seeing this on Joe Saward’s blog last month: “It is just a shame that the final doubts about the place were not swept away with invitations to the event for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the two major human rights organisations in the world. If they had come to the party and said that all was well, then no-one would have any worries.”

    Too bad those overdue for a karmic payback will not be the ones at risk.

  77. Thank you Keith for the courage to speak out. Here, Saward’s and Motorsport magazine are the only ones I’m aware of.

    For the picture worth a thousand words dept…

  78. So should F1 take political stability, human rights status, foreign policy and altruism into consideration for every country? By those standards, they sure as hell wouldn’t run in China and maybe not in the USA! I find it hard to believe that everyone gets their undies all bunched up about Arab Spring and Bahrain, but nobody says a damn thing about China and their treatment of the people of Tibet.

  79. GeordiePorker
    18th April 2012, 22:51


    I am glad that you have had the courage to write what must have been a difficult article, and without wishing to sound as condescending as it probably does, I wish to congratulate you on your efforts to be factual. It is sad that you research has led to the impossibility of an unbiased view (not a criticism of you in any way – an expression of my disappointment that things are so bad that a well researched article arrives at such a clear conclusion).

    I find it difficult to ignore the political issues, or to accept that this it is appropriate for the FIA to claim that it is only a sporting organisation and cannot comment on political activity. However, to cancel the GP would have been the FIA clearly supporting the protestors – is this appropriate? The FIA, in my opinion, is stuck between a rock and a hard place; to make a decision would have been to state that the ruling family is in the wrong and to implicitly suggest that change of government is required. To make no decision can be claimed to be politically neutral (the FIA has not, in fact, supported the ruling family – they have merely stated that the GP will go ahead), however it would have been naive in the extreme for the FIA to fail to recognise that the ruling family was always going to take this ‘yes to F1’ and not use it for political gain.

    Sadly, the only appropriate course of action would have been for the ruling family to cancel the GP and they do not appear to have sufficient conscience to do so. I feel for all of those who have been mistreated as a result of a simple desire for fair treatment and will not be watching the GP.

  80. Human Rights > F1.
    Every Day of the year. For those who think this is “political” I hope this happens in your country and then let me know what matters more to you. If you cannot identify your self as an ordinary citizen you have some serious horsepower up ur ***. Most of you privileged lot haven’t seen riots, let alone wars. What it is to put everything you have in line because you believe the “government” is wrong. There will come a time, when you would realize what it is not to be free, what freedom really means and then Formula 1 will not matter. Kids. It is almost futile to attempt an understanding on a website which is called “F1Fanatics” and let us not forget the “”. Let us not be political because “uk” has more to answer than it can speak, ever.

    1. A frank and humbling thought. Thank you. I am embarrassed by the decadent and ignorent comment of some of my fellow UK citizens.

      Given the comfort of their armchairs and laptop internet access, there has been too much flippant comment on this debate.

      I am though encouraged that it appears around 3/4 of the comments dissaprove of the FIA’s decision to support the oppresive Bahraini regime.

  81. However, as Todt and Ecclestone have chosen to use F1 to give financial support and credibility to the Bahrain government, I have chosen to use this platform to condemn it. A message to that effect will feature prominently on the site throughout the weekend.

    Does this just means the weekend itself or one, two days beyond the weekend? It would be too kind to let us know because I am getting out of here until Formula 1 racing is the major focus of this site again and not your conscience and political opinion, for both of which I have not even the slightest hint of interest left.

    I have refused to follow politics for a while now and you’re not getting me to start now, sorry.

    See you all on Monday.

    1. A decandent response from someone who has most probably never seen a riot, true depravation (and I mean not people living on benefits in a country of plenty), state brutality or state murder. Carry on enjoying your bubble of F1 watching every couple of weeks in your well earned leisure time and count your lucky stars you were a winner in the birthplace lottery.

      Bahrain is a country of only 1.2m people, run by uber Billionaires – they spend the countires wealth on yacths and many other playboy toys costing $100’s of millions, there’s no welfare state to speak of and a minority of people (more than 100,000) living in nothing more than corrigated huts.

      I guess you holiday in Fuengarola and feel hard done to if you can’t get a full English for breakfast. Bloody foreigners eh?

  82. I admire your well considered piece Keith.

    Even barring the incredulous politics, it’s ridiculous that while France, and many other countries, have no GPs, this country with no history of motorsports and a population of only 1.3M gets a race (I’m Northern Irish, btw).

    The whole thing stinks and demeans my favourites sport. It’s embarrassing. I was watching a little F1 history this evening and it struck me that men like Cevert died trying to entertain us and yet Ecclestone sees fit to take the money from this country and ignore France’s legacy in the sport.

    All in all, I’m feeling a bit queasy in regard to F1 atm. I think Ecclestone must step aside, and someone like Jackie Stewart should be running things. Surely that would be popular?

  83. i think the teams are getting what they want out of this:

    1. absolved of responsibility, public wrath

    2. still collecting a paycheck

    3. satisfying their numerous and wealthy arab customers and investors.

  84. I will be boycotting it ! The race will only increase the crackdown on genuine protesters. Please boycott it

  85. Hi Keith. Brave article.

    Mclaren. Please please please tell us your opinion on Mclaren being 50% owned by The Bahraini royals.

    The hypocrisy is sad.

    How can you want the race cancelled because the owners of the race are evil. Yet you never make mention of Mclaren owned by the same evil people.

    This in my opinion has brought you low. You are entitled to your opinion but I expected more from you than deliberately hiding the Mclaren Bahraini ownership. You are normally balanced and support your arguments. The only thing I can think of here is that you are frightened of repercussions from Mclaren. Iif this is the case I have sympathy for you cause this is your income.

    1. How can I be “deliberately hiding” something which has been public knowledge for years?

  86. Amen Keith, well said.
    I fear for the teams, surely if anything goes wrong Bernie’s a goner?

  87. Im Loving this whole Bahrain mess. look what 2 Different Sides Of the media can do lol. Anyone against the race should go watch MASTER BERNIE’S Interview on youtube, the one The Great ”journalist” Jake humphrey does. Please watch dont let the hate for bernie get in the way. Bernie is on the money on this one.

    1. Thanks for that mate.

  88. Thank you Keith. A well written and well reasoned article. Unfortunately I doubt it will do much to convince even some of your own readers who seem to think racing in Bahrain is just fine. Indeed it seems to have caused some emotional meltdown, but I guess that’s to be expected with a hot button topic like this.

  89. Never mind what is happening , we are living in the last days , for sure (it is foretold in The Word that those with wealth and power will have more and more while they WANT for even more !) , so I can’t judge matters and say it is either right or wrong for F1 to race in Bahrain amidst of what is happening . So basically it is all insignificant anyway , the things of “man” (including women) will soon fade away………… one of my last worldly “attachments” is F1 , but becoming less and less.

  90. I think on top of the issue of autocracy vs democracy and the consequent struggle for reform / human rights violations in suppressing that struggle. I also find it upsetting that the only reason a country like Bahrain is in a position to host an F1 race is not due to a long historical association with motorsport or an emergence as a developed country keen to make an impact on the national stage, it’s because a century ago someone discovered oil reserves beneath the desert and American and European companies pay the tribal rulers of this land for the rights to access that oil. I personally find it sad that I have to sit through a 2 hour borefest in a sandbox rather than watching a race from a classic european track or an exciting newly emerging track purely because some sheik and his family can show off how much money they have by paying Bernies exhorbitant race hosting fees. The sooner these feudal autocrats run out of oil the better then Bernie can chase after some Russian billionaires instead. Sad thing is it paints F1 out to be a conscienceless greedy sport with no concern for it’s own history or moral values.

  91. Great article. But if we are going to bring up China, and an imaginary Iran or PyongYang race, then we should also mention the US race and that parallel. Big business (which runs the US and is heavily involved in politics and the military there) stand to profit from that race greatly. So in that sense it has more of a parallel than China has – however small.

  92. The BBC has just reported that a Force India staff car has been caught up in a protest in which a fire bomb was thrown. The report points out that:

    Teams and drivers are known to have private misgivings about the wisdom of racing in Bahrain amid ongoing civil unrest, but none have so far publicly questioned the decision.

    Why this omerta? Because any dissent from the sport’s rulers’ views can be very costly. Look at Adam Parr. Besides, any team that decided not to attend a race that all the others were attending would face enormous costs and possibly lose their place on the grid.

    The bosses of F1 and the rulers of Bahrain seem to have more in common than you might think…

    1. You said “Because any dissent from the sport’s rulers’ views can be very costly. Look at Adam Parr. ”

      What do you about Adam Parr’s departure then?

  93. Fantastic article Keith. I accept some of its opinion some accepted fact, and it’s for people to make up their own minds, so here’s a few research links of events/statements in the last 24 hours

    A statement from the Chief of Public Security: Ministry of the Interior.

    A Tweet from the same ministry declaring all protesting from today to be illegal – someone on this site commented the country was run by parliament. Really?
    Tweet today from Activist Dr Ala’s Shehabi

    In his Guardian interview John Yates insisted that protesters were not being abused by the police. If they were “that would be on YouTube”, he insisted.
    Pictures and Video of the Police response to keep the peace
    But Western Journalists have been at these events. This is what they say.!/easonF1!/ianparkesf1!/tomcary_tel

    The trial of 20 Medics, arrested for treating protesters:

    Looks a pretty peaceful backdrop for an F1 race?

    Even Yates of the Yard employed by the Bahraini ruling family now says they cannot guarantee F1 teams safety

    1. And now we reports from the BBC that 4 Force India team members caught up in a firebomb incident in clashes between the Police and protesters. 1 of them has returned to the UK.

      1. Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani says it’s “unfortunate” that Force India mechanics were caught up in a petrol bomb incident

        1. “Force India mechanics were caught up in a petrol bomb incident ”
          BBC’s Andrew Benson uses a gutter press headline “Force India flee Bahrain petrol bombs”.
          Still, not as bad as Prince Charles and Camilla who were threatened with physical violence in their car last year, during the London Student Fees riots! :0

          1. So being caught in the middle of a petrol bomb attack – granted not aimed at them but still a physical attack by a crowd of protesters is somehow less frightening or severe them someone threatening violence? I would go with the threat everytime! Just because they were not hit by a petrol bomb doesn’t mean the danger was all around them and must have been very frightening. Were there petrol bombs and the scale of violence during the fee ‘riots’? Not even the same scale in my mind.

      2. A second Force India member is now leaving

        Force India’s spokesman, Will Hings, told Associated Press today that one of them is leaving the country and heading back to Europe. Hings said another member of the team who was not in the vehicle is also leaving.

        “I won’t be giving any details of their positions or names … they were just people working for the team,” Hings said. “I can’t give you any more information other than that they’re returning home out of their free choice.”

    2. Medicins sans Frontieres says it has been continually denied access to Bahrain to assist the injured who live in fear of attending Hospitals in case of reprisals

    3. You say “Even Yates of the Yard employed by the Bahraini ruling family now says they cannot guarantee F1 teams safety”. He is stating the b******* obvious, innit? Nobody can guarantee your safety anywhere in the world, not even in Britain.

      Get real folks, there are agitators and dissidents in every country, and they will only be happy when they can take over a country to run it like dictators themselves.

      As for existence of democracy in Bahrain, read it up here
      It may not be what we have in Britain, but then Bahrain is not governed by Britain.

      1. Many international observers see it as a weak puppet government. Read the Bahrain Independent Commision of Inquirey report and recommendations. Download it, its very comprehensive.

        Read Appendix B, p.431-478. 60 cases of torture reviewed in detail. Great detail (not for the squeamish)

        1. Its definately not what we have in Britain

    4. Elizabeth Dickinson, freelance journalist writing for World Affairs Journal (Established in 1837, World Affairs is a bimonthly international affairs journal). She warns the intrasigence of the Bahraini rulers is forcing the hands of the propesters who have until now believed the promise of change given to them.

      She shows how the Bahraini government has missed two recent opportunities for an exit from the political crisis. One was an opportunity for political dialogue, and the other an opportunity for reform following last year’s BICI report.

      “Both those opportunities, however, came to naught, and the result may deal a deathblow, ironically, to the most moderate supporters of Bahrain’s uprising,” Dickinson says.

      Opposition groups led by al-Wefaq continue to walk a fine line, organising pro-democracy protests but keeping open a door for dialogue with the ruling Sunni monarchy …

      Many youth on the street, however, have long ago lost faith in that option. Under the umbrella of an online group of activists calling themselves the February 14 Coalition, they are talking about other options. For months now, protests have chanted “Yasqut, Hamad” – down with the King.

      Now, Molotov cocktails are becoming increasingly popular. Some more extreme online groups allying with the February 14 Coalition have called for more direct attacks on security forces too …

      What this signals for the direction of Bahrain’s crisis seems clear: a further slide into escalation …

      Salman of al-Wefaq told me on April 5 that his group’s position has not changed. “To speak clearly, we are with a credible dialogue, a political solution … There is no precondition for [that] dialogue.”

      The question, increasingly, is to whom they will be speaking.

      1. For those who are worried big corporations are getting away with it – and argue why bother with sovereign nations who abuse Human Rights – the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has published a report today on the responses from companies involved with this weeks F1 event.

        It says: “Forty-two companies failed to respond, and of the 17 responses received, nearly all completely failed to comment on the grave human rights concerns that they were asked to address.”

        “Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has become the world’s leading independent resource on the subject. Our website is updated hourly with news and reports about companies’ human rights impacts worldwide – positive and negative.

        We seek responses from companies to allegations of misconduct: ensuring that our coverage is balanced and encouraging firms to address concerns raised by civil society.

        The website covers the social and environmental impacts of over 5000 companies, operating in over 180 countries. Taking international human rights standards as its starting point, topics covered include discrimination, environment, poverty and development, labour, access to medicines, health and safety, security, trade.”

  94. i,m not watching nor doing the predictions comptetion either, after this weekend master bernie will move onto something else, sometimes the F1 circus sickens me, this is one such moment

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

  95. Bahrain circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani said: “They weren’t targeted. They just happened to be there.

    1. Your point?

      Who cares if they were not targeted; F1 and its teams shouldn’t be there in the first place under the current circumstances.

      1. My point is that he seems to think the fact the point that they wernt targeted makes a differnce. This shows that team members have been in danger and the circuit chairman seems indifferent to the fact.

      2. Oh, it seems my post got cut off.

  96. Great work Keith! Media is so controlled by the companies that own them, it’s hard to get a unbiased report of the facts, your pros and cons assessment keeps and gives the rest of us the pices of the puzzle to from our own conclusions. In the full gravity of the system; cheers

  97. Well, now that a petrol bomb has been lobbed at a Force India personnel car, and given that the protests are likely to escalate tomorrow, shouldnt the race be postponed on steams’ safety grounds? Some people argue that the violence is in the city and away from the track itself, but the teams cannot sleep on the track, can they? They have to go into the city in the evening, where the protesters will be waiting.
    This race should not go ahead. And it might not make a difference, but I wont bother watching it if it goes ahead.

    1. but the teams cannot sleep on the track, can they?

      I doubt it, nor should they. And need I remind, its not only about the teams, it is also about the fans and the general and international audience that will be watching. These people have to use the cities and the services within to get around, live, and enjoy their stay during the event.

    2. ” Well, now that a petrol bomb has been lobbed at a Force India personnel car, … ”

      Well, the petrol bomb was thrown at the Police, not at Force India car. The protestors have expressly said that they have no intention to harm any F1 people; because they know that if they did, it would harm their cause immeasurably.
      As for the City, the City is and has always been safe. I know, because I visit about twice a month.
      The violence that happens almost every night is in the Shia villages, where they gather to attack Police Stations. See for yourself:

      1. HewisLamilton
        19th April 2012, 16:35

        Hopefully the petrol bomb knew it was supposed to be headed for the police and not for the hired car with the Force India personnel on board. How asinine. The bottom line is their safety was comprimised when they have been told all is safe.

  98. Foreign Office updates its travel advice to Bahrain today. And whilst there are no restrictions on travel there are weighty health warnings for consideration.

  99. The cracks begin to appear…

    “We shouldn’t have been put in this position,” Hulkenberg told BBC Sport.

    “It is obviously not right that that sort of stuff happens,” Hulkenberg said. “We are here to race. The F1 business is about entertainment and these sort of things should not really be happening to us.

    “Whether it is right or not I don’t really know. It’s difficult to say. I am not a politician, I am a formula 1 driver, but it should not really be happening should it?

    “It is not good that we have to worry about it: that is the way it is now and let’s see and hope that the rest of the weekend is good and calm.”

  100. F1 shouldn’t associate itself with torturing of innocent civilians caused by a horrific parliamentary regime. Only when basic human rights have been restored to the Bahrainian people should the race return to the calendar.
    But of course, F1 is a money sport, and if Bernie makes money he’ll be a happy man, so the race will go ahead

    1. Completely agree with you.

  101. One thing that I cannot understand is if one chooses to boycott this race because it is morally wrong then should onenot boycott the rest of the season until such a point the FIA makes a decision to never race where there are oppressive regimes? That is similar to saying “I am mad you want to go to the movies with a killer this weekend but yeah sure lets hang out next weekend”. On May 11 while you happily enjoy the next round of races the people in Bahrain will still continue to suffer. I’ll probably get a lot flack for pointing that out but it is the uncomfortable truth. I for one am not going to be a hypocrite and grandstand about how I am against but I am conflicted about whether or not to watch.

  102. I presume that the risk of debris, or something more serious being thrown on the track has crossed everyone’s minds, and may have been discussed here also (apologies if I missed that). But what if?

    Last week we were at the Chinese GP and they had a ban on glass bottles going into the track, for obvious reasons. However, there were still hawkers selling stuff over the fence, and many of our group managed to smuggle our customary bottles of Champagne in despite there being bag checks at all gates.

    I know this situation is quite different, but as has been mentioned already above, the protesters are realising more and more that the ruling elite are not going to listen or talk to them… It would be very tempting to me, if I was that desperate, to try and do something outrageous on race day – even if it cost me my life or liberty – to try and make a point.

    Are we only going to see empty stands? Or sparsely populated ones with the elite only in them? And are all of them going to be vetted? Even if that is the case do they really believe they can 100% guarantee that a rock or bottle will not be thrown into the path of a car travelling at speed….

    1. Glass bottles and glasses are also banned at the Sydney Cricket Ground and every other mejor ground I’ve been to. Its a basic public sfety issue not a repreeive rule.

  103. I can’t read 329 comments to see if this has already been said, but the problem is Bernie signed the agreement with this government knowing who they are and what they do. What does he gain by backing out now, saying “Oops!” on a global stage?
    The comparisons to China and Iran should not be dismissed as easily as orders of magnitude. Do we not think, if there had been a financially attractive offer made, he would take the circus to Tehran? Are those oppressed and killed in China less valuable than those in Bahrain? Would he schedule a GP in Egypt, now that it is essentially unsafe to be a Christian in that country?
    What should be relatively obvious is that these races – in a country with no racing history, but the resources to construct a GP circuit in a desert – are forged in relationships where revenue is only part of the picture. We don’t know what he (Bernie) is saying behind closed doors, but his only realistic option in public is to fulfill the current contract and delay renewal until some kind of human rights proviso is included. And then we’re back to China…

  104. I’ve had enough of all this BS. Those who really care about the political situation in a foreign country better move there and try and change things. The rest of us can enjoy Sunday sports because I really do not care if we have Olympics in China or CCCP or a race in Syria.
    PS :
    How many of you guys are voicing your opinions about the situation in Syria?

    1. Syria isn’t breaking the FIA’s regulations (and, obviously, F1 isn’t there) so this would hardly be the forum to complain about Syria. Bahrain has, the FIA is there anyway, so here is the right place to complain about Bahrain. Even if you don’t care about the politics, I’m surprised you don’t care whether the rules of F1 are being followed.

  105. Stop trying to make sport political! It’s commentators and media (like you) who cherry-pick which events, where, when, and in what context they decide to cross a purely sporting contest with a totally-unrelated and much bigger domestic policy issue!

  106. What hypocrisy, you’re just as bad – you don’t want to shut down the site because you would lose money and followers…
    What if 40 million was on the line?
    Maybe Bernie should step up to the plate like you did and uh – wait – you didn’t do anything.

  107. I believe this to be the finest article I’ve read on such a subject since I joined this community 2 and a half years ago.

    1. In China, twitter and youtube and facebook are strictly censored.
      In Bahrain, the agitators are freely allowed to use those social media, and comment freely on the internet. They have freedom of speech.
      On f1fanatic, your comments are censored if the owner chooses to do so.

      1. My point was that this is a great article…what is yours?

  108. Had a lot of time and a lot of reading but my original stance from the start that despite the risk my passion as a fan of racing, with family friends over at there race in the firing line i do want the race should go ahead but we need to get out of the Bahrain contract asap. Selfish because i want to see a race? Maybe but i totally disagree with any violent actions being a excuse to stop the power of sport. Nobody stopping the Chine If 9/11 didn’t stop us then neither should this!

    For me i see plenty of similarity’s between English riots last year and the Bahrain incident. I don’t agree with our government and how it works nor do i agree with the rioters actions last summer. Except for 1 match between Spurs and Everton being called off every sporting event of note went ahead as usual unaffected not that that can determine how your average Bahrain protester will react.

    If anything does happen though injury’s or deaths then i have no idea how FIA can escape from putting every driver, mechanic and steward into unsafe working conditions.

    A lot of people wont like this next bit but its a fact an im saying it!
    Whatever happens F1 will take a big hit with questions over the morality of being there however all publicity is good publicity! Everyone will be watching this race and Sky and any other broadcaster will be loving the viewing figures as much as Bernie will be happy to get his cash and hopefully we will be able to look back on a race where nobody from comes out of it worse for ware and that non of the Bahrainian protesters ruin the race although with there best opportunity to publicize there cause i have fears that will happen.

    1. Nah, a lot of people will boycott it. There will be people watching out of curiosity, but I’m seeing a net drop in viewers for this weekend.

  109. Some people have suggested – in the comments here (e.g. @calonto above) and on Twitter – that as I oppose the race the only way I should respond to it is by not covering it at all.

    I reject that view, for the reasons outlined above. As I said on Twitter yesterday, those who say “if you don’t agree with the race, don’t cover it on your site” are just trying to silence dissent.

    The best way I can get my point across is to continue covering the race weekend as usual (or as much as possible under the circumstances) and make use of the opportunity I have to explain why I think the race shouldn’t go ahead.

    Frankly, if I chose to ignore the race weekend most people would assume I’d been hit by a bus, rather than realise I was taking a stand against Bahrain. Staying silent would be at best futile, at worst an act of complicity.

    1. Actually I’d think you’d say” I will not be covering the race for X reason, see you all on Tuesday” with a message on the top post of your site and have a long weekend.

    2. ” The best way I can get my point across is to continue covering the race weekend as usual ”

      In other words, it is the same argument as being used by the rest of F1. By staging the race, the Bahraini miltants have had the best ever worldwide free coverage of their riots that they could dream of.

    3. Well done. if i was in your boots and didnt want the race to happen i would continue to follow the event and cover it as the top journalist that you are. Congratulations and thank you

  110. I am strongly supportive to the protesters of Bahrain and i condemn any kind of torture from any government or regime BUT.Sometimes people forget that economy and politics are closely tied together and the first leads the second.The FIA F1 World Championship is a PRODUCT,and in fact a CAPITALIST product!The FOM and its partners are corporations and corporations only care about PROFITS.

    Anyone wishing for a corporation to be more “humane” in the distribution of its products is running a fool’s errand to say the least!And even is the FIA canceled the GP,it would be for the profits of altruistic advertising NOT for the protesters themselves.

    So i am going to watch the GP and wont expect from FIA what shouldnt be expected from a corporation,as i dont expect from my employer to care how i make do with 400euros per month.If you or the protestors of Bahrain want to change the world,start reading Marx-Engels-Lenin and view the current world as it is.

    1. Read the comment by expatinbahrain ( posted Today 08:52 AM) at the bottom of Tom Cary’s article in the Telegraph

      “The majority of the population is sick and tired of the being held at ransom by these molotov throwing manaics, for whom this has become a weekend activity. The terrorize the local and expat population who live close to their villages , with tyre-burnings and illegal protests. Nowhere in the world would the Govt. allow the protestors to subdue the right of the peace loving majority, however here they are allowed in the name of human right to do so. ……. here they go scot free because the same Western Countries pressure the Middle East to allow them to protest peacefully. Well killing, maiming the Asian expats and the Police force is not exactly peaceful and then again a peaceful protestor would not cover his face with a balacalava and have a molotov in his hand. These protestors mostly belong to the poor villages and do little to uplift their lives, inspite of the Govt. providing free health services, education,housing and a tax free haven to citizena and expats alike. “

  111. All of this whining and boycotting is completely pointless if you pretend everything is back to normal in 3 weeks in Spain. Even though the next race isnt in Bahrain the fact remains that F1 supports the current regime in Bahrain, and if it’s such a big deal this week it should remain a big deal until the race is off the calendar or there is a change in power.

    1. Let’s hope it does then…..

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