Home » Bahrain, FIA, FOTA, GPDA, Personal musings

Bahrain’s Political Football

By Mav | 7 Jun 2011 | 15 Comments | 1,718 views

Well I suppose nobody can say Bahrain was boring this year. The drivers don’t seem to want to go. Some of the teams don’t seem to want to go either. Even Max Mosley thinks it is a terrible idea. Only Bernie Ecclestone appeared to be keen, that is until the FIA decided to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix to the end of October – cue some degree of Ecclestone backtracking…

That said, Ecclestone has a good point when he says “Better that we move Bahrain to the end of the season and, if things are safe and well, then that is fine, we can go. If they are not, then we don’t go and there are no problems.” Given that the FIA continue to monitor the situation and may yet make a u-turn, why shuffle the calendar around and cause the maximum upheaval? Seems that the 2011 calendar is being decided by the end of season FIA Gala Awards that are being hosted by India rather than the best interests of Formula One.
 
Red Bull Racing/Vladimir Rys/Getty Images
 
“This decision reflects the spirit of reconciliation in Bahrain, which is evident from the strong support the race receives from the Government and all major parties in Bahrain, including the largest opposition group, all of whom endorse the Formula One Grand Prix and motor sport in the country,” said the FIA statement. On the face of it, the apparent support of all sides should be a good thing, although campaign group Avaaz have suggested that the human rights groups consulted by the FIA have close links to the government. However, it is not beyond reason that the presence of such a high profile event would suit both sides anyway. Formula One may insist is is above politics but that won’t stop others using it as a political football, be it the leadership’s message that “everything is all right in Bahrain” or an opportunity for the opposition to stage protests before the World. As Mohamed Al- Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said: “on the one hand, Formula One isn’t respecting human rights, but on the other, it’s a good chance for the people to express how they feel on television worldwide.”

Curiously, the World Motor Sport Council also stated “…that reinstating the Grand Prix is a means of helping to unite people as the country looks to move forward.” This is ironically meaningful as while it may well be the message that the Bahraini government would like to send out, it has been far from its objective, whether now or for the previous decades. The government has long opposed the foundation of political parties, societies or unions that cut across regional, ethnic, or religious groupings – relying on divisions to maintain control. During the March demonstrations, there was a particularly tough response to a “No Sunni, No Shi’i -Just Bahraini” campaign. Meanwhile, Sunnis who played a prominent role in the protests were swiftly arrested and subjected to particularly vehement and public ostracism. More over, many of them remain imprisoned at a time when the FIA is seemingly under the impression that Bahrain is moving forward.

Who knows, perhaps the FIA naively has good intentions but the rest of the World is thinking that for Formula One, money and politics trumps humanitarian concerns. It’s time for Formula One to stand up and tell the the FIA it is wrong.

Photo: Red Bull Racing/Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Tagged: ,
Bookmark and Share

15 Comments »

  • Kimster

    Never knew there were Human rights groups in Bahrain. There you go free attention for them. It really doesn’t matter. F1 is a separate entity to Governmental political issues. I mean I might as well say that the British GP shouldn’t be staged because the fact University fees are tripling is against my right to Education. We still went to Spain for the grand prix when ETA were bombing every month.

    I think the teams are willing to go but are just angling for a better slice of the extra grand prix pie.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    I mean I might as well say that the British GP shouldn’t be staged because the fact University fees are tripling is against my right to Education.

    But nobody was going to hold protests against tuition fees alongside the British GP. And if they did, armed forces weren’t going to be used to disperse them. And political figures were not going to be arrested for simply addressing the protesters.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Karen

    Bahrain is nothing on the human rights scale compared to China.

    And even Brazil is far more dangerous for the teams.

    The USA isn’t squeaky clean, not after what the EU investigation found out, and what Bradley Manning leaked.

    And Australia has a piss-poor record on human rights, with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations stating that Australia is ‘in breach of its international human rights conventions, relating to asylum seekers and the indigenous population.’

    Holding or not hold protests is no indication of a government that acts within international law.

    Very few sporting events of any type would happen if people looked hard enough at countries around the world.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    Very few sporting events of any type would happen if people looked hard enough at countries around the world.

    It’s so much more complex than that though. It’s not simply about the abuse of human rights, it’s about the fact that protests are likely to be centred around the Grand Prix. With the World watching, Formula One will thus be associated with supporting those abuses.

    The FIA fined the Turkish GP organisers for lesser political machinations than this.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Karen

    Mav,

    They took the GP away from Jerez too, for a similar thing.

    There will be protests at the 2012 Olympics about China’s human rights abuses, will the London games be scrapped? Or the IOC even bothered? Nope.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    Or the IOC even bothered?

    Does that make it alright?

    Perception is everything.

    Look, India shouldn’t be wasting money on a Grand Prix circuit when they’ve got thousands of children dying every day for lack of clean water but Formula One isn’t going to look bad by going there.

    By going to Bahrain so soon, it will.

    And it’ll look bad simply because the press are looking for exactly this kind of story and that’s the way they’ll paint it.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    And in a sport reliant on image, as sponsorship is its lifeblood, can it afford such bad press?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Karen

    Mav,

    Was it OK for India to waste billions on the common wealth games?

    At least the GP is privately funded, and not paid for by the government, ie: the people.

    In 2010 about 50% of the teams income came from sponsorship 553 million Euros from 175 sponsors, this % is set to fall as ‘Bernie’ money increases over the next 5 years, which will be F1’s true lifeblood, and if the teams had gone with the Cost Cap they wouldn’t be anywhere near so reliant on sponsors anyway.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    Was it OK for India to waste billions on the common wealth games?

    They really could spend it on more important things couldn’t they? “Let them eat cake” seems to be the motto of the day.

    In 2010 about 50% of the teams income came from sponsorship 553 million Euros from 175 sponsors, this % is set to fall as ‘Bernie’ money increases over the next 5 years

    Rather presupposes that sponsorship levels don’t pick up again as the economy improves doesn’t it?
    Also presupposes what the next concorde agreement contains come to think of it. Do Pitpass also have a copy of the next concorde agreement?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Karen

    Mav,

    It presupposes nothing.

    The escalator built into the contracts will see a rise in ‘Bernie’ money, sponsorship will, or should go up with the anticipated end of the recession, but ‘Bernie’ money went up by 21% in 2010, and if there is ever a 20 race calendar ;) , it will increase further.

    The only presupposition could be if the teams receive more than 50% of revenue collected, but this would widen the gap still further.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    Karen,

    Too much has been made of the escalator which is largely swallowed up by inflation (currently, Silverstone’s escalator is below the inflation rate.) Indeed, that’s the point of it. In real terms, a growth in ‘Bernie’ money is dependent on new and lucrative contracts. That’s were the recent growth has come from – but his hands are tied at 20 races. Two have to go to make way for US and Russia.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Karen

    Mav,

    That’s why FOTA secretly desire more ‘fly away’ races, because the sanctioning fee is greater (and they get 50% 0f it).

    The average sanctioning fee is $31,000,000, however China, Abu Dhabi, Korea, Singapore etc, pay about $45,000,000, but Monaco pay nothing and Monza pay about $5,000,000.

    Well Turkey is likely to go, Bahrain seems doubtful, the greens in Germany say there will be only 1 more race at the Nurburgring (after this one), and Hockenheim is doubtful, Spa want to co-host with France and Valencia is always pulling the plug, so I don’t think there’ll be too much trouble, unless all the countries that said they were building an F1 track actually do it :)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Mav (author)

    Karen,

    How much of is it is about not looking like you’re desperate to host a race in order to keep the price down though?
    :-)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • Karen

    Mav,

    Yeah, I think Monza got scared when Rome was announced though.

    As for the greens, that’s a bit different. They seem to think that F1 is somehow environmentally unfriendly and so have targeted Both German circuits, France, Spa and Monza.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .
  • saltire

    Karen,

    You know you should join in the forum and have some fun

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    .

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.