Zayed Al Zayani

The boss of the Bahrain International Circuit has earned himself a nomination in the annual Richard’s F1 Awards for ‘Tantrum of the Year’ after he launched an extraordinary broadside against the Formula 1 teams and drivers for their reluctance to travel to the country for a Grand Prix this year.

The FIA has gained notoriety for a recent sequence of back flips under the governance of Jean Todt, and the first to kickstart this lot was the indecision over whether to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Thankfully, sanity prevailed – although not without some predictable debate and further indecision – and the event was shelved amid ongoing concerns over the safety situation in the recently (and if recent reports are to be believed, still) strife-torn island kingdom.

The Bahraini government publicly accepted the about-face from the FIA and declared it was looking forward to staging a return race next year, and the FIA duly issued a provisional calendar for the 2012 season showing Bahrain would kick of the championship year in March.

The motivation behind holding a race in Bahrain – a country with next to no motorsport culture, it must be said – is very much for the country, as opposed to the sport’s, benefit. F1 could, frankly, travel to a host of other venues in the region (Qatar is being floated for consideration) and those in charge at Bahrain would be wise to keep a low profile and just quietly get on with fixing the country.

Not so if you’re Zayed Al Zayani, chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, whose out-of-school remarks certainly give weight to the groundswell of opinion that F1 would be better off dumping the event altogether.

Having been invited to Silverstone as a guest of the sport during the British Grand Prix weekend, Mr Al Zayani mustered up all of his gratitude when he later spoke to the media about the latest developments in Bahrain.

“I feel disappointed because it cannot go within three months from one end of the spectrum – ‘Oh, you are my favourite destination. We love it here. We feel like we are at home in Bahrain’ – to the other – ‘We don’t want to go to Bahrain.’ Yes, events have happened in between but you can’t be so temperamental,” he told reporters in his unbelievable attack.

Mr Al Zayani went to point out the apparent hypocrisy of the sport travelling to many other countries where he argued that human rights concerns were prevalent, and included the United States, UK and Australia on his list of supposedly contentious venues.

What Mr Al Zayani clearly fails to understand is that the teams were against going to Bahrain because their absolute safety could not be guaranteed. Their decision had nothing to do with Bahrain’s many features and attractions, and they equally had nothing to do with Bahrain’s overall position amongst other countries with questionable approaches on human rights.

Currently there are too few people who are courageous enough to stand up to the ruling Bahraini government and demand change. The government – headed by the longest-serving ruler never to have been formally elected to the post – is too repressive. Unless and until there are clear signs that the country is going to head in the right direction and give its citizens a fair opportunity to be heard, then its presence on the F1 calendar will, and should, continue to remain a problem for the sport.

[Original image via NZZ Online]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.