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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.

FIA send out message Bahrain should go ahead: but circumstances could still lead to cancellation - April 13, 2012 by admin
Paris Headquarters of the FIA

Paris Headquarters of the FIA, photo by Phanuruch Phongsutilak

The FIA after talks with the Formula One teams, at which they have supposedly all stated they are happy to race, have said that the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead.

 

The FIA are responsible for ensuring the safety of anyone at a Grand Prix and in their statement they included the following:

 

“The FIA ensures that any event forming part of an FIA World Championship is organised in compliance with the FIA Statutes and the relevant Sporting and Technical Regulations and that the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during an event”.

 

If there are problems and injuries occur then the blame would fall on the FIA but they seem happy with arrangements and security at the moment for the race to go ahead: so regardless of what the teams say they must be certain that the race can be run safely. Whether the race will see protests is another matter and whether the race should be run from a moral perspective is another matter; the FIA seem to only be considering security and safety.

 

The key information in the FIA’s statement was towards the end and read:

“Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain.

Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.”

 

The mentions of ‘current information’ and ‘at this stage’ though suggests they are still monitoring things and things could change. You could also argue that if they are considering cancelling the race, but are yet to decide, the right thing is to release this statement so that speculation is put to bed and so it remains in their control rather than becoming a self fulfilling prophecy due to everyone else assuming the race will be cancelled.

 

The FIA have admitted that they have made their decisions based on information given by  ‘Bahraini authorities and by the Commercial Rights Holder’: this in itself may raise questions as it is in the interest of both to see the race go ahead and so the information may be biased.

 

The FIA also mention Jean Todt’s fact finding mission in November as a basis for their decision, when he was accompanied by Damon Hill. Since November though things have almost certianly changed and protests and violence have increased, Damon Hill who backed the race in November recently called for it to be reassessed but the FIA have obviously not taken the same view, or have reassessed it and not changed their opinions.

FIA say Bahrain situation “Continually monitored” - April 7, 2012 by admin
bahrain international circuit, photo by Emi Faulk

Bahrain International Circuit, Photo by Emi Faulk

Amid increasing calls for the running of the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, set to take place in around two weeks time, to be looked at again the FIA have stated that they are monitoriung the situation in the country.

 

Right now Bahrian is looking like moving away from stability rather than towards it and it is the FIA’s responsibility to make sure that the Bahrian Grand Prix can be run safely for teams and fans. The FIA may also have some responsibility to consider the race’s impact on the country but there is a lot of disagreement over whether the race would be positive, negative or have little affect on Bahrain’s political situation.  In the FIA’s statement they said “The FIA is the guarantor of the safety at the race event and relies, as it does in every other country, on the local authorities to guarantee security,” perhaps suggesting that the FIA expects to see security increased by the Bahrainis if the race is to go ahead; organizers of the Bahrain Grand Prix last week stated they would in fact not be increasing security for this year’s race.

 

Increased unrest is being caused primarily it seems by a jailed activist, on hunger strike many believe he should be a free man and plenty are willing to protest to call for his release and claim his innocence. 5000 protested in the north of the capital Manama and clashed with police on Wednesday.

 

Many in Bahrain have stated their hopes that the race would be a unifiying event, using ‘UniF1ed’ in promotion of the Grand Prix; it is now worried though that if protests do mar the race and if clashes between the government forces including police, as well as circuit security and protesters do occur in front of cameras of the world’s media, that the race could do the opposite of what has been hoped.

 

In the UK, where earlier this year a group of MPs had called for the race to go ahead to shine a spotlight on the country, one MP Richard Burden has now publicly questioned the running of the race. His comments, published in a blog, were: “In a context where genuine and sustainable reform is taking place, holding a Grand Prix could be a unifying event for the people of Bahrain as well as a positive showcase on the world stage. But things are not at that stage,”

 

This statement from Richard Burden follows a U turn for Damon Hill; Hill had last year backed the cancellation of 2011’s race but following a visit to Bahrain backed this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix going ahead as a positive event: recent events have led him to question this again though.

 

Bernie Ecclestone restates backing for ‘democratic’ Bahrain - March 29, 2012 by admin
Bernie Ecclestone

Mr Bernie Ecclestone Photo Courtesy of Nick J Webb

“Just the same as has always been said it will take place and I am sure without any problems”: Bernie Ecclestone has reiterated that he has absolutely no concerns about the Bahrain Grand Prix; the race set to take place on the 22nd of April has been a hot topic since it was cancelled in 2011 and anti government protests have continued, albeit with fewer reports of violence and human rights abuses than at the height of tensions in February 2011.

 

In an interview yesterday, 28th of March, Bernie Ecclestone when asks stated that he had do doubts the race would go ahead and never had had any doubts. Though Mr Ecclestone’s Formula One Group could cancel the race the FIA, Race Organiserrs and Bahrain government all also have the power to call the race off, at the last minute if needed. Though teams and drivers unhappy with the race could also cause disruption Bernie has previously stated that the Teams want to race in Bahrain and several team principals including Christian Horner and Ross Brawn have backed Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA as being in the best position to make decisions on the race.

 

With questions raised about security concerns at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this week Mr Ecclestone was asked what assurances he had been given about security, including personal security and security for the teams, answering “…I am sure whatever is necessary will be done”. He then went on to claim that it is only the press making concerns rather than the teams or people in Bahrain raising concerns; despite this organisers of the race this week said they would pay for all necessary insurance to make sure the race went ahead though this doesn’t appear to have been in response to any specific requests.

 

Bernie Ecclestone’s view of events in Bahrain certainly seems to be different to those of many who question whether the race should go ahead and Mr Ecclestone stated that he didn’t think demonstrators would use Formula One saying “if they did they would be a little bit silly as it shows you to the rest of the world”. Of course many believe that this kind of worldwide exposure is exactly what demonstrators want and a group of UK MPs actually backed the race going ahead so that it could shine a light on the real situation in Bahrain; perhaps then both sides, government and anti-government, have the potential to benefit from the Grand Prix going ahead.

 

Asked if Formula One could in fact help with reconciliation Mr Ecclestone answered “We would be very happy to do whatever, I don’t think we can help much but we are there”. Bernie Ecclestone’s final comments though are likely to lead to the most questions of whether he really has a grasp over what is happening and has happened in the country by stating his opinion that “It seems to me sort of more  democratic there than most places because people there can speak what they want and protest if they want to”; many will claim that the reports of torture and other human rights abuses against those who protested during 2011 show that this is clearly not the case and that though in 2012 there are less reports of such abuses they have not completely ceased.

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 put back on F1 calendar despite continued Human Rights abuses - June 3, 2011 by admin
The Bahrain International circuit

Photo courtesy of Allan Donque

The Bahrain Grand Prix that would have been the opening race of the season has been reinstated after marshall law in the country ceased two days ago. Whether the race will go ahead on  it’s new date of the 30th of October remains to be seen however as many concerns remain. These concerns include continued Human Rights violations that have been reported by a number of interntional observers and human rights chairities over the last few days. Many people feel that even an end to these abuses is not enough to warrant the Grand Prix being reinstated following the way the Bahrain Government has cracked down on protestors since February.

Back in February much of the concern that led to pre season testing and the season opening grand prix being cancelled and postponed respectively, was the risk to visiting Formula One fans and teams. These concerns must still remain and could still lead to the Grand Prix being cancelled again: as could international sanctions that could be imposed if abuses continue or more documentary evidence of previous and ongoing abuses are presented to the United Nations or individual governments.

There are others as well who could still derail the Grand Prix, the Bahrain Government itself may force the Grand Prix to be cancelled if they feel it will give a chance to rebels to protest and make their voices heard while the world’s media is focused on the tiny nation.

The Formula One Teams as well could still decide not to attend the race: they are legally obliged to attend but a united front by FOTA would tie the hands of Bernie Ecclestone and he would at least be unable to take a hard stance for fear of increasing the chances of a break away series. A statement is yet to be made by FOTA or any team but several team staff and drivers have already stated their disappointment: it may be that individuals will choose to boycott the race, or perhaps even fans.

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