It’s a very sensitive subject, one you won’t see teams commenting on publicy until someone above them does something.
Last year’s Grand Prix in Bahrain was cancelled amidst government protests. Things looked to have settled down to the outside eye, complete with the government claiming all was well, and the Bahrain Grand Prix was put back on the 2012 calendar, this time with a date in April.
Now, attention is back on the country after accusations that police beat a human rights activist at a rally on Friday (BBC story). The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is leading the call for teams to boycott the race, a call that began with the man who was beaten, the group’s vice president.
Bernie Ecclestone stated back at the Brazilian Grand Prix that it would take something “terrible” to stop the race from going on as planned.
According to Andrew Benson, some insiders don’t think the race is going to happen again already.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the race claim that the government of Bahrain is making sure no human rights violations are happening, citing likely biased report from the King of Bahrain.
I am an economics and political science double major, so I have quite a keen sense of what is going on here. Nobody wants to lose the money, and there is so much money involved that human rights violations don’t matter. It’s pathetic, and it’s obvious as day when the FIA is involved.
Look at the inclusion of a Bahrain endurance race on the world endurance championship calendar. Nobody has ever held an endurance race there, and it’s immediately put on a calendar for the pinnacle of endurance racing.
I’m afraid of some group using the race to make a statement and getting hurt. I don’t want to see the people of Bahrain getting tangled up in more of a mess to cause the race problems, and I sure don’t want to see drivers or team members used. If there really are any doubts, it’s time to take the race off the calendar and come back at a far later time.
There are social problems in plenty of countries where Grands Prix are held, let’s face it, but the problem with Bahrain is how closely linked the race is with the royal family, and that is why it can become a prime target.
And don’t forget, no corporation wants to get involved in something like this, although it’s unlikely they will publicly pull out. It’s highly unlikely any group, from a one team sponsor to Pirelli as the tire supplier would want to make such a bold statement.
More or less it’s going to have to come down to these higher up groups speaking privately with the FIA and with Ecclestone and telling them that they have serious concerns. It may be enough to have them think with their brains instead of with their wallets.
Unless an OUTSIDE group that is not the King of Bahrain can prove that human rights violations are being fixed or not even happening, there should not be a race here. Period.
Photo from Flickr user Andrew Griffith