• Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain decision divides opinion

ESPNF1 Staff
June 3, 2011 « Mosley warns Bahrain decision could haunt F1 | »
Martin Brundle described the decision as a 'mistake' © Sutton Images

The decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix has, predictably, divided opinion within the Formula One world.

None of the teams or drivers has been drawn until now - it is known the teams made clear to Bernie Ecclestone they were unhappy - but the commercial pressures on them means that position is unlikely to change. Mark Webber's comments on Twitter last night were the exception, and Red Bull issued a short release saying the Formula One Teams' Association would "discuss this decision within the appropriate forum".

Martin Brundle, the former driver who now commentates for the BBC, said on Twitter: "Read copiously both sides of Bahrain story. Talked to friends and associates who live there. Thought long and hard about it. Mistake to reinstate Grand Prix."

He also flagged the pressures the extra race would bring on all involved. "GP date changes bad especially for fans planning [to attend the] India Grand Prix, costs and time off. Racing til Christmas, develop and test new car, 21 races in 2012. Too much."

His views were shared by the BBC's Jonathan Legard. "The teams won't be happy - but Ecclestone is the man who pays their bills, and they get the money from television all the revenues he produces for the sport, and the sponsorship. So they will go along. You are risking running into another storm of civil unrest. Martial law has only been lifted a couple of days ago, so there is a big risk."

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, described it as a "sad moment". He continued: "It seems that [Formula One] benefit and their interest has more importance than the human rights of people in this part of the region. It's very upsetting, and the people are very upset."

He also issued a warning. "Already they have called the day of that racing 'a day of rage', where they're going to come out everywhere, in every city of Bahrain, to show anger to what the Bahrain government, the Bahrain regime, is doing towards their own people."

Another former driver, John Watson, said: "I was surprised at the unanimous vote to give a green light for a new date. I'm equally surprised by the deafening silence of all the teams in not making any public comment about that judgement.

"But I suspect what's really going on is that all the teams, and maybe the FIA, are waiting for their individual governments to put out an official warning to recommend that it is not safe to travel to Bahrain. That would therefore automatically cancel the commercial insurances that they have to carry for their personnel - and if they're cancelled then there isn't going to be race. But it's a clumsy way of doing it. I don't believe, if the problems in Bahrain maintain or escalate, that we will see a Bahrain Grand Prix this year."

But Sir Jackie Stewart said he was pleased. "Sport is a very good equaliser in the case of unrest, because sport somehow unifies people. An F1 race going there hopefully might help to do that.

"I think Bahrain is one country particularly keen to accelerate the issue of democracy. Having a Grand Prix there might be of benefit to the rest of the world recognising that there is movement taking place. Because if we just sit back and stop things from progressing, I don't think that's the right thing either."