Mark Webber is the first figure inside Formula 1 to publically criticise the FIA’s decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix onto the 2011 Formula 1 calendar.
The sport’s governing body announced yesterday that the race – originally cancelled due to ongoing concerns about the political situation on the island kingdom – had been reinstated to an October 30 slot, bumping the inaugural Indian Grand Prix back to a season-ending slot in December.
But despite the announcement, Webber does not believe that the race will actually go ahead, perhaps hinting that teams and drivers may choose to boycott the event…
In the days leading up to the FIA’s decision on Friday, Webber wrote on his Twitter feed: “When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than sport. Let’s hope the right decision is made.”
We all know now that the FIA has perhaps not made the right decision in Webber’s eyes, and the Australian is unrepentant about his earlier stance.
“My opinion is unchanged since I was first asked about this in late February,” he wrote on his personal website.
“Even though a decision has been made, I’ll be highly surprised if the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead this year.”
Webber’s argument is that the decision to stage the event is effectively an act of turning a blind eye to the allegations of human rights’ abuses being levelled against the ruling government and the country’s allies, who sought to quash any threats of political dissent among the disenfranchised population.
“In my personal opinion, the sport should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year rather than constantly delaying its decision in hope of being able to re-schedule it in 2011,” Webber added.
“It would have sent a very clear message about F1’s position on something as fundamental as human rights and how it deals with moral issues.
“It’s obvious that the parties involved have struggled to reach a decision but sadly I feel that they still haven’t made the right one. Like it or not, F1 and sport in general isn’t above having a social responsibility and conscience. I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually but now isn’t the right time.”
Webber again expressed the concern – although privately, rather than publically, held by many – that the sport could become a pawn in a bigger political game, particularly if the anti-government groups decided to try and disrupt the Grand Prix.
“As a competitor I do not feel at all comfortable going there to compete in an event when, despite reassurances to the contrary, it seems inevitable that it will cause more tension for the people of that country.
“I don’t understand why my sport wishes to place itself in a position to be a catalyst for that.”
And certainly judging by the current trends on our web poll (refer to our sidebar), it would seem that Webber is simply reflecting the views of an overwhelming majority of our readership.
[Original image via LAT]