Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix


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

Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images

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341 comments on Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix

  1. James v B said on 18th February 2011, 10:24

    Lots of F1 insiders and journalists in my Twitter timeline have commented how hospitable Bahrain has been towards them in the past what a lovely place it has been to visit. It’s apparent that the F1 circus has always seen (ie. been shown) the best of Bahrain, which clearly is not the same view the majority of its population gets.

    While I agree that there are other F1 races hosted by questionable regimes, the patent brutality demonstrated by Bahrain’s ruling elite this week would make this Grand Prix uncomfortable viewing.

    Bernie has an opportunity to “do the right thing” here, just this once. I will boycott the event if it goes ahead, for what it’s worth.

    • “It’s apparent that the F1 circus has always seen (ie. been shown) the best of Bahrain, which clearly is not the same view the majority of its population gets.”

      Exactly, they used a global sports even that is F1 to create a false image of the country.

      • Same could be said here – they’re not exactly holding the olympics in Glasgow are they ;-)

        Couldn’t really care about events in the middle east, crap circuit though. Won’t miss it.

        Can’t they just hose the protesters out the way and keep them at bay with water cannons?

        • Can’t they just hose the protesters out the way and keep them at bay with water cannons?

          No, I think you’ll find the police prefer to shoot them in the head with actual bullets.

        • Maciek said on 18th February 2011, 12:15

          Can’t they just hose the protesters out the way and keep them at bay with water cannons?

          if that was an attempt at humour – it’s a total fail. You do realise water cannons are just tad more powerful than a backyard sprinkler, right? Whether that was a joke or not, it’s sick thing to say.

          • Why is it sick? That’s what water cannons are for. I tell you what’s sick, the relentless media frenzy supported by dribbles of ‘witness’ testimony from opposition activists, and politically biased ramblings from a supposed F1 journalist. Any decent journalist should use point/counterpoint to avoid bias, rather than just regurgitating the opinion of the Guardianistas 24 hour rolling news coverage.

          • 3 people are dead with hundreds injured… Do you not register this?

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2011, 15:12

          I suppose not, that’s why they used tanks and bird shot supported by tear gas.

          Not very funny.

        • RBAlonso said on 18th February 2011, 18:40

          Commonwealth games are in Glasgow in 2014!

          In all seriousness though, there are areas of the Middle East that are perfectly safe and very pleasant, and these included Bahrain for a number of years.

          My sympathies rest with the people – let’s face it the worst thing we lose here is that we get ‘only’ 19 races across the globe.

          The protesters are fighting for basic human rights.

  2. Agreed. I hope it’s canceled as there is simply no need to add to the risk already faced by people within the country.

  3. Ronman said on 18th February 2011, 10:25

    Well said Keith I agree… is there a petition we can sign somewhere

  4. couldn’t agree more. f1 has to make an example of bahrain and show that it is an ethical sport.

    it cannot ignore this and go ahead with the it’ll be alright on the night mentality, there is far too much risk involved.

    hopefully sense will prevail, even if it was to, “calm down” in bernie’s words, today i don’t think there would be enough time.

    they aren’t going to be bringing every other race forward and it’s too late to organise a race elsewhere. we may be waiting a little longer for 2011 to get under way.

  5. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 18th February 2011, 10:27

    Well put Keith and I completely agree.

    Even if the situation resolves itself quickly, it wouldn’t look good for F1 to return there this year, or maybe even the next few years, if ever.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th February 2011, 10:47

      That may be a little overkill. The people of Bahrain haven’t (appeared) to have done anything wrong, so why shouldn’t they deserve it? It’s just the unjust and oppressive regimes implemented by the government that are causing all of this mess. I do feel deeply sorry for all of the innocent people caught up in this – and the protesters. But I am sure there is another side to the story, so I’m holding my firm and final judgement for a while.

    • Dipak T said on 18th February 2011, 11:12

      That would be going to far. Cancel this year, maybe even look to reschedule it later this season when unrest has died down and the potical situation is stable, the people are safe. Writing off more than one year is not the thing to do.

  6. I believe the Bahrain Govt owns a 30% stake in Mclaren.

  7. Quite right Keith. To see all the beautiful helicopter shots of lovely peaceful Bahrain while it’s citizens lie dead in the streets would sicken me to my stomach.

  8. Dan Selby said on 18th February 2011, 10:31

    Agreed, Keith. Just also wanted to say (slightly off-topic) what a professional job you did on The Flying Lap. Great stuff.

    Keith, do you have any information in regards to a possible replacement race?

    Would there be a replacement, and where so? I’ve heard Abu Dhabi and Barcelona in the mix…

  9. Hopefully the teams will refuse to race even if Bernie doesnt see sense.

  10. Sush Meerkat said on 18th February 2011, 10:37

    and surgeons beaten for trying to treat the injured.

    That’s nasty, medics should never be touched, they would save the lives of either side of the fighting.

  11. Tim (@legardism) said on 18th February 2011, 10:39

    No doubt the GP will be cancelled on safety grounds, and Bernie won’t have to make a the decision on moral grounds.

  12. jihelle (@jihelle) said on 18th February 2011, 10:44

    Boycott is not unheard of in F1 histoty: Fench teams (Ligier and Renault) boycotted the South African Grand Prix in 1985 to protest agains partheid and so did Zakspeed. Senna was very hesitant to go and only did because Lotus went. The Nordic drivers (Johansson and Rosberg) also faced strong pressures from their respective government not to go but did nonetheless. No GP took place in South Africa after that until 1992 and the end of apartheid. Going to Bahrein now would hurt F1’s image and it can’t afford it.

  13. Christine Biggs said on 18th February 2011, 10:47

    This is what happens when you choose money over history and variety.

  14. bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 10:50

    Very well written piece about why F1 should not have a 2010 Bahrain GP Keith, I completely agree.

    I think FOTA should decide today, together with the FIA, that for many reasons, among them safety, the race has to be cancelled.

    An individual team boycot might be difficult for those teams (like McLaren) with ties to regimes in the area, even if I think most of the other sponsors should be busy telling teams to not go race there.

    • Completely agree (except that it’s 2011 already.)

      I think it would be great if FOTA (alongside the FIA) would take a stance, not merely passively wait for FOM. I’m sure most fans hold the point of the of the teams they like higher than that of the commercial exploiter.

      Great article, Keith.

    • …they shouldn’t have one this year either ;-)

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 11:06

      eh, make that “2011 Bahrain GP” … still not entirely used to being in the new year it seems.

      I have heard people say it is hypocrite to now suddenly not want to have this race “what about last year” (heh) or Abu Dhabi.

      Of course, last year, the inequality was there already, and this was a contributing factor reason to not be entirely thrilled with more races in the area when Abu Dhabi arrived, rather than merely that it was another boring race, but in the end: fans weren’t really having a choice here anyway, so that’s not interesting.

      Now we aren’t being asked by Berie either, I am sure. But the situation in Bahrain has changed and is now far worse than it ever was. I think it is good to see F1 fans look up from the testing times and take note, and not stopping to give their opinion on this until they are heard.

  15. kowalsky said on 18th February 2011, 11:09

    f1 can’t be associated with baharain at this moment. I just hope it’s the end of f1 there. French gp in paul ricard or even the mexican gp at hermanos rodrigez it’s a much better proposition. Now that slim is into f1. It would be good for f1 to visit that beautifull track, with big fan base and tradition.

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