The Bahrain Grand Prix: A matter of conscience

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Bahrain International Circuit, 2011The 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.

Comment


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

  1. bigwilk (@bigwilk) said on 18th April 2012, 12:48

    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!

  2. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 12:56

    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.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 13:00

      That was linked in the article.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 13:09

        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.

        • Andrew Jacobs said on 18th April 2012, 13:33

          Understanding that the FIA is corrupt

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

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 14:39

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

        • bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 19th April 2012, 4:17

          http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/members/prisoner-monkeys/

          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.

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

          • Palle (@palle) said on 19th April 2012, 22:50

            @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.

        • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 19th April 2012, 14:16

          I just can’t win, can I?

          Are you trying to win something?

  3. Mark (@canadianf1fan) said on 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.

    • bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 19th April 2012, 4:22

      “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.

      • 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 …

  4. mdbooth (@mdbooth) said on 18th April 2012, 13:23

    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.

    • VoiseyS (@voisey) said on 18th April 2012, 14:15

      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..??

  5. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 18th April 2012, 13:38

    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.

  6. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 18th April 2012, 13:39

    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.”

    • Funkyf1 said on 18th April 2012, 13:55

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

    • Mariano (@mariano) said on 18th April 2012, 14:52

      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”.

    • 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.

  7. GeorgeDaviesF1 (@georgedaviesf1) said on 18th April 2012, 13:54

    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

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 18th April 2012, 13:57

    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!

  9. Chris Goldsmith said on 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.

  10. d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 14:11

    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.)

    • Thejudge13 said on 18th April 2012, 14:25

      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.

      • Chris Goldsmith said on 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.

        • Thejudge13 said on 18th April 2012, 14:39

          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.

          • Chris Goldsmith said on 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.

      • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 14:40

        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.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2012, 14:48

          @dv30

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

          Given it violates their own statutes, I disagree.

          • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 15:44

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

        • Thejudge13 said on 18th April 2012, 14:55

          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…

          ..as 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.

          • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 15:46

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

          • thejudg13 said on 18th April 2012, 16:18

            I believe Turkey is internationally recognised as legitimate by most nations

          • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 16:25

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

          • thejudg13 said on 18th April 2012, 16:40

            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.

          • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 19th April 2012, 1:13

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

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2012, 14:27

      @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.

      • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 14:34

        @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..

        • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 14:36

          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?

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th April 2012, 15:36

          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.

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th April 2012, 15:46

            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.

          • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 15:54

            @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.

          • thejudg13 said on 18th April 2012, 22:38

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

          • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 19th April 2012, 1:19

            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?

          • Thejudge13 said on 19th April 2012, 9:33

            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.

      • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 19th April 2012, 14:56

        @keithcollantine
        @d3v0

        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.

        • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 19th April 2012, 16:09

          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.

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

  11. James (@jamesf1) said on 18th April 2012, 14:20

    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.

  12. Marc Richard said on 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.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17745453

  13. Kamui Fan (@kamui-fan) said on 18th April 2012, 14:32

    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 .

  14. f1alex (@f1alex) said on 18th April 2012, 14:51

    A very well written article article, Keith.

  15. apeman (@apeman) said on 18th April 2012, 15:07

    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).

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