• Bahrain Grand Prix

Hill makes Bahrain u-turn

ESPNF1 Staff
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Damon Hill: "[The race] could be creating more problems than it's solving" © Sutton Images

Damon Hill has urged the FIA to rethink its willingness to race in Bahrain amid ongoing unrest in the country.

Violent protests have taken place again this week as the race draws closer, with the shooting of a 22-year-old proving the catalyst for rioting and clashes between the police and demonstrators over the weekend. After opposing the race in 2011 Hill then changed his stance in January after visiting Bahrain, saying that Formula One could return "with a clear conscience". Now, amidst the violence, Hill has reverted to his previous position saying that the grand prix could do more harm than good.

"Things are different now," Hill is quoted by The Telegraph. "The protests have not abated and may even have become more determined and calculated. It is a worrying state of affairs. What we must put above all else is what will be the penalty in terms of human cost if the race goes ahead.

"It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for Formula One, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race. That is not what this sport should be about. Looking at it today you'd have to say that [the race] could be creating more problems than it's solving."

Hill's support in January came as he was unveiled as a Sky Sports pundit. With the Bahrain Grand Prix one of the races that Sky has exclusive live coverage of, Hill insisted that such a fact shouldn't be taken in to consideration.

"Some things are more important than contracts. The view I gave after returning from the visit last year was based on my understanding of several factors; the substantial economic significance of the GP for Bahrain; that the report on the April riots condemned the actions of the police and security forces, and that both sides were to take part in meaningful dialogue to resolve the problems peacefully.

"Under those conditions one could imagine the GP being a great fillip for a Bahrain on the road to recovery. However, with under three weeks to go, conditions do not seem to have improved, judging by the reports in our European newspapers, social media and on Al Jazeera TV.

"I'm just saying we have to tread carefully. I hope the FIA are considering the implications of this fully and that events in Bahrain are not seen as they are often sold, as a bunch of yobs throwing Molotov cocktails, because that's a gross simplification. If they believe that, they ought be more wary. You don't get 100,000 people risking their lives in protest for nothing."

Hill added that the sport should put aside any commercial interests when dealing with the situation as the race date moves closer.

"If we go, we all go. But there is obviously still a great deal of pain, anger and tension in Bahrain. It would be better for F1 to make it clear that it properly understands this, and that it wants only the best for all Bahrain, or whatever country it visits. I think F1 is sailing very close to this limit. But there is an even more troubling thought, which is this: is F1 playing brinkmanship for purely financial reasons while people are putting their lives in peril to protest against this event?"