It may seem like an obvious statement, but with a little under three weeks until the Bahrain Grand Prix is due to start, its a statement yet to be resolved.
As of Monday 2nd April 2012, the Bahrain Grand Prix is still due to go ahead. Yet the issues in the country from last years ‘Arab Spring’ are still apparent. The politics surrounding Bahrain’s unrest are not for a sport such as Formula One to delve into.
Instead F1 now needs to take a look at what is happening and realise that the country is not just unsafe for drivers or people at the racetrack, but for all the corporate hospitality including team members, TV crews and journalists. Where are these people supposed to sleep or go about their work in a nation ravaged in conflict?
On Saturday a man was killed when he was open-fired upon, whilst filming protests. Another, Ahmed Amir (photo below) a 15 year old was photographed on Twitter lying in ICU. He was hit in head with a tear gas canister and suffered a serious skull fracture. There was also a harrowing statement from Twitter user @VendettaBH who posted:
“Dear #F1 driver, This man just got killed by regime’s thugs in #Bahrain with live rounds! U still feel safe?!” They then gave a link to a graphic photo.
Picture of 15 year old Ahmed Amir - Courtesy of Bahrain Human Rights Twitter page @BahrainRights
“Do not tarnish the reputation of the respected auto sport with the blood of Bahrain victims,” was a warning from a Bahraini in an online video. The social-networking site Twitter has also become a place to campaign against the race, with people using these hash-tags to voice their opinion: #BloodyF1 #NoF1
'No F1' Banners in Bahrain, courtesy of @GrandPrixDiary
For Formula One, a decision will definitely be made by the Sunday evening of the Chinese Grand Prix, a little over 4 days until first practice at the Sakhir Circuit, although there may be an announcement as early as Thursday 12th April. Bernie Ecclestone is expected to fly to the country to deem whether it is feasible for the race to go ahead, but contingency plans are already in place if the answer appears negative. Most teams intend to fly to Abu Dhabi, where they can either head back to their European bases or continue to Bahrain, creating a logistical nightmare.
The worry is that team members and guests themselves may be subject to attack. It has been noted that some Mclaren members are concerned about going to a country, which owns 50% of their team, making them a vulnerable target for protest.
This is no simple matter to solve though. The race costs £25 million ($39 million) and whoever is first to blink essentially pays that cost. Last year, the Bahraini Government realised that it couldn’t hold the race, so cancelled the race themselves and payed the fee to Bernie. If Bernie should be the person to pull out of the deal, he does not get the money from the race organisers. It is a tough and costly call to make.
Formula One will not progress financially or as a sport by going to a country with such a massive unrest. F1 will be frowned upon if it is seen delving in such murky and bloody waters. Bernie Ecclestone said in November 2011: “We’ll be there [Bahrain], unless something terrible happens to stop us”. Well Bernie, something terrible is happening.
Links of Interest