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Is there really any chance of the 2013 Bahrain GP being cancelled? - April 18, 2013 by admin
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - Sunday

Start of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix , Photo Courtesy of LG EPR

A car bomb set off in Manama’s Financial District on Sunday night, the 13th of April, a week before the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, and with the opposition February 14 movement claiming responsibility, has of course raised security concerns: but is there really a chance of the race being cancelled in 2013? Or perhaps postponed?

The Bahrain Grand Prix won’t be cancelled due to the rights and wrongs of what happened in 2011, and since, where the Bahrain Police and Government have been accused of Human Rights abuses. The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled in 2011 but returned in 2012, many believed it shouldn’t have done so and that F1 shouldn’t have been seen to support the Bahrain Government. The arguments against running the race in 2013 though haven’t strengthened since 2012 so on this count there is no reason to believe the race will be cancelled, and certainly not at this late stage.

The potential for disruption to the Grand Prix though, including attacks, has to be considered still, and monitored up to the morning of the race. In 2012 an incident where a vehicle the Force India team’s personnel were traveling between the circuit and their hotel in was attacked with petrol bombs saw the team sit out Friday practice. This followed assurances in the run up to the Grand Prix, from security and police in Bahrain, that no such incidents would occur.

Has this changed in 2013 then? Are security risks higher following this bombing? Presumably the timing of which a week before the Grand Prix isn’t coincidental, or is security tighter this year with more detailed planning in place?

Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t see a problem in going back this year but the teams have to be willing to attend so all will need assurances. Force India though, understandably the team most likely to be concerned about security threats, have come out saying they have no concerns.

Bob Fernley of Force India is quoted by AutoSport as saying “There are bound to be incidents, but ours was just one of those unfortunately things last year and it just got blown out of all proportion,” and so it appears the race will go ahead baring any incidents between now and then.

The worry is of course that protestors and opposition groups such as the February 14 movement will try to scare away the teams, who have now arrived at the Sakhir circuit, before a wheel is turned.

Doubts still remain over Bahrain as Practice starts - April 20, 2012 by admin
A view from the main grandstand at the Sakhir circuit, photo by Ange Embuldeniya

A view from the main grandstand at the Sakhir circuit, photo by Ange Embuldeniya

As cars take to the Sakhir track it feels a little sureal, we honestly never expected this race to go ahead and still have our doubts. With tensions around Manama running high and security stepped up ahead of practice any threat of violence around the circuit or realted to the race could still lead to a cancellation.


If security around the circuit clashes with protestors against the race and things get ugly can Formula One really continue and risk being left with blood on the hands of the FIA and in the eyes of the world the Formula One Group, Teams and of course sponsors?


Despite saying repeatedly that security wouldn’t be increased above levels for previous years today ahead of practice the race organisers have tightened security, though with so few fans expected to attend controlling matters inside shouldn’t be a problem; some suggested the race should be run behind closed doors with no spectators and that will almost be the case it is thought.


If things do flare up around the race it may be this afternoon(Friday) at 4 o clock lacal time when a protest is planned to take place at the race, this should be allowed to go ahead and the worst thing for Formula One would be a tough clamp down but of coutse the safery of all involved with the race must be paramount at all times and the balance could fall either way very easily of what is desired.


Force India of course have already beeen involved in an incident in Manama when a car carrying team personnel from their hotel got caught up in clashes betweeen Polic e and protestors and with firebombs feet away and teargas entering the vehicle their safety was at risk and it was only luck that no injury occurred.


Sponsors could still play a part if they risk damaging their brands by being in Bahrain and linked to deaths or injury to protesters. British MPs who called an early day motion for the race to be called off have urged sponsors to pull out of the event, meaning that cars if they do run may run without sponsorship. UBS, Gulf Air and DHL are the main sponsors with hoardings around the circuit and they may be the most visible companies to be involved with the race, Gulf Air are the title sponsor but are as a Bahraini company less likely to pull out.

Conflicting messages on Bahrain Grand Prix continue - April 10, 2012 by admin
Earlier protests in Bahrain

Earlier protests in Bahrain, photo by Al Jazeera English

With MPs, Damon Hill, at least one team principal and team members and of course opposition protestors on one side and Bernie Ecclestone and Bahrain Grand Prix organisers on the other the argument over whether the Bahrian Grand Prix will or should go ahead continues.


Bahrain Grand Prix chairman Zayed Al Zayani has complained that ‘armchair observers’ and ‘scaremongering extremists’ are the ones creating alarm over the Sakhir event. When those questioning the event though include a UK MP and also Damon Hill who visited the country earlier in the year to see the situation for himself this is clearly not the case. An unnamed team principal has also been reported in the Guardian as saying “I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain,” and raising concerns about safety of team’s staff.


If the safety of any team members or of spectators is in question the FIA have a responsibility to cancel the race and they said last week they ware monitoring the situation. Teams may be expecting that the FIA will have to cancel the race now as some have bought an extra set of tickets for staff to allow them to come straight back home after the Chinese race if the Bahrain race is cancelled. It is now less than two weeks until the race is due to be staged and equipment is likely to have already been sent to Bahrain, though some teams have reportedly had trouble obtaining insurance for their equipment while it is in the country.


Bernie Ecclestone may sound like a stuck record but at no time so far has he bought the staging of the Bahrain Grand Prix into doubt but he has repeatedly stated he has now doubts it will go ahead. Most recently he is reported as saying today (Tuesday 10th) that the teams are happy to race in Bahrain and that the race will go ahead. This was however following the explosion of a bomb in the capital Manama on Monday in which several policemen were injured. Though there is nothing to suggest that protesters will target anyone watching or working at the Grand Prix the potential for violence and injury are there and protests close to the circuit are expected. Bernie Ecclestone though stated that he had spoken to a team member who had been to the country and reported that ”everything is perfect”, though it is not clear how recently this person was there and what parts of the country they visited.

Bernie Ecclestone may know that it will fall to either the teams, the FIA or the Bahriani government to cancel the race in the end and he will have little control but he did say Tuesday that the final decision would be with the Formula One teams, though he also made it clear that if they attend the race they would be in breach of contract.


FIA deny they are preparing to cancel the 2012 Bahrain GP? – Updated - March 27, 2012 by admin

A view from the main grandstand at the Sakhir circuit, photo by Ange Embuldeniya

A view from the main grandstand at the Sakhir circuit, photo by Ange Embuldeniya

We earlier today reported how we had come across news suggesting that the FIA was expected to cancel Bahrain’s 2012 Grand Prix in the run up to the Chinese Grand Prix. This speculation considered that the FIA may have already told teams that the race was to be cancelled but it now seems that the FIA have no such plans and have not released statements to any teams or other individuals.


Norman Howell director of the communications for the FIA has now contacted us to confirm that ‘there is no truth whatsover to the rumours indicating
the FIA  will be issuing a statement regarding F1 not going there [Bahrain]’.


While the Formula One Group or the Bahraini government could still cancel the race due to be held on the 22nd of April it now seems unlikely that the race will be cancelled unless renewed protests threaten the stability of the country.

Both Bahrain and US Grand Prixs given boost - March 8, 2012 by admin
A view from the main grandstand at the Sakhir circuit, photo by Ange Embuldeniya

A view from the main grandstand at the Sakhir circuit, photo by Ange Embuldeniya

Bernie Ecclestone has already said that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead, obviously not everyone believes him or believes the race should go ahead as he keeps having to come out with statements to back the race. The Bahrain Grand Prix is apparently backed by the terams as well though and to be fair several team principals have come out and gone as far as saying they ‘trust Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA to make the right decision’.


Ecclestone was talking to Sky Sports about the Bahrain Grand Prix when he told them “The teams are all committed to be there, and will be there, and want to be there and like to be in Bahrain”; though they have said little in public, perhaps not wanting to come out and publicly back the race in case it comes back to haunt them or upsets any sponsors and wanting to leave it to Bernie: he isn’t afraid at least of stating his opinions clearly.


“It still concentrates an awful lot of attention on Bahrain, whereas otherwise it might be slipped in the back and whatever’s going on there might continue to go on,” he said, echoing the sentiments of a group of UK MPs who wrote a letter to The Times backing the race to go ahead as a force for good in Bahrain.


Bernie Ecclestone also has also given the long term future of the Australian Grand Prix a boost by saying on Sky Sports that he never said that he was threatening the Australian Grand Prix if they didn’t switch to a night race, a story originally reported in the Melbourne Age and reported on this site suggesting that Ecclestone had said that the Grand Prix in Austrlaia might be at risk after 2015 when its contract runs out.

Construction of buildings and stands at Circuit of the Americas begins, photo by Larry D Moore

Construction of buildings and stands at Circuit of the Americas begins, photo by Larry D Moore


Back to 2012 calendar news and today (7th of March) good news for US Formula One fans has come to light: the circuit is now back on schedule, having been behind after work stopped late in 2011 while disputes over race staging fees were settled and a new contract signed. Earlier in the week it was revealed that Tavo Hellmund, one of the key men behind the initial Circuit of the Americas project, was suing the organisation who now have the contract after the new race contract cut him out of the business of promoting the race: this though seems unlikely to stop progress at the new Circuit of the Americas circuit that is due to host the United States Grand Prix in November.

Bahrain Grand Prix looks set to go ahead - February 20, 2012 by admin
The Bahrain International circuit

The Bahrain International circuit, Photo courtesy of Allan Donque

We have to admit at F1 Cities we felt fairly certain that the Bahrain Grand Prix would eventually not go ahead in 2012 and that the fact tickets were yet to go on sale was evidence of this; today though (20th of February) about two months before the race weekend tickets have gone on sale.


Sakhir Circuit chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa claims that there is a lot of interest in the event, much of it from corporate clients. In the past atmosphere has beeen lacking at the circuit and so it is important that tickets sales ramp up quickly but it is expected that many from outside of the Arabian peninsula will stay away and even those from Arabia and within Bahrain may decide to go to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix instead.


Supporters of the race are claiming that it will unify the nation or that the focus on the country will force the governement to cease any ongoing human rights abuses and that protestors will be able to use the event to raise their cause with little threat of violence against them while thousands of journalists are in the country. The Press Conference where the staging of the Race was confirmed announced that the slogan for the race would be ‘UniF1ed – one nation in celebration’: suggesting that Bahrain is now a happy place where the events of last year are forgotten and the disenchanted have changed their minds. Many though see that Formula One is giving the message that the Bahriani government can do what it likes to its people and no-one cares; it is a year since the ”Day of Rage’ but no-one has been punished or bought to justice for what happened that day, or rather no-one on the government side.


Regardless of whether most fans feel that the race going ahead gives the wrong message there is the chance that protests at or near the circuit, quite likely starting at  the university next door, people won’t want to risk getting caught up in it at all even if the risk is low and the Sakhir circuit itself doesn’t really have a history of classic races to attract people in.


Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone has backed the race but crucially the FIA are yet to come out worth a statement, the FIA, not driven by money like the F1 administration, could still be the ones to cancel the race but it is looking less likely now: then of course the race could still be cancelled or disrupted on the race weekend if protests do flare up.

Bahrain GP backed by Bernie - February 15, 2012 by admin
bahrain international circuit, photo by Emi Faulk

photo by Emi Faulk

In 1985 Jean Marie Balestre announced soon after the South African Grand Prix that Formula One would not return there until after the end of Apartheid: many still think that Formula One should have pulled out long before this but Formula One pulled out as did many companies at around the same time to help force change. In Bahrain many see the situation as being similar, the Bahraini government and Royal Family it is assumed want the race to go ahead to showcase the country and help attract investment.


There are others though who argue that the Grand Prix going ahead would actually do more to bring about change in Bahrain by brining in large numbers of journalists and putting the spotlight on the country; the events including Human Rights abusesin Bahrain many believe are being forgotten by western media. In the UK their are politicians on both sides, a group of Lords and Green MP Caroline Lucas calling for the race to be cancelled and a group of MPs calling for it to go ahead: each group it has to be said concerned about Human Rights but seeing the role of Formula One in different ways.


Bernie Ecclestone’s point of view seems to be that the race should go ahead but his attitude could probably be described as more laissez faire: like many he doesn’t think that Formula One should get involved in politics, many would say events in Bahrain have gone far beyond politics. What Bernie Ecclestone may also be doing of course is waiting for the Bahraini government to cancel the race themselves as they did in 2011 so he doesn’t lose the F1 Administration’s fees by cancelling; he could also be hoping that the FIA and Jean Todt will step in and cancel the race: thereby keeping his relationship with the Bahraini government and the race organisers in tact for future years. Whether Bernie will cancel the race at the last minute if someone else doesn’t of course remains to be seen.


High Profile MPs urge dropping of Bahrain GP - February 9, 2012 by admin
The Bahrain International circuit

The Bahrain International circuit, Photo courtesy of Allan Donque

As we have mentioned the Bahrian Grand Prix looks in doubt already, the FIA and Formula One Admisinstration though have kept the official line as ‘There is no reason to doubt that the Bahrain GP will go ahead’, they would be unlikely to say anything else though until the point it is cancelled of course and it is becoming a line that is now looking even less believable.


A high profile list of MPs and peers in the UK have called on the FIA to cancel the race, this list includes Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Lord Alton, Lord Avebury, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, Lord Hylton, Caroline Lucas and Lord Boswell who wrote an open letter to The Times newspaper.


They wrote, “The continued political crisis in Bahrain is a troubling source of instability in the Gulf region, and the lack of any move towards political reconciliation concerns those who wish to see Bahrain move in the direction of greater democratic accountability.” They then went on to go over the facts about a lack of reconciliation in the country between the Government and opposition groups.


The FIA has in the past claimed that they believe Bahrian has taken big step forward while many activists in the UK, Bahrain and elsewhere argue that human rights violations continue but are simply ignored by western media. Only last week news came out that a British man had been attacked and had his fingers cut off by government forces, what this suggests could be happen being to Bahraini citizens can only be imagined; there are even stories that many employees of the Sakhir circuit accused of having celebrated the cancellation of the race in 2011 were cancelled.


The group of politicians finished their letter with “Until it takes concerted measures to reform the electoral, penal and judicial processes, international observers as well as ordinary Bahrainis can have little confidence that Bahrain is on the path to reform and political stability. We urge the FIA to reconsider its decision to continue with the race.” As mentioned before though and as happened in 2011 it still seems likely that the Bahraini government will force the cancelling of the race: wishing to ensure the event doesn’t become a window for the world in to the situation in the country, tickets for the Grand Prix in April are yet to go on sale.

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