Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, then you’ll be aware of the troubles taking place in Bahrain and how these have had a knock-on effect on the Grand Prix sc
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, then you’ll be aware of the troubles taking place in Bahrain and how these have had a knock-on effect on the Grand Prix scheduled to take place there this weekend. Whilst Formula One has never been a stranger to its own internal and often controversial politics, the situation in the Middle-Eastern state is an unknown quantity for the sport which does not belong anywhere near Arab uprisings.
Whether or not you think the race should go ahead or not is a question of conscience; at the moment supporting the race seems to link with supporting the oppressive regime. But the ties with the race run even deeper than that – not only are the leaders of Bahrain using the race to show how ‘unified’ their country is, but they are also central investors in both the circuit as well as the race itself. Worryingly, the royal family also hold shares in the McLaren team. But protestors are split about the Grand Prix; some of them are protesting against the presence of the race because of its closeness to the Bahraini ruling family. Others, however, are using it as a platform to get their views across to the rest of the world – after all, with a large number of international journalists and corporations present for the Grand Prix it could be seen as a perfect opportunity to have their voices heard.
Some commentators have noted that Formula One has raced in countries such as China which, in particular, have patchy human rights histories. However, the Grand Prix in China – the latest iteration of which was won by Nico Rosberg last weekend – is of negligible importance to the government there. If F1 was to take a stand and refuse to race in China, the leaders of that country would barely feel a graze in their side. Conversely, in Bahrain, losing the Grand Prix would be an almost fatal blow to the rulers of the Arab kingdom who have used the race as a political tool in good times and bad. So whether or not you support the race depends solely on whether you stand with the protestors, or with the FIA (the ruling body of motorsport) who are clearly looking to make money from this shoddy situation.
It’s clear the teams aren’t entirely comfortable about being there, either; despite signing an agreement in which they agree to attend every race on the calendar, a point which Bernie Ecclestone must have made doubly clear when teams threatened to pull out, it has become obvious that the teams don’t really want to be there. Force India pulled out of second practice under the excuse of ‘logistical reasons’, but the real motive of doing so was to get all of their staff back to their hotels during daylight. The team are still smarting from an incident which occurred on Wednesday – a car carrying some of the team’s mechanics became stuck in traffic and was attacked with a petrol bomb. Despite not being attacked because they were Formula One staff (they were just unfortunate at being in the wrong place at the wrong time), the mechanics involved wisely chose to return home.
It’s unlikely the Grand Prix will be able to go without a hitch. Whether that hitch involves a violent crackdown from the government’s cronies, something observers have had to grow used to, is a matter of how important the government feels its global image is. All eyes are on the tiny Arab state. Only time will tell if the weekend can run without incident.