• Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain still up in the air despite FIA's decision

ESPNF1 Staff
June 6, 2011 « Petrov fit to resume in Canada | »
UK sports minister Hugh Robertson: 'You cannot have a situation where politics overtakes sport' © Press Association

Three days after the FIA's decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix, there remains uncertainty whether the events will actually go ahead on October 30 as intended.

Reports have been circulating that a number of teams are deeply unhappy with the decision, and also with suggestions Bernie Ecclestone canvassed their opinion and then appeared to ignore what he was told. Some sponsors are also said to be uneasy with the negative association that might result from cars bearing their branding racing in Bahrain, and there are also concerns over whether the F1 roadshow will be able to get the necessary insurance to enable them to compete.

Hugh Robertson, the UK sports minister, has become the first politician to express his concerns. "You cannot have a situation where politics overtakes sport," Robertson told the Daily Telegraph. "If that happens, you have a disaster on your hands. You can understand why opposition groups might want the race to go ahead if they are planning protests around it and this is a danger."

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights president Nabeel Rajab said: "The people are very upset and already they have called the day of that racing as a Day of Rage where you come out everywhere and in every city of Bahrain to show anger towards the Bahrain government. We are going to use this event to expose the human rights violations in Bahrain and let the outside world know what's happening here."

The F1 teams are already scheduling urgent talks, and it is likely that Ross Brawn's view that the reinstatement is "totally unacceptable" will now be echoed within the paddock. Renault boss Eric Boullier said he will take the team to Bahrain in October "as long as our safety and the security of the people living there is guaranteed".

And certain high-profile sponsors might also boycott, according to an editorial in the Observer. "It is time for those sponsoring the Bahrain Grand Prix ... to step up to the mark and demonstrate that even if F1's managers are struggling to find their conscience, its paymasters are not."

The Guardian's Richard Williams said the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix will compare to Hitler's Olympic Games in 1936 and the Mexican massacre in 1968.

Grand Prix Drivers' Association president Rubens Barrichello is quoted in the Finnish press: "I want to be absolutely convinced that safety there is guaranteed. At GPDA meetings, all the drivers expressed concern and required a security guarantee to go there."

Former FIA president Max Mosley is highly critical of his successor Jean Todt's role in allowing Bahrain to go ahead. "If Formula one allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime's guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters," he told the Sunday Telegraph. "The decision ... is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost F1 dear."

But Ecclestone said: "It's obvious that everybody feels they need to be safe when we get there. In the end we'll have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain. If there is peace and no problems then I suppose the teams will be all right."

Those opposing the race have also said claims normality has returned to Bahrain are untrue. Forty-seven doctors and nurses who treated wounded pro-democracy demonstrators will appear before a military court today accused of supporting the protest and attempting to bring down the government.