Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix

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2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

The full horror of what has gone in in Bahrain in recent days has now emerged.

Reports have emerged detailing protesters being killed with live rounds and surgeons beaten for trying to treat the injured.

Foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country and some of those who bore witness to the government’s clamp-down were beaten as well.

This weekend’s GP2 Asia race meeting was cancelled. Ambulances that should have been on stand-by at the track were instead among those driving the government’s victim to hospitals by the hundreds.

It is easy to make arguments about ‘moral hypocrisy’, and point to questionable actions taken by other governments in countries that F1 visits.

But showing up in Bahrain and accepting their money to race days after the world has watched it murder its citizens would be unconscionable.

The difficulty in guaranteeing the safety and security of the teams’ employees and everyone else who travels with the F1 circus is a further concern.

With testing due to begin at the circuit on March 3rd the first staff will be scheduled to arrive in Bahrain next week.

The desire to ensure the smooth running of the race would likely provoke another wave of repression from the security forces.

Those with longer memories recall how Formula 1 continued racing in South Africa in the seventies and eighties long after most other sports, repulsed by the brutal and racist apartheid regime, boycotted the country.

This attracted little attention 30 years ago when F1 was far less popular. Today the eyes of the world are on whether F1 will again turn a blind eye to the plight of an oppressed people out of its eagerness to line its coffers.

It must not.

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

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341 comments on Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix

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  1. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 18th February 2011, 10:11

    Today the eyes of the world are on whether F1 will again turn a blind eye to the plight of an oppressed people out of its eagerness to line its coffers.

    I agree completely.

    There are some things in life that are more important than motor racing, and this is one of them.

    • Davide said on 18th February 2011, 10:29

      Yes, it must be cancelled

      • While i totally agree, the cost of cancelling the event won’t be limited to bernie. Apparently some container ships are already heading out there with the team’s equipment. So surely it would make sense to arrange a test (at least) at a circuit close to Bahrain? I suggest dubai would be more than happy to step in

        • Baronetti said on 18th February 2011, 16:11

          Ships? Isn’t it all air freighted these days?

          • US_Peter said on 18th February 2011, 18:59

            Nope. They sea freight everything they can in advance, to save on cost. They airfreight everything that has to go last minute.

        • Andy W said on 18th February 2011, 17:20

          doesn’t matter that is what insurance is for… It would be insane to send/ tell anyone to go to Bahrain. F1 simply can’t afford to do that morally, financially or for any other reason.

          I am sure there are other tracks they can sort out testing at, and who knows maybe by the end of the season the situation will be resolved (or the money change hands) to allow it to be the last race of the season… but I doubt it.

          I just wonder how many other races are going to be cancelled/ affected by politics of a different nature than we are used to…. I very much doubt it will be the only one…. Times they are a changing.

          • Poor Bernie – he who just love the dictators because they could “get things done” as he said.

          • andy.price said on 19th February 2011, 14:17

            Insurance is not valid for civil unrest as I am now aware having checked my policy!

        • nik (@nik) said on 19th February 2011, 6:24

          I assue that FOM would have some form of insurance for race cancellations and that the organizers would have to compensate.

          FOM are very methodical with their agreements, it would be a surprise if there aren’t pages of clauses surrounding when an event should be cancelled and what happens thereafter

          I have always been against international sporting organizations, such as FOM and FIFA, supporting non-democracies. The international spotlight on sport should be used to highlight the plight of those who are less fortunate than us. The same applies for Qatar in 2022.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th February 2011, 10:42

      There are some things in life that are more important than motor racing, and this is one of them.

      And even if the race was going to be beneficial to the situation in Bahrain, it’s not worth risking the lives of everyone involved with F1. I know people were saying yesterday that the Grand Prix would provide a good front for the protesters’ messages to be seen around the world – but there’s no way we can afford to put any more people in danger. I am not well educated on the situation, but I have read and seen enough around the internet to understand it’s not safe in Bahrain at the moment, so staging an F1 race would be rather silly.

      It is easy to make arguments about ‘moral hypocrisy’, and point to questionable actions taken by other governments in countries that F1 visits.

      Of course, but this is now. I know someone was commenting yesterday that every country has it’s dark side – but thankfully, most of this is history. People’s lives aren’t at risk when F1 visits Japan, for instance. And to prove I am not hypocritical, I am 100% sure that if a situation as bad as this arose in Japan, Canada, Australia or Spa, (just picked some great races that people would not like to see go, to balance the argument considering the Grand Prix under threat is none other than Bahrain…) the last thing I’d want is to see people risking their lives, just for the sake of a motor race.

      So it’s not because it’s Bahrain, it’s because it’s dangerous.

      • So it’s not because it’s Bahrain, it’s because it’s dangerous.

        The unfortunate irony being that every motorsport admittance ticket I’ve ever seen is stamped at the bottom with “Motorsport is dangerous

        At least it’s contolled danger, though.

        • There’s a key difference between “danger by accident” and “danger by intent” though, you never want to be in a situation where the latter could arise.

    • Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 18th February 2011, 10:57

      If course I agree, but the cynisism behind F1 is so great that I will be suprised If we see an appropriate response from the F1 organizers. The show must go on, sadly.

    • Mr. Zing Zang said on 18th February 2011, 16:37

      IF YOU DON’T WANNA GET SHOT, DON”T PROTEST!!THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!

    • Mr. Zing Zang said on 18th February 2011, 16:39

      Make a Poll kieth!

    • Yes, the Grand Prix must be cancelled on moral ground, but we must also add that the main reason Ecclestone gave Bahrain the race is because of the MONEY and prestige of the multimillion dollar state of the art track.
      Let’s not forget the repressive regime has been in place for ages, the torture and repression were happening when the F1 circus decided to go there.
      Democracy, human rights and respect of law are not part of Ecclestone’s vocabulary, a man who hailed dictators like Hitler as necessary to get something done!

      • Talladega Knight said on 18th February 2011, 23:17

        You must feel sympathetic towards the citizens of Bahrain and a few other countries spread across the Middle East. For all of us living in the developed, democratic world we may complain that David Cameron, Barack Obama, Julia Gillard, etc. aren’t listening to the electorate and are doing a poor job in running the, but these people have had it bad for decades.

        The citizens of the Middle Eastern region are being persecuted by unelected officials because there people want a basic human right. I for one must say that I support their cause and wish them every success, however I don’t think Bahrain will be another Egypt or Tunisia unfortunately.

        It’s early February and I am naturally ravenous for some racing, however the race must be cancelled. Even if Bernie decides to be greedy and proceed with the race, I would hope the teams boycott the race. The F1 championships mean nothing in morale terms, so the F1 community should show their support to the people by removing this GP from the calendar. If this race is held, what does that say to the people of Bahrain? This is how we will be judged

      • Talladega Knight said on 18th February 2011, 23:24

        You must feel sympathetic towards the citizens of Bahrain and a few other countries spread across the Middle East. For all of us living in the developed, democratic world we may complain that David Cameron, Barack Obama, Julia Gillard, etc. aren’t listening to the electorate and are doing a poor job in running their respective country, but the people of these Middle Eastern States have had it bad for decades.

        The citizens of the Middle Eastern region are being persecuted by unelected officials because the people want a basic human right – the right to vote. I for one must say that I support their cause and wish them every success, however I don’t think Bahrain will be another Egypt or Tunisia unfortunately.

        It’s early February and I am naturally ravenous for some Formula 1 action, however the race must be cancelled. Even if Bernie decides to be greedy and proceed with the race, I would hope the teams boycott the race. The F1 championships mean nothing in morale terms, so the F1 community should show their support to the people by removing this GP from the calendar. If this race is held, what does that say to the people of Bahrain? This is how the democratic world will be judged by the citizens of Bahrain.

        The running of this GP would not sit right with me and I hope my fellow F1 Fanaticers agree.

        • Talladega Knight said on 18th February 2011, 23:28

          Sorry for the partially finished first comment – Android small buttons + big fingers = annoying mistakes!

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2011, 10:13

    Agree, the Authorities are already trying to put down unrest “damaging the economy”. They would be increasing that to secure the GP.

    Thanks for the article Keith.
    Bernie, Todt, FOTA take note!

  3. May this be the opportunity for F1 never to return to that boring track…

    I hope that the situation in Bahrain is sorted in the way that best suits the population of the country and that no-one else has to die for their cause.

    • Considering Jerez was abandoned because of a swap in people giving the prizes to the podium finishers, and considering this is much worse, the FIA should sanction Bahrain, to show they are against this type of events.

  4. VERY well said Keith.

    • David BR said on 18th February 2011, 12:00

      Very much seconded. Holding races in South Africa under apartheid after the international boycott was a real low point for Formula 1, much like the England rebel cricket tour.

      It’s also been great to read the debate over the last few days on these pages hosted by Keith.

    • F1iLike said on 18th February 2011, 13:37

      +1

  5. F1Core said on 18th February 2011, 10:15

    Agreed.
    They should skip Bahrain or move it somewhere else ! I am NOT going. I hope Bernie hears this.

  6. This begs the question, whilst these countries are willing to pay top dollar to host a GP is it sensible to do so in such unpredictable / unstable regions?

  7. Scribe (@scribe) said on 18th February 2011, 10:16

    Fantastic peice Keith. I completley agree, now F1 has such prestige, we cannot be giving it to despots.

  8. Ian Craig said on 18th February 2011, 10:17

    Ecclestone’s interjectional supposed threat was nothing short of obscene. Cancel the Grand Prix and having the testing transferred to somewhere else and schedule more for what would’ve been the race weekend. Simple as that

  9. What if…. the government has been over turned within the next few days?
    What if…. by the time the race comes round, the revolution has occurred?

    Would it be disrespectful to race?
    Would they ask F1 to race in the new country?

    With the president set of Tunisia, and Egypt.. the speed of the revolution could happen quickly, maybe days, or weeks before the race. Then what colour would the presence of F1 take?

    Fair enough, it hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it’s a bit cold to set those questions up, but this site isn’t shy of a debate based on the last Bahrain thread.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 10:28

      But even if that happens, I think the people in Bahrain might have better things to do in the coming month than prepare for a formula 1 GP – they will then have to sort out the country.

      • Well, I’m working on the basis that people need jobs, and money, and are already prepared for the arrival of F1. They’ve just had GP2 visit, even if it was cancelled.

        The point is, if a revolution happens in a few days, the race is a month away.

        Would the people, as kind, warm, hospitable, proud of their country that they are, want to show themselves to the world immediately afterwards. The cogs are in place, the decision is whether to turn the handle.

        The two examples prior, Tunisia seems to have settled down somewhat…, while Egypt still has protests for pay rises etc.

        Maybe they wont be up and running for sometime. I don’t know if the people of Bahrain could imagine what they could feel in advance, to be in a situation they’ve only dreamed about.

        But maybe pride, love of their own country.

        It’s sheer speculation to be honest, and there’s no way one can make that assessment from an armchair. But it’s interesting to hear what people think. Especially anyone from Bahrain. ( Although you may think me ignorant for asking, I dont know! )

        • Do you honestly think a country that has just overthrown its dictators will be stable enough to host a world class event with all the press and foreign visitors that attracts? Do you not think that there could be a period of instability caused by Islamist extremists trying to gain footholds? It is not a safe place at the moment for anyone especially when ambulance crews are banned from helping people and doctors are being threatened with rape along with journalists having passports taken and being beaten. There are two reasons to cancel the F1 and that is firstly to ensure the safety of all the teams, media and spectators and secondly to show Bahrains leaders that F1 does not support the killing of innocent citizens by a barbaric government. If bernie can’t get over his greed then I hope the drivers and teams refuse to take part.

        • tharris19 said on 18th February 2011, 22:44

          Egypt and Tunisia were not revolutions. Revolutions are terribly nasty and protracted struggles that last for years. They represent a total change in the way a country sees itself and how it is seen by others. The only change in Egypt and Tunisia is in the leaders. There are no real changes in how the people live work or interact with one another. Maybe in the future but not now.
          If there is going to be a revolution in any of these countries we can expect the death tolls to be in the millions. A African American name Frederick Douglass said before the American Civil war “power concede nothing without a struggle, it never did, it never will.” There are some very messy struggles ahead and some of them will spill into our own countries.

        • Unfortunately this probably isnt going to happen. There is one major difference in Bahrain over Tunisia and Egypt. The bulk of their security forces are not locally recruited, many of them come from Pakistan. As such their loyalties are very different from the previous uprisings. This doesn’t bode well and makes for a much more volatile situation, which unfortunately will got down a different route i think.

    • turn-around to a new STABLE government doesn’t happen that quickly… in parts because the new government kinda has to prove itself.

      • Megawatt Herring said on 18th February 2011, 12:40

        If the royal family steped down there would be a power vacuum in the country and then there would be the long process of fighting and arguments about who should take over. In short It won’t be sorted in a mounth either the people will be oppressed and the royal family stays in power or there will be continued unrest whilts a new system is implemented.

        • frood1919 said on 18th February 2011, 12:53

          yes, there is no way this situation can be resolved before March. absolutely no chance whatsoever. look at egypt – supposedly they have achieved their aim (getting rid of mubarak) but it will be months or years before anything really changes.

          in bahrain, they haven’t even got as far as that.

    • What if…. the government has been over turned within the next few days?
      What if…. by the time the race comes round, the revolution has occurred?
      Would it be disrespectful to race?
      Would they ask F1 to race in the new country?

      If that happened the race would, if it will be hold, during the end of the season, but this would make a needless chaos.

      • And yet Bernie goes and says in the BBC he hopes it goes ahead. That F1 doesn’t do religion or politics.

        People seems to know everything when they make assertions here.

        Personally, I have no idea how it will pan out. I just wish the people the best, and that the recent killings are the last. I really feel for people, families and kids in that country and situation right now.

  10. Chrizz said on 18th February 2011, 10:18

    Yeah you’re right Keith: the peoples’ safety (both Bahraini & F1 personnel) is a priority.

    Well Obama, maybe you should invade Bahrain?! ;-)

    • Chrizz,

      Oh stop it! The US & UK has willingly supported these countries even if it has a tyranical dicatator(just think oil). It only matters when the said dicatator is no longer playing ball with Washington, then the Marines go in. I am sure that I might be right in saying that the US has a military base in Juffair, which evidences my point. The much used word ‘Freedom’, is a joke in the context of global politics. Any country that is still being ruled by a monarchy in the 21st century is living in medieval times. I wish the Bahraini my best in the coming weeks.

      • JustAnF1Fanatic (@justanf1fanatic) said on 18th February 2011, 12:53

        lgs, your right there are US bases in Bahrain, they even hold the US Fifth Naval Fleet!

        • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 18th February 2011, 13:44

          And another term I first heard at uni is ‘blowback': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowback_(intelligence)

          It happened with Saddam Hussein, it happened with Osama bin Laden, and their support for Middle East dictators could well come back to haunt them in the coming weeks. The US government really is incompetent

          • Take your jingoism elsewhere. Not only am I sick of Europeans (to make a harsh but broadly accurate generalization) taking every opportunity to point out what a terrible country the United States is, and how we bear direct responsibility for all the world’s ills, but this isn’t the forum (literally) to be airing your grievances.

            My country’s government is far from perfect, and I was largely ashamed of the Bush White House’s actions, but the knee-jerk (and usually hypocritical) blame we receive for any given world event just about makes me want to get out a ten gallon hat, buy a pickup truck with a gun rack, and sing country songs.

          • Jarred Walmsley (@jarred-walmsley) said on 18th February 2011, 18:19

            I think the only reason your country gets stick from the rest of the world is because they are always the first to plunge into war even when there is no benefit from doing so. Personally, I like America think it’s a wonderful place but you have to admit you do seem to be the most war hungry western civilisation.

          • US_Peter said on 18th February 2011, 19:26

            @PeriSoft, yes we get a bum rap, but not always entirely unfounded. As Americans we do have to bear some responsibility for the actions of our government. I’m not sure that this is necessarily off topic here either, given what’s going on in Bahrain at the moment.

            @Jarred, yes, very war hungry. Unfortunately the Military Industrial Congressional Complex is such an incestuous glad-handing club between our defense contractors and politicians, that much of our economy in the US relies on the military, which accounted for 20% of our country’s federal budget last year. There’s an excellent documentary on the subject called “Why We Fight.” I highly recommend it to Americans and non-Americans alike.

            @Ned, Blowback is also an excellent book, about the consequences of American Imperialism. http://www.amazon.com/Blowback-Second-Consequences-American-Empire/dp/0805075593

          • US_Peter said on 18th February 2011, 19:29

            Oh, and for the record PeriSoft, I already own a 10 gallon hat. ;-)

          • Jarred Walmsley (@jarred-walmsley) said on 18th February 2011, 22:55

            @USPeter, Ahh, I wasn’t aware that your military provided economic benefit to you, like most people I just assumed it was only a drain on the budget.

      • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 18th February 2011, 13:41

        I’m doing a module on Military Geographies at uni atm. Apparently the US has more than 700 military abroad… that’s just staggering

      • Any country that is still being ruled by a monarchy in the 21st century is living in medieval times.

        United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

    • Shhhh! He might hear you.

  11. Nathan said on 18th February 2011, 10:18

    Excellent post Keith and completely agree. I really hope for the people of Bahrain that they protest peacefully and show the shameful, brutal policing to the rest of the world for what it is. F1 should not race there, certainly not at this juncture in Bahrain’s political history.

  12. KBAutomotive (@kbautomotive) said on 18th February 2011, 10:18

    I totally agree. There is no way that F1 needs the bad press that would go along with helping to promote a country that does this sort of thing to it’s own people. This isn’t the 70’s, you simply can’t get away with being associated with this sort of action.

  13. I wonder if it is possible to swich from Bahrain to some other track?

    • Donington? :P

      • Well, preferably a track that is fully laid down, and doesn’t have a couple of JCB chicanes 2/3rds of the way through

      • Jay Menon said on 18th February 2011, 10:50

        Come on Bernie..cancel it!

        As a fan, I dont want to loose a race, hence he should it move it Doha, could be a night race as well?

        MotoGP kicks off in Doha on March the 20th, so the place will technically be setup for a race 10 days before I would think.

        Bernie should move the race and not charge Doha for holding the event, he should do it for the fans!!

        Could Bernie wave his magic wand and make this happen? I doubt he will give in.

        • US_Peter said on 18th February 2011, 19:30

          Bernie should move the race and not charge Doha for holding the event, he should do it for the fans!!

          When has Bernie ever done anything for the fans? Bernie does for Bernie’s pocketbook.

          • tharris19 said on 18th February 2011, 22:53

            Bernie reads Ayn Rand. He is a stanch capitalist.
            When Lenin said a capitalist will sell the rope to hang himself he had Bernie in mind.

          • Pinball said on 19th February 2011, 2:25

            If logistically it is possible to run an event in another nearby country then I think they should. Economically I imagine it would stack up. The FOM would probably still get their fee from Bahrain, race or no race, I imagine the contract would have some sort of clause that if the country is unable to safely host the event they are still required to pay the fee.

            Having said that I still believe that the Bahrain race should only be cancelled if it is physically not safe to be in the country, and judging by media reports the King has asked his son the Crown Prince to start a dialog with all parties involved in protests in order to try and restore piece, may be with an open dialog, it might be possible for a peaceful resolution.

            Furthermore F1 has no right to get involved in a countries internal political issues. Most Formula 1 people previously had no issues with the Shia Muslim majority being repressed (it’s not a new thing), it’s a little bit hypocritical to now suddenly be saying that F1 shouldn’t be going to Bahrain because of the repression of the Shia Muslim majority.

      • Mahir C said on 18th February 2011, 15:13

        Drivers better get a Skoda Yeti then :)

    • Deurmat said on 18th February 2011, 10:33

      Teams have already sent containers with material to Bahrain, gonna be diffucult I think for them to send it to an country in time.

      • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 18th February 2011, 12:05

        I would think that if an alternate venue was in the Gulf region then it would be fairly simple to divert the freight there.

        I would assume they’ll already have contigency plans in place given the current situation – if they haven’t then that’s a strategic blunder that dwarf’s Ferrari at Abu Dhabi 2010..!!

        • You can’t have a contingency plan for an F1 race being cancelled. The plan is the race happens. If something like this happens one month before, it is a force majeure – it’s not reasonable to plan for a cancellation.

  14. Andy Footman said on 18th February 2011, 10:21

    Hi Keith,
    I totally agree and am disgusted at the news stories I am reading. Please start a poll – should F1 race in Bahrain. I know we are all fans and can’t wait for the first race but as Jake Humphrey put it on twitter, sport comes second to issues like this.
    Thanks,
    Andy

  15. alonso_elmatador said on 18th February 2011, 10:22

    Cant they go to Qatar/Doha??its kinda good circuit.

    • C’mon, really? I’ve drawn better circuit layours on Post-It notes. It looks like a Scalextric track, and not a good one either.

      • Rob Haswell said on 18th February 2011, 11:54

        Yeah don’t forget we’re comparing this to Bahrain though.

        • mattg21 (@mattg21) said on 18th February 2011, 19:49

          That did make me laugh. As long as a decision is made quickly,with the people of Bahrain in mind, I don’t mind where the GP may be held. (Ruling out Bahrain of course).

          It took 15 minutes for some entering the country to get their passports checked, with the amount of people entering the country, it will not do anyone any good, although possibly pleasing Bernie.

    • sato113 (@sato113) said on 19th February 2011, 1:46

      exactly! its only a few hours away by road. all the eequipment already in bahrain just needs to be loaded onto a truck and bob’s your uncle!

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