With the deadline to decide on a possible reschedule of the Bahrain Grand Prix set to come and go in two days, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now come out and said that the sport should give the politically strife-torn nation a further extension on the deadline in the hopes it can salvage what is left of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
We’ll come to the actual moral quandary that is the Bahrain Grand Prix in a moment, but while that’s all well and good for Mr Ecclestone to make such claims, he actually has little authority to influence the FIA’s decision as to whether the race happens or not, in accordance with the sport’s current regulations.
The amount of money that Ecclestone and his Formula One Management concern might manage to take if the race went ahead is one thing, but the FIA will look at the bigger picture as to whether it’s actually in the sport’s interest to even head to Bahrain.
The country did enormous damage to its international credibility as a result of the Saudi-assisted crackdown on its anti-government protests that have occurred since earlier this year. And Formula 1 really needs to question whether it would want to associate itself with a country that is currently showing rather flagrant disrespect for fundamental human rights.
Teams have withdrawn from participating in previous Grands Prix due to their own political opposition to a race going ahead, and the South African Grands Prix were eventually shelved when the uproar over the country’s apartheid policy finally took hold. Could the same happen in Bahrain if a race was to go ahead this year and the situation was still uncertain?
On one hand, the ruling regime is claiming that all is well, while on the other hand there are reports of martial law and more abuses against protestors. Now that’s quite a conflict of opinions, and F1 needs to be careful it doesn’t get used as a political football – an extremely like outcome if the race were to go ahead – in this propaganda battle.
There have been some quite clear violations of human rights in recent months in Bahrain, and the country has an awful lot of work to do if it wants to rebuild its image of being a friendly, rich nation in the Middle East. Sadly, images of protestors being battered and bloodied by pro-government security forces doesn’t really support the image that Bahrain would like to project of itself, and it might take a long time before this can properly be restored and the F1 community can regain its trust in its former host.
[Original image via Frankensteinia]