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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

F1 Politics

I apologise in advance for the fact that this Blog would appear to be getting more and more political in tone.  I began this for no other reason than I wanted the opportunity to have a bit of fun with the 2011 season and give my thoughts on the simple things in F1 life like aerodynamics, tyres, who might go where in 2012, what's going on with the teams, etc.

You know the nice, simple, straightforward matter of going racing.

Now I'm getting dragged into matters with which I used to have little interest (the funding of racetracks, the cost to the tracks of going racing, and the possibility of track closures) and into middle eastern national politics of which I was totally ignorant (pardon that ignorance please).

The Bahrain debate just won't go away -witness the following story on F1 Fanatic Deadline day approaches for Bahrain decision by Keith Collantine which expresses my feelings towards this matter very succinctly.

He makes the point that Bernie's stance on the matter is that "Formula 1 must never be political - full stop", but goes on to say that "there is no apolitical stance on this matter. Either you are happy for the Bahraini government to suppress its people so F1 can hold a race, or you aren’t".

His story quotes an Amnesty International report on conditions in the country which can be read here.  I'm not 100% behind Amnesty in that I think sometimes they jump into a cause without the full facts however this report would appear to be remarkable by the fact that the delegation have mainly reported their findings on the ground and its conclusion is very restrained:

Human rights conditions in Bahrain have undergone a marked deterioration in recent weeks. This was clear and palpable during Amnesty International’s most recent fact-finding visit, following an earlier visit in February. The government’s resort to renewed excessive force to suppress the protests, its declaration of the State of National Safety and the extraordinary powers that contains, and the application of those powers to arrest and detain incommunicado hundreds of mainly Shi’a protestors and political activists has exacerbated tension between the Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities and cast Bahrain on a very worrying downward trajectory.

There is an urgent need now, therefore, for the Bahraini government to reverse this trend and give renewed and greater priority to its obligations under international law. It must not fail that test.

At the same time, much more and more determined action is needed from governments in North America and Europe that have long maintained close diplomatic, trade and other ties with the Kingdom and which have been much more vocal in espousing the cause of human rights during the current turmoil in Libya and during the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt than they have in relation to Bahrain. For many in the Arab world, this appears as another example of political selectivity when it comes to the advancement of human rights by such
states; they must act, and act quickly, to disperse this perception but principally to remind the Bahraini authorities of their obligations to uphold and respect human rights, including the right to peaceful protest, and to ensure accountability for unlawful killings, torture and other human rights violations committed by their forces or the forces of the other states currently assisting them.

As the F1 Fanatic story says - There is no apolitical stance on this matter.

If Bernie reschedules this race then it will become a matter for the FIA and Jean Todt and if they confirm it it will become a poilitical matter for the teams and finally the drivers.

I trust that, regardless of any decision of Bernie or the FIA, the teams and drivers will not let down the expectations of the fans - who I'm sure could not lend their support to a race which would be taking place in Bahrain at a time when the country and its people are in turmoil.

Were all of the above groups to agree to race in Bahrain then I must call on all fans of the sport to boycott the race - by not travelling to see it live and by refusing to watch it on television.  A TAM rating of Zero/Nought would leave Bernie, the FIA, and any other supporters of racing in Bahrain in no doubt where the real power in F1 lies.

This blog has a relatively small readership but I would hope that all of you who tweet or facebook or whatever - would put out the call to resist running any GP in Bahrain this season and to boycott any race which takes place there this year.