The decision over the possible rescheduling of the Bahrain Grand Prix will be announced tomorrow when the FIA World Motor Sport Council meets in Bahrain, and the latest news of yet more violence on the island kingdom will surely all but scupper the country’s hopes of returning to the F1 calendar any sooner than next year.
Just a day after the country conveniently ended its state of emergency – timed no doubt to coincide with the WMSC’s decision – new reports indicate there is still turmoil on the streets.
The independent Al Jazeera TV station reported that police had fired on anti-government protestors with tear gas, injuring several and arresting many others.
The country’s interior ministry has denied these allegations (according to a separate report in Reuters), and the country’s officials are trying to give every assurance that it is safe for Formula 1 to return.
Ultimately, the decision on F1’s return to Bahrain will be made by the WMSC tomorrow, and its decision will be based on various inputs: from circuit officials and race promoters, the teams, and a consideration of whether a race in Bahrain would be good for the sport’s image.
It is quite apparent that the Bahrainis are keen to have the race back and rebuild the country’s battered image – and they will tell anyone prepared to listen that all is well – but foreign media and human rights organisations would dispute that the situation in Bahrain is anything but safe for Formula 1 to consider a return.
The whispers from last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix seem to indicate that the teams – after a meeting of the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) – have voted against returning to Bahrain this year.
Their decision has seemingly avoided any discussion about the obvious moral concerns of going to Bahrain, with most arguing that extending the F1 calendar into December to accommodate its return is simply too arduous. And while that argument is certainly valid, it’s also a convenient way of side-stepping any politics behind the decision-making…
There is no doubt that most of the teams would prefer not to go to Bahrain this year, although that is not to say that they wouldn’t welcome Bahrain returning to the F1 calendar later down the line, perhaps as soon as 2012. The sport has certainly benefited from visiting the country, but there are fears that the current political tensions will continue to bubble along unless the ruling government commits to major reforms. Unless and until this happens, there are obvious risks to staging a Grand Prix there.