Franz Tost, Toro Rosso, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Tost: F1 should not respond over Bahrain human rights appeal

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost dismissed calls from human rights groups for the FIA and Formula 1 to demand the Bahrain government release protesters who have criticised the race.

On Wednesday 16 human rights groups wrote* to FIA president Jean Todt and F1 general counsel Sacha Woodward-Hill urging them to publicly call for the release of Najah Yusuf and others.

Yusuf was arrested after publishing a social media post describing the Bahrain Grand Prix as “nothing more than a way for the al-Khalifa family to whitewash their criminal record and gross human rights violations”. Yusuf, a mother of four, claims she was tortured and sexually assaulted during her detention.

The letter claim’s Yusuf’s public criticism of the race was included in the prosecution against her, a charge the government denies. It also states a “spike in human rights abuses occur each year around the time of the race”, and accused F1 of failing to respect the statement on human rights it adopted in 2015.

Tost, one of four F1 team principals who attended yesterday’s official FIA press conference at the Bahrain International Circuit, was the only one to respond when asked for their views on the subject. He argued Formula 1 should not involve itself in a “political” matter.

“It’s quite easy,” he said. “We are here for a sport event, not for a political event. That means – first of all, I was surprised that there are still some political turmoil which I don’t think is the reality.

“I think that the reality is just that a few people want to create troubles and Formula One is here to make sport, to entertain the people. We should not be involved in any political questions. This, people should do, who are here, who are living here. The government, whoever, that’s their job, not our job.”

*The letter can be read here (PDF link)

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

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29 comments on “Tost: F1 should not respond over Bahrain human rights appeal”

  1. Good of him to tackle the elephant in the room, even if his message wasn’t what people would have liked to hear.

    I was surprised that there are still some political turmoil which I don’t think is the reality.
    “I think that the reality is just that a few people want to create troubles


    1. And here’s F1’s statement on human rights:

      1. The Formula 1 companies are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.
      2. Whilst respecting human rights in all of our activities, we focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence. We do so by taking proportionate steps to:
      (a) understand and monitor through our due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts of our activities;
      (b) identify and assess, by conducting due diligence where appropriate, any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved either through our own activities or as a result of our business relationships, including but not limited to our suppliers and promoters;
      (c) consider practical responses to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, within the relevant context;
      (d) engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, where appropriate; and
      (e) respect the human rights of our employees, in particular the prohibitions against forced and child labour, the freedom to associate and organise, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.
      3. Where domestic laws and regulations conflict with internationally recognised human rights, the Formula 1 companies will seek ways to honour them to the fullest extent which does not place them in violation of domestic law.

      1. This is not an easy one.
        In the extreme sense of the word there are claims of human rights transgressions in every single country on the calendar. And just having races in Antarctica would be boring.
        But doing nothing and claiming you have nothing to do with it is not acceptable either, especially given their own human rights statement.
        Maybe this is a situation where behind closed doors discussions could help.
        Todt should drive this; I don’t though that he had the spine to do that.
        Maybe an outspoken driver like Hamilton can dedicate his poor position to all political prisoners who are behind bars just for sharing their opinion.

        1. this isn’t merely a case of human rights transgressions though is it? it is directly related to the GP in Bahrain. which is why there are calls to do something about it. no one is realistically expecting Formula 1 to don the cape of a crusader for every problem out there, just the one that they are more immediately involved in. and directly profiting from.

          1. The Bahraini government aren’t clamping down more than normal because of the F1, though, are they? The protesters, who know what will be done to them for protesting and are brave enough to stand up to it, have chosen to make the protests while the world is paying attention to the repressive response.

            If F1 is directly responsible for anything here, it must be providing a global platform for protests that no-one cares about the rest of the time.

          2. Dave, there are allegations that the authorities in Bahrain do clamp down more on protestors when the race is held precisely because they are trying to stop them talking to the global media – rather than the race providing them with a platform, the government is using the staging of the race to justify a crackdown on “national security” grounds.

    2. Saying 15 human right organizations finding as not reality is wrong. But asking high level FOM & FIA official to visit the prisoner and to demand immediate release of her is just as unreal.

  2. this is what we call ‘a position of privilege”. I’m tired of people saying that sports and politics should not mix. it does, and it has always been mixed. maybe Tost should as the Bahraini royal family to stop mixing it. his selective ignorance is convenient. and self serving. I hope he realises that.

    1. Doubt he does or cares. He takes the money like the rest of the paddock and follows orders. His hollow claim “Formula One is here to make sport” deserves either LOLs or scorn. Or both.

      F1 is here to make money and SPEND way more money than it makes. If it means dealing with a number of despotic regimes, so be it – sport follows the money.

      As Bernie so vividly showed us, F1 is about vast vats of money and the political animals that keep the vats churning – the ‘sport’ of racing is a distant 3rd in the political mission statement race.

      1. Well said, the both of you @jimmi-cynic, srikanth.

        While there certainly are circumstances this weekend that help make the choice an easier one, I’m not part of the F1 audience this weekend (partly too because just recently a rejected Dutch asylum seeker was immediately incarcerated upon return to Bahrain).

  3. GtisBetter (@)
    30th March 2019, 8:34

    Clearly F1 sells out to all kind of horrible regims to make a buck and fans keep watching, so they are complicit. As with any company, you consider the party you make a contract with. As a f1 team you are in somewhat of a difficiult position, cause speaking against it publicly won’t change much and most likely backfire and so they must put pressure on not to extend contracts behind closed doors. However i am not sure they care enough. They rather stick their heads in the sand and falsly claim it’s not political. When a country is paying your salary with “public” money to paint a pretty picture of the country, politics are the main reason you are there.

    The other thing is that you can’t just single out one country. On the f1 calender there are about 6 countries with gross human rights violations, that are directly related to oppressing governements.

    just for the record, if people say they don’t care i can respect that. Everybody is free to think about it how they want, but I get annoyed when people don’t care, but pretent they do by claiming they don’t have a choice (they do, they just like to be in f1 more then not), they are just here to race (very convenient) etc… Just as i get annoyed when for example lewis (or other athletes) speaks out against racism and people say “shut up, you are here to race and entertain”

    1. @passingisoverrated

      Hey mate- could you please elaborate on what countries these are?

      “On the f1 calender there are about 6 countries with gross human rights violations, that are directly related to oppressing governements.”

  4. So, one of the wealthy in F1 thinks that human rights shouldn’t get in his way of making more money?
    More proof that the wealthy are generally out of touch with the real world.

    Perhaps if he doesn’t know there’s a problem, he should be keeping up to speed with what’s happening in the countries around the world he visits, instead of playing the F1 politics puppet with Marko’s hand up his ass making his lips move?

  5. F1 is steeped in ethics. Just ask Vijay Malya, Flavio Briatore, Nigel Stepney and PAt Fry.

    1. @bukester
      there is COTD Keith!

  6. Probably didn’t want to experience being detained himself.

  7. So if we go by the logic of various comments here, the calendar would be a fair bit shorter than it is now.

    1. @jaymenon10: Not necessarily. Wouldn’t mind if there 2 races per year at Spa and 2 at Suzuka.

      Although, wouldn’t mind if the calendar was 16 races. But, Liberty would.

      1. I would like to know the 16 countries that had no violation against all 30 basic human right.

        1. Ok, fine: @ruliemaulana, it’s the Canadian GP and then back to testing for 9 months.

      2. Suzuka’s out too, though. And Monza. There’s about three races that would be completely safe.

      3. F1oSaurus (@)
        30th March 2019, 15:31

        Japan also has plenty of human rights issues. Amongst which the poor treatment of the low paid foreign workforce. Similar to the poor conditions the Bahraini underclass complains about (and seem to feel the GP needs to be attacked for).

  8. Tost’s comments are clearly wrong. Of course there’s a massive human rights issue here.

    I still think that there’s a good argument to be made that sporting boycotts don’t work, and in fact sporting contacts do work at least a little bit. But that’s an argument based on acknowledging the problem, not denying it exists.

  9. Well said Tost. There are governments and politicians to sort this, nothing to do with F1. I couldnt care less about whoever these locked up people are.

  10. Bahrain, China, Azerbadjian, Russia, Abu Dhabi… yeah, I don’t feel bad about illegally streaming F1 at all.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      30th March 2019, 15:24

      Add the UK too. Couple of months ago the UK lost a legal battle over it’s incredibly intrusive surveillance program going against human rights.

      So, we can probably expect some protest against the Silverstone GP

  11. Only tyrants fear freedom of speech. If F1 were to follow their own human rights credo, the basic human right of freedom of speech would be a good starting point. One way to find out if the powers that be in Bahrain value having a Formula 1 Grand Prix in their nation is for F1 to request/demand that their guidelines be followed as a contractual commitment.

  12. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

    I certainly don’t expect F1 to take on the role of moral policeman on behalf of the sporting world. But in partnership with other sporting bodies and multinational corporations they definitely could encourage change. It worked in South
    Africa over time.
    With the benefit of social media change can be quite rapid.

    But while F1 puts out feel good statements without acting on them they are no more than that, feel good statements with zero purpose other than to keep a PR person busy.

  13. Having a GP in Bahrain legitimizes the government and its horrible human rights violations. To come to any other conclusion is just blind ignorance. Wake up F1.

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