In light of the ongoing debate over whether the Bahrain Grand Prix should go ahead in the wake of the current bloody political violence in the island kingdom, the grid’s drivers have remained largely silent on the matter while representatives of the FIA, Formula One Management and the twelve teams declare their positions on the matter.
The race in Sakhir and its preceding pre-race test have been thrown in doubt following a spate of violent events in Manama in the last week, where the local police and armed forces have caused a large number of deaths and injuries to protestors they were trying to disperse, angering many human rights groups.
Latest reports indicate that the situation has eased dramatically, with with Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifah instructing the police and military to withdraw in order for mediation to begin between the opposing factions.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now declared that he will accept the Crown Prince’s recommendations on whether the race should go ahead or not, and it is believed that a deadline to decide has now been brought forward to Monday night, in order to give the teams enough notice to organise their freight to be shipped to the circuit ahead of the final pre-season test that starts on March 3.
But reports emerging in the British tabloids are claiming that “at least one leading team” – according to the Sunday Times – will boycott the event if the authorities decide to proceed with running it. It must be stressed, however, that the Times’ article does not cite its sources (other than refusing to name them), and therefore it might be wise to give the report less credence as a result.
That being said, most countries’ foreign affairs departments are strongly advising its nationals to avoid all unnecessary travel to Bahrain, and not heeding this advice could void insurance travel policies.
On the flipside, any teams that boycott the event (should the authorities proceed with it) could risk facing severe penalties for not upholding their responsibilities under their commercial agreements with FOM, which could include huge fines and disqualification from the championship.
But Webber has been one of the first drivers to comment on the situation, declaring that it’s “no big deal” whether or not the race goes ahead, given the current larger-scale issues afflicting the country.
“I’m really, really sorry to hear what’s happening out there. It’s always been a good place for us to visit that part of the world, whether it’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Bahrain, so [I’m] shocked and sad to see the news,” he said.
“But as always you don’t really know the whole picture if you’re not there. So let’s see what happens. I’m sure the right decision will be made in terms of us.
“We know in terms of Formula 1 and priorities we’re not high on the list, they’ve got other things that clearly should come first. Then if we can still go there and hold a sporting event in a few weeks then it would be great. But if we can’t then it’s not a big deal.
“We need to let them sort their things out and we’ll go to Melbourne [to start the season] if that’s the case.”
His comments have been backed up by other drivers in the paddock, with Vitaly Petrov arguing that the political tensions must be completely resolved before F1 can even consider staging a Grand Prix in the country.
“They must sort out this problem because I think no teams will [want to go] because they have fights and violence,” he said.
“I think it’s most important to save the people there because now even GP2 was cancelled because there was not enough medical people.”
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi has added that he is very reluctant to travel given the current safety risks, but added that he would travel there if instructed to do so.
“I’m scared. If I have to go, I have to go, but scared. That’s it,” he is quoted.
“I mean, if I have to go, I have to go. It’s my job. But do you want to go for a holiday there?”