2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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 ?? Red Bull/Getty images

341 comments on “Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix”

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

    1. It’s 42%.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. Christine Biggs
    18th February 2011, 10:47

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

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

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

    3. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Whilst I don’t mind skipping Bahrain for the reasons mentioned – you’re right, it is easy to make arguments of moral hypocrisy, and its correct to.

    You’re turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses in China, Uigar and Tibet that dwarf those in Bahrain a thousand-fold. You’re ignoring countless murders perpetrated by Brazilian police. It’s common to cite South Africa, but everyone ignores that F1 went to Australia (admittedly not as an official part of the world championship)while it continued its ‘White Australia’ policy and continued to do so at championship level when deaths of Aboriginals in police custody reached epidemic levels (as a percentage of Aboriginal population). I’m sure those who would make comparisons with British behaviour in Northern Ireland. Etc. etc. etc.

    Simply because something’s been in the media doesn’t make it any worse. the only reason the Uigar civil war does not get on TV is that the Chinese won’t let reporters within a 1000 miles of the place. And probably because media moguls don’t want to anger a potential rich marketplace.

    I don’t mind if we never go to Bahrain again, I don’t mind if we launch a sporting boycott of half the planet, but let’s be consistent, and even if it’s a question of scale, Bahrain are still not the worst sinners in the F1 pool, that’s just the TV and Western politicians with vested interests saying that.

    If Bahrain is cancelled it should be because it’s dangerous to the teams, not to score political points for others.

    1. First sensible comment I’ve read on this post, including the post. The media frenzy surrounding this and the other issues currently flaring up in the middle east is just that, a Media frenzy with vested interests.

    2. China is so big that the safety argument is unlikely to be there, even if this year major protest were to break out and be squashed bloodily in Beijing during the GP; I agree this might make the momentum to stop a GP there smaller, but that doesn’t mean a lot of F1 fans wouldn’t be arguing for stopping the GP.

      In the end, we aren’t asked for our opinion by FOM, not about these things, so our influence has its limitations; here we can add our voice to hope and influence this one, and thus we do.

      As for Australia and SA in the past: that is the past, and people did not have as direct access to knowledge of how the situation was; anyway, we can’t now do anything about it, apart from possibly thinking they were the wrong thing to do a the time. Even so, I am sure for some people it made it distasteful to have the GP there and they did protest about it.

      I wasn’t old enough to watch F1 at the time (born end of 1975), can’t do anything about not protesting at the time. I am pretty sure my parents disliked F1 having a GP, if that helps.

    3. Agreed Dafid,

      We all have skeletons in the wardrobe, some more than others. The media, government and the corporatocracy are so intertwined, I sometimes wonder who makes the decisions (I would put my money on the latter!) – because that is what affects nearly all decision making – money. F1 will not cancel the GP for political reasons, it will be safety and security and rightly so.

    4. Agreed. And if you combine a political statement with ‘it’s dangerous for the circus of people to attend’, the political statement is immediately watered down. It just looks like it’s being used as a way of getting out of something difficult.

      I’d like to know what the opposition leaders think. I’d like to know what the many people who will receive income from the GP think. And even whether this is the same thing. The geopolitics of these situations are much more complex than most people think. If you are looking to take over ‘power’ in a country, crippling it’s economy and disenfranchising even more people is a quick way to do it.

      The question in Bahrain at the moment is whether there is any mechanism to investigate the actions of the police/military and whether an honest and truthful enquiry takes place. That is what marks out a mature and open society. Maybe, just maybe, the people closest to the King and his family, within F1, can help to bring this about. Just turning tail and claiming a somewhat dubious moral victory smacks of ignorance and kneejerk posturing to me.

      I wish the best for every ordinary person trying to live their life safely and productively in Bahrain. In the end, what do they want?

    5. All well and good, but saying that others are doing bad things too is no reason to not take action here. Isn’t it better to start somewhere than not at all? And in any case what do you want that’s the way the world works. Poland almost finished communism in 1980/81, but after the government clamped down and limited western media access it was less sexy and without outside support the movement could only go underground. I’d rather that didn’t have to happen in the Middle East now.

      1. Daffd is 100% spot on IMO.

        If we start to make F1 about international politics, who do we appoint as judge over where it can go? Bernie? Lol!

        People should get off their high horses and realise that sport is sport, politics should not come into it,(I know it does, unfortunately).

        The reason the Bahrain GP will not happen is down to safety issues. Any other reason opens a can of worms that is difficult to close.

        1. So let F1 not be about politics. But letting it go ahead would be a gigantic support call endorsing the government.

          Maciek is right, good example. Give them the chance to have a bit more freedom and a right to say what they want.

    6. I really don’t see how people can disconnect the two so casually.

      Whatever political side F1 does or does not take does not change the fact is is highly immoral to even consider holding race organized by and held on on a track owned entirely by the government, when they are beating protesters to death some miles away. Going there is as much a political statement as not going, but in any case the reason for not going is a moral one, not political.

      Accepting some countries do not grant its citizens the same rights as civilizations is something other than condoning brutal violence against fellow humans.

      Other regimes also using awful means to a political goal doesn’t make this any more right. If you’re adament on drawing a comparison with other regimes, it is perhaps much wiser to draw a lesson from this disgust towards oppression, rather than the apathy towards atrocities committed elsewhere.

      The fact other countries have done very questionable things in the past regarding human rights which we now take for granted should only speak for the validity of the aim of those coming up for there own, not condone that kind of behavior in the 21st century.

  12. How come PM is still quiet on this one?

    1. …because he is too busy at the moment picking his reputation off the floor which is in tatters!:>) Only joking mate, hope all is well, we all have opinions and you have every right to have yours.

  13. Excellent article, Keith

    Absolutely agree. It’s a shame the teams will be out of pocket, and if the reports from Bahrain are true, I can’t see them going back for a long while.

    Agree with the other comments on maybe hosting a test somewhere else like Qatar/Dubai.

    Thoughts are with the Bahrainis

  14. Hate to say it because I wanna go racing, but I completely agree with you Keith. Cancel the race and never return.
    This stuff makes me sick on so many levels.

    1. Luckily, with the advent of movable wings, there won’t be anything that could be described as ‘racing’ going on this season anyway – so no big loss.

  15. I think if there are serious safety concerns then they should cancel because there is no way the drivers/teams, stewards, fans, media, etc should be put in a dangerous position just to run a F1 race. However I think it is a slippery slope boycotting the race for political reason, because it you use F1 as a political statement against an autocratic government in Bahrain which F1 has been going to and taking money from for years then why not boycott China as well or Abu Dhabi? Turkey has a bad reputation for human rights if you boycott Bahrain then why not Turkey? Maldonado is backed by a autocraitc government should he be banned from F1? Do not get me wrong what is going on in Bahrain is horrific and is to be condemmed but I do not think F1 should have a poltical agenda because it sets a dangerous precedent and smacks of hypocrisy. Cancel the race for safety reasons but not for a political statement.

  16. Are the teams gonna have any grief getting their equipment thats already there out of Bahrain?

  17. Just been watching Sky News. Apparently the tear gas cannisters being used against the civilians were sold to the government by the UK. We sell our arms to anyone, this is how we knew that Saddam had WMDs, we just checked our invoice book! :>)

    1. Tear gas is not lethal. It’s designed as a choking agent, designed to disperse crowds by prompting them to seek clean air. It’s only really a danger to those with exisintg breathing conditions, like bronchitis.

      1. At the same time, yes this is a problem: a lot of Western countries are making quite a bit of money selling all kinds of weapons/weapon systems, selling to regimes that aren’t always top notch with human rights. It is good to be aware of it, and I personally think that it should stop.

        Easy to say as I can’t do all that much against it. At least my country signed the anti-mine treaty – after they stopped producing them. In the end, now with twitter etc. we can voice our opinion against such things a bit easier perhaps, and then there is voting, but there is only a limited amount we can do about it, but that isn’t a reason to just do nothing.

      2. Ive used it, so I understand its MO. My point was more aimed at the hypocracy of so called Western democratic Governments supporting tyranical regimes overseas by selling them weapons which could be used against their own own people, and in some cases, weapon systems that could only be used for torture. We love it in the West, taking the moral high ground, when in fact, there is more blood on our hands than most other countries put together. So forgive me if I don’t get all choked up when I hear the national anthem. Sorry, wrong meeting…


        1. The entire point of tear gas is that it is a non-lethal weapon specifically designed to break up crowds with no long-term health effects. There are countless examples of cases where the use of tear gas has been authorised and accepted as a legitimate tactic for breaking up a riot, riots which have happened in the developed world. Do you criticise those governmnets for authorising the use of tear gas in those cases?

          1. Tear gas, water cannons, firing of elastic bands or tickling sticks, whatever. My comments are not with regards to the type of weapon systems, it is the hypocracy of Western ‘Democratic’ Governments selling arms to tyranical regimes, it is as simple as that…and what we are seeing, is Exactly that.

            “If we dont sell weapons, then someone else will”…”Its not the weapons, its the end user”..”Its good for UK jobs…etc etc – all bull**** excuses.

            The bottom line is, very simple. Take a deep breath…We are either real human beings or we are not.

  18. Cancel and NEVER go back!

  19. It must not.

    If the race must be cancelled, then it should be cancelled for the right reasons: to protect the teams and drivers. And for no other reason. Formula 1 is not a political tool, and Ecclestone has no place dabbling in the politics of Bahrain.

    1. Of course that will be the reason given, if only because that is something that the contracts will be likely to cover, and it is easier to defend for the Bahrain government (even if it admits they aren’t fully in control). It also is easy to explain to sponsors and shareholders.

      It doesn’t mean that behind the scenes there was debate about other reasons and sponsors or shareholders possibly pushing for an outcome based on different reasons, nor will it mean that people will not have their own opinion on why it was stopped.

    2. So, hypothetically, if the safety of the drivers/ teams could be guaranteed, yet the protestors kept on dying throughout the race weekend, you would see no problem with that?

      1. Why should we see a problem with that? As Prisoner Monkeys wisely said, F1 is not a political tool. It’s about racing and sports entertainment, not about promoting “glorious freedom”.

      2. So, hypothetically, if the safety of the drivers/ teams could be guaranteed, yet the protestors kept on dying throughout the race weekend, you would see no problem with that?

        I have a problem with it, but it is not the place of Formula 1 to pass judgement on it. This is a matter for nations and governments to resolve, not motorsports.

        1. That’s a beeswax argument PM. the only people who can make a clean separation between politics and the rest of life are those like us who live comfortably in places where politics means talking heads on TV and tax reform. In places where upheaval is going on, ‘politics’ is life (and death). Taking a stance and saying we will not go to entertain for money in a place where people are getting smacked with police batons and worse just for saying they don’t like the government is not political. It’s just plain decent. And please don’t respond with “there’s other places…”- of course there are, but it’s always good to start somewhere. Sometimes you can end up doing the right thing even your motivations aren’t as noble as might seem.

        2. I have a problem with it, but it is not the place of Formula 1 to pass judgement on it. This is a matter for nations and governments to resolve, not motorsports.

          I actually agree with you there. But it still doesn’t look good. I think that even in this scenario, it’d be best if they just left it for a year – regardless of whether or not it is F1’s duty to resolve issues in Bahrain.

        3. Looks like Bernie sees it the same way.

          So no problem to you, if the government puts tanks all along the roads and shoots everyone not agreeing to keep the F1 personell safe and reporters are being shipped in in blinded busses and receive their mobile phones back only after boarding the plane out of there?

          Because from what is going on, this is about the most safety and calm they are going to get in a couple of weeks.

          Even some Teams have already spoken up, that they would not like to be seen in a negative way being in such a situation.

    3. That was the argument used to hold races in S Africa. Didn’t win F1 many friends then.

      1. It’s not about making friends. It’s about keeping your nose out of where it doesn’t belong. And Formula 1 does not belong in politics.

        1. I agree sport shouldn’t get mixed up in politics. But a lot of people view it as “you are friendly with my enemy, therefore you are also my enemy”.

    4. Regardless of the motivations of those protesting it is clearly not safe for folks to visit. Whether this helps the Bahrain people or not never was relevant I thought.

      What helps F1 is not getting motorhomes/property set on fire or otherwise damaged.

  20. There is always two sides of a story. It depends who you believe

    1. Ean,

      What is the the other side?

      1. Where is it written that the Bahrain governmnet ordered the deaths of those protestors? What if it was just one unit of police officers who were given orders to break up a riot and took things too far? It wouldn’t be the first time it has happened.

        1. Possibly true, but why did these police officers then think it was their mandate to stop those people at all costs, instead of going back to the top and saying it can’t be done in a reasonably humane way? That is in itself sign that things are bad.

        2. Well, we certainly haven’t heard the government condemning the policemen, launching murder enquries etc. At the end of the day, the government is in charge

        3. PM – is there a reason you consistently stick up for the authorities? Who said anything about ordering deaths? Thing is authoritarian regimes don’t need to directly order deaths – all you need to do is train a couple of generations opf repressive police units who know that their job with potential protesters is ‘neutralisation’ and then you equip them accordingly. You don’t need to consciously intend to kill in order to be responsible for deaths. It’s enough that you create the conditions for it to happen. Just like all authoritarian regimes do.

        4. Even if the armed police forces decided to do that on their own, does it make it any less horrible?

          Prove us that what can be seen on footage and comments from CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC and loads of others is not true and then ask us to give evidence of the government not ordering this.

    2. Ean- All sorts of neutral news agencies from all over the world are reporting on this story, and the common consensus is that these were innocent protestors set upon while they slept

      1. Haven’t you heard about the phenomenom of ‘Sleep Rioting’?

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