F1 fans call for Bahrain GP cancellation

While Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA seem prepared to sit and wait for the situation in Bahrain to improve, many fans have already come to the conclusion that the race should not go ahead.

Some have been contacting drivers and team bosses via Twitter, urging them to boycott the GP.

In an informal debate on my Twitter feed last night it was apparent how strongly many people felt about the issue. This is not a scientific poll, but it gives an indication of feelings out there – and these are racing fans who have been waiting months for the start of the season, people who love our sport. Here is a sample of replies I received:

Ecclestone dropped races in Europe to get to those countries… Hopes it backfires on him now

Wonder what it’s like to be Bernie and suddenly realize you don’t control the world.

As a fan of 25 years now, I wanted the race cancelled yesterday. No fan in their right mind should want it to go ahead.

Cancel Bahrain, side with those against oppression and eat the freight costs.

If it goes ahead I for one won’t have anything to do with it. There are, from my perspective as a fan, 19 races this season.

They need to boycott it, not just for safety but to back the protest. Can’t be seen to agree with what’s happened by going

It should be cancelled. Lives are more important than some race.

If it goes ahead people will say that f1 stands with dictators… Not the best legacy.

People seem to overlook that F1 is a sport/entertainment, first. What’s happening in Bahrain is real life.

I haven’t missed a GP in over ten years, but why an earth anyone wants this one to go ahead now is beyond me. zero perspective.

As much as I am looking forward to the season start, I can wait for Aussie GP. Just skip Bahrain GP.

The F1 fans & staff, teams, etc. Would be prime targets for those wanting a statement. Also would require lots of govt resources.

Should be cancelled now. No point waiting. Shouldn’t hold a GP in a country that kills it’s own people

Having a race possible, because the authorities have cracked down violently in protesters, isn’t really a good advert

If Bahrain GP goes ahead, despite our passion for F1 I think our household will boycott. Protestors is a shame, but gov’ worse

I hope Bahrain GP is canceled. Fan of 25 years and eager for start of season, but I don’t want innocent people to get hurt.

It can’t go ahead. Would be completely insane to go ahead with it

I’m passionate about F1 but no-one seems to question whether its appropriate to go to Bahrain, not just safe.

There were other views, and some respondents agreed that Ecclestone should wait a few days. One guy – a Mercedes GP employee – accused fans of hypocrisy in that they were happy to watch the Bahrain race last year.

Ecclestone’s comments yesterday – he even suggested that people shouldn’t book their travel – were a clear indication that he expects to have to cancel the race eventually. It seems to me that by doing it sooner rather than later he will do the sport a big favour. The longer he leaves it, the more it will appear to the outside world that F1 has been made the call only as a last resort.

39 Comments

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39 responses to “F1 fans call for Bahrain GP cancellation

  1. Leigh O'Gorman

    “One guy – a Mercedes GP employee – accused fans of hypocrisy in that they were happy to watch the Bahrain race last year.”

    I think the Mercedes chap – whomever it was – needs to be reminded that while Bahrain has suffered elements of oppression for quite a time, it has rarely ever been this public before.
    Strange as it may seem, not everyone holds an in depth view of world politics.

    • Knuckles

      This. Plus, it’s not as if we had been asked about last year’s Bahrain event either! In reality, the publicly expressed fan opinion largely always was that the race in Bahrain sucks, for a number or reasons: boring track, no legacy, no local interest (fans), local dictatorship. If Bernie listened to the fans, we would race at a European track instead, and always would have.

    • F1 Kitteh

      So did u watch last year, and the year before ?

      • Knuckles

        Last year and the year before the situation was different.

      • Leigh O'Gorman

        I have seen all the Bahrain Grand Prix and to be honest, they have quite been some of the poorer race’s year-after-year. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start picking and choosing what Grand Prix I watch every season, because I watch them all.

    • Chaz Wyman

      We watched last year. Now we have changed our minds.

      Last year Bahrain was not shooting hundreds of its own citizens for demanding what we consider to be a basic right.

      Maybe we did not know what the situation was nor that Eccleston would be so ignorant a callous to bring our sport into such a repressive regime?

      Maybe the unnamed employee of Merc, should also get his head out of his arse and look what is happening?

      • You’ve summed it up very well. I just cannot understand anyone who trots out lines like 1) well you were Ok with it last year and/or 2) what about China don’t they have democracy issues there and there’s still a race? What complete and utter nonsense…

  2. Chris

    The Mercedes GP employee needs to get some perspective, the Bahrain government had not just killed peaceful protestors last year, and had not rolled tanks into Manama. Most people last year had no idea how bad political situation in Bahrain was.

  3. Spike

    Yeah,what Leigh said. I know far more about the regime in Bahrain than I when I watched last years race.

    For so many reasons this race needs to be cancelled now.

  4. posimosh

    Methinks Everyone is missing the point… Formula 1 can choose to go to countries who oppress their people, and we can choose not to watch… Where it gets difficult is where to draw the line…. The US censors internet results and is building a racetrack (hastily) over the objections of local residents with tax money. much the same way the UAE did or Bahrain. Malaysia too… In fact, I was wondering why everyone was shaking their heads with Korea and India (India is the largest ostensibly democratic country in the world). Both were and are scoffed at because they can’t match Abu Dahbbi. The similarities of Bahrain and Abu Dahbbi are far more striking than their differences. Guess what though In a sport that is so outwardly gluttenous (i call it my one true unadulterated vice) and who chases the money so aggressively, throwing morality to the side this is what we get. I love the sport but its starting to feel like its all gladiator games and we are the distracted Romans as Caeser is dissolving the parlement… someone tell me i’m wrong

    • Chaz Wyman

      No one is missing the point.
      F1 relies on people watching the sport. It is the people that make it all work in the end.
      If F1 does not listen to the views of its fans then it will find itself without any support.
      I’ve been a fan for 15 years, but if Bernie does not get real then this is one fan that will no longer be following F1.
      But for all of this to make sense, our opinions need to be heard.
      This is the 21st century. It is a time for listening.

  5. Is the Mercedes GP employee OK with having military protection to the point where people are beaten and killed just to protect their own life? Or is the employee willing to die for the sport? I’m guessing not. Wouldn’t that be a little hypocritical? I like that word; hypocritical. Sounds biblical. Like “let he without sin cast the first stone”.

    For sure it demonstrates what a bubble we live in, as I knew nothing prior to recent events of the Bahrain polotics. Wasn’t it the point that protestors where trying to make themselves heard on a global platform? Well I’m glad they have achived their goal, even if only a little bit.

    Perhaps the Mercedes GP employee wouold like to consider this. Say we took heed of their opinion and made efforts to boycott Bahrain. And given that we sat in our armchairs these last two years in ignorance, we shouldn’t take any chances and boycott F1 altogether. Who would witness the advertizing then? OK perhaps F1 is more about hospitality than it is about advertizing, but will the CEO’s be able to justify their shareholder paid for luxurious hospitality without a TV audience. Given that senario, I would suspect F1 would need to downsize considerably. Including said employees job. Perhaps then they would reconsider, but they would likely find themselves in that easiest of situations to find oneself in of being a hypocrit

  6. Jon Wilde

    Cancel the 2011 Bahrain GP and terminate any remaining contractual obligations. Divert efforts to hold the 1st race in Abu Dhabi.

  7. DiegoP

    Great work Adam! Very interesting topic to discuss.

    Suddenly lot of people discover that there are injustice and oppression in the world, and yell to stop it and ask to boycott the people responsible of it. A bit naive position if they never wondered before what was happening in GP venues from Trukey to the East. And I say Turkey just to put an occidental reference point of view, I believe that a lot of things that happen to the West side are at the same level than what is happening in Bahrain.

    If the Bahrain GP is cancelled, it will be because it is not safe for the F1 business and nothing else. In a discipline like F1 (F1 is not a sport) there is no place for political positions and causes (ie. the “green” F1 of 2013 is pure BS, let the engines run free and transport the teams by sail boats if you want a “greener” approach). Of course I beg for a world with freedom and equal opportunities of development for everybody, but I’m pretty sure that watching F1 is not the place where you can ask for it.

    As always, a pleasure to read your posts and the comments of the followers.

  8. kaz

    To much chance , a radical or desperate set of individuals will try and use the media coverage, which is f1′s life blood – a lot of international outlets in one very very small space. Even an attempt to use it hun, will bring the very real prospect of injury to this Merc worker or his co-workers. Enough now ,weakest race, cancel it or move the freight to Abu Dhabi, they would love the prestige of saving the race and would bed over backwards to make it run there.

  9. CNSZU

    The so-called fans who want to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix would be up in arms if it was suggested that the Silverstone Grand Prix would be cancelled because of some riots in London. These ignorants want Bahrain cancelled because the race is boring and don’t have the all-important, sacred “race heritage”. I wouldn’t dismiss racism as also being part of the equation.

    Give the people of Bahrain a chance and wait before making the decision. Having a Grand Prix there would be a sign of support for them instead of cancelling the race and leaving them out in the cold.

    • “Some riots in London…” Sorry, but I think you’ve missed the point of all this…

      The average person in Bahrain doesn’t give a shit about the race or even knows that it’s on. The race is only there to promote the country (and government owned Gulf Air etc) and is totally the play thing of the royal family. Having the race carry on and the drivers and teams seen to be sharing small talk with those guys would not be good for F1.

      It was not a problem before – Bahrain was still a respectable place to do business with as recently as last week, when the British foreign secretary was there. In just a few days things have simply moved on since then in a way that Bernie could have not predicted when he signed the deal in 2003 or whatever it was, and the attitude of the world has changed…

    • bosyber

      If the riot police in London also went in with tanks and such, I doubt the most pressing concern by a lot of UK fans, but also others, would be to go and see the race. There are some differences, one being that the Silverstone GP is emphatically NOT state funded (guess why they had so much troule getting money for a new contract?), the other being that a EU member country would be getting a lot of problems treating citizens like the Bahrain government has been.

      Sure, the last race in Bahrain having been boring doesn’t make people miss it more, but it is very, overly, simple to say that is the reason people are against having a GP there in 2011.

    • Knuckles

      If the government in the UK or in any other country decided that shooting protesters was a good idea, then yes, I’d be very much in favor of canceling all sports events there. I mean, what else?

      Seems you are the ignorant here if you believe that having the GP there is a sign of support for the people. On the contrary, it’s a sign of support for the oppressive regime, or course.

  10. Robyn

    There is a big difference between going to a country that has a system of Government that one does not agree with to going to a country that is murdering citizens in the street for daring to protest. I watched with mounting discomfort as F1 raced in South Africa during the apartheid era and came to the conclusion then that it is not always possible to simply state that sport should be kept separate from politics. This isn’t about politics, it is about human rights, morals and ethics. Racing in South Africa was wrong, and racing next month in Bahrain would be just as wrong.

  11. Richard M

    I think if there are serious safety concerns then they should cancel because there is no way the drivers/teams, stewards, fans, media, etc should be put in a dangerous position just to run a F1 race. However I think it is a slippery slope boycotting the race for political reason, because it you use F1 as a political statement against an autocratic government in Bahrain which F1 has been going to and taking money from for years then why not boycott China as well or Abu Dhabi? Turkey has a bad reputation for human rights if you boycott Bahrain then why not Turkey? Maldonado is backed by a autocraitc government should he be banned from F1? Do not get me wrong what is going on in Bahrain is horrific and is to be condemmed but I do not think F1 should have a poltical agenda because it sets a dangerous precedent and smacks of hypocrisy. Cancel the race for safety reasons but not for a political statement.

  12. Rafael

    Excellent Topic Adam,

    except I am not too convinced with the boycotting.
    Afterall, one could generally accept that having the track and the yearly GP in Bahrain is a jewel in the life of the King and the ruling of the country. They see it as an international attraction that promotes Bahrain and helps to improve its presence in international affairs.

    This is of so much importance, the government is clearly doing all in its power to limit the voice of the protesters and allow for the GP to carry on. Obviously, the way things are carried out in Manama is not right and should never have been an option. To be along side the government promoting the use of force is wrong.

    However, we have to realise that Formula 1 is only a bi-stander in this entire situation, getting caught in the middle. For safety concerns, the GP should deffinatelly be cancelled, but not to boycott the government. Like yesterday’s GP2 event, due to the medical staff not being at the circuit, no event should take place. However, no matter how much we are passionate about Formula 1, it does not, nor will not have such an important political role in a country (no matter how much Montezemollo wants it to be).

    On the other hand, if the Bahraini government sees Formula 1 pull out of the GP, the blame will fall on the shoulders of the protestors. These protestors (and other innocent by-standers) will be further oppressed and prosecuted. In a way, having the GP will at least allow the government to fell like they have momentary control of the situation, even though that will increasingly be less the case.

    Added to that, the sheer number of workers, jobs and profit brought to the country (not only due to the race, but even things like groceries team members and press will make during their stay) will be a significant part of their expected yearly income. Afterall, Bahrain is not commonly known to be the most wanted of holiday destinations. If all this profit was suddenly taken away, not only would the government blame the people, but innocent hard-workers will simply suffer from a loss of expected income.

    Instead, Formula 1, should first focus on the safety of the team members, press officers and all involved with the Grand Prix event. If their safety and comfort seem to be intact, the committee needs to evaluate the morality of the situation.

    It is also good to bear in mind, that sport can be seen in some third world countries, as a form of not only enterntainment, but of promoting hope and dreams to younger generations. I know this sounds innocent and gullable, but as a kid growing up in a less developed country, I know it is true.

    In conclusion, it is too easy for us, in the comfort of our homes, to write what should and shouldn’t be done, but the reality is, things for the people in Bahrain are only going from bad to worse. Obviously no one in their right mind would ever want to be associated with promoting over-powering governments oppressing and prosecuting innocent har workers. But in this scenario, it would be naïve for Formula 1 (its fans and employees) to assume that simply pulling out of the Bahrain GP would do anything to help the country’s people.

    PS: In response to some of the comments above, where some say the race should never have replaced an European circuit. That just simply equates to me as prejudice of middle-eastern countries. There is no way Bernie “made a mistake” opting to move from an expensive/money-loosing European GP to a circuit in an aspiring developing nation. The only issue here, is the way this nation’s government is treating its people, nothing of which Bernie (nor the FIA) has ever had any control over.

    • Some really interesting comments coming in, thanks everyone for contributing.

      You have a good point about the authorities blaming the protesters for losing the prestige that comes with the GP. In essence decades of work to promote the place as a cool, happening, hospitable, upmarket destination (or whatever) has gone to waste in a matter of days, and I imagine there are a lot of very frustrated people at the heart of the government.

      • Chris

        Yes, but they should have thought of that before they sent in heavies armed with guns and clubs against peaceful civilians. That they failed to think about what the consequences would be tells us a lot about them. If they had dealt with the protests without resorting to violence they would not now be in this mess.

  13. F1 Kitteh

    I’m with the MGP employee. How many fans supporting the supposed cause now knew about the oppression faced by people last year? How do they know now what is really happening besides reading whats written in newspapers, and simply based on that they are suddenly all sympathetic to the people that they probably did not give a hoot about last week? I think we need to take a poll here, and ask these fans ahead of time, whether they’re supportive of races like China, when this same sort of event has a possibility of happening in the future.

    • Yeah right, none of this is really happening. There’s lot of sand in Bahrain, why don’t you fly over there and bury your head in it? Watch out though, you might get run over by a tank.

      Anybody banging on about ‘it was OK last year’ is talking complete and utter nonsense. What is the point of spouting such rubbish? As I said it was OK LAST WEEK for the UK foreign secretary to be there doing business.

      The second son of HM Queen is there all the time promoting trade links. The USA uses Bahrain as a major military base.

      All this was OK until a few days ago, and it was OK for us to watch a Bahrain GP and in my case actually go there seven years in a row…

      Things have changed, it’s as simple as that…

      • F1 Kitteh

        No I don’t dispute what is happening on the screen is real, just saying I don’t know the circumstances under which they were caused, and not prepared to become an overnight expert on ME politics simply from reading whats been on the front pages for the last 2 days. I think it would not be prudent to say I boycott the GP because the people are right and the govt is wrong, or vice versa. I do believe the race should be cancelled for the reason of safety, not because I support this and not support that or whatever, and that’s what I believe that MGP guy is referring to. Or maybe I’m wrong ..

      • It’s not about being an expert – I’d be the first to admit that Middle Eastern politics is not my forte. The bottom line is clearly something is going badly wrong there at the moment. There is violence on the streets, road blocks, tanks etc. By any standards it is not a good time to send 1000 plus foreigners into the country, many of them for up to two weeks, for an event that at the end of the day is entirely expendable. That’s not counting spectators, sponsor guests, etc. However, there is no denying that there is an extra dimension created by the fact that the track and the race are the pet project of leading members of the royal family, and by being there we will all be seen to be allied to them. That may be a problem for some who work in F1, and not for others. But the point is that to the world at large the Bahraini authorities are the ‘bad guys’ who have been killing their own citizens, and anyone involved in the GP is one way or another going to be associated with that. That’s how it is perceived, simple as that. And whatever the political angle, there is blood on the streets. A good time to hold an elitist sporting event?

      • F1 Kitteh

        Yup and thats what I am saying, cancel the GP for the safety reasons, definitely I agree the right thing to do. But boycott it to show that we’re standing up against the ‘bad guys’… I am just not sure what is ‘bad’ when there is a possiblity that once they are overthrown, the new regime might not be as Western friendly….

  14. Propaganda has always been an effective weapon for both sides to political debate, especially when it spills over to violence.

    The HAVE been riots in the UK, (Toxteth, Brixton). Recently we have seen students being subject to beatings and some students throwing paint at our own Royal family. We are not immune to political debate spilling over into violence.

    However, should a political protest use the British GP specifically as its global stage, then yes, it should be cancelled. What better way to say to those you wish to quell, that you will not be head hear?

    To fight such guerrilla or neo terrorist style protestors, whom always seem to be in the minority, with such force, so close to a global and prestigious event seems like they Bahrain government rather to try deal effectively with such insurgence, have in fact played straight into their hands.

    As such, for F1, for middle eastern politics, for the people of Bahrain, for the Bahrain government and its constitutional monarch, but most of all for the safety of human beings, the GP should be cancelled for 2011, in my most humble and uneducated of opinions of course.

    • F1 Kitteh

      I agree w/ u completely the race should definitely be cancelled for all those reasons without question but not boycotted because the fans support/pretend to support the ‘people’s cause’ whatever that is.

  15. Bri

    Impressed that you had the balls to publish this article… the sad fact is that F1 seems quite happy to go anywhere that pays the money irrespective of human rights but there is a big difference between suppression (bad enough) and gunning people down in the streets.

    F1 is supposed to be a coveted brand, so I cannot see how it could possibly be good “brand management” to go to Bahrain and act like everything is normal almost immediately after protesters have been shot while exercising their right to peaceful protest. I have no problem with races in the Middle East or anywhere else (as I can’t afford to attend the overpriced European races anyway!) but surely any risk manager would have identified that this was always a possibility when visiting “less than democratic” countries – it is strange that there is no contingency plan for such events except apparently “wait and see”, “take the money and shut up” or perhaps “pretend nothing is wrong”.

    The simple fact is that every person on the planet should have the right to choose their government and the right to criticise it when they believe it is wrong without fear of retribution. It really irks me when some F1 numpties run about criticising democracy or free healthcare – they seem to live in some kind of money-padded cell cut off from the real world, perhaps if they had experienced the alternatives they might not be so blase about such issues.

    As far as the Mercedes GP employee goes, well they are hardly likely to criticise any Gulf State as they own a significant share of their employer…you don’t bite the hand that feeds now do you?

  16. Snowy

    “Should be cancelled now. No point waiting. Shouldn’t hold a GP in a country that kills it’s own people”

    What, you mean like the USA or China, where capital punishment is regularly carried out on it’s own citizens?!

    Is your stance REALLY based on such high moral standing??

  17. luke

    The difference between say London riots and the Bahrain clashes is the sheer level of barbarity, (mostly from the Saudi mercenaries as far as I can tell.) This is from a first hand witness who was at the roundabout when it happened. Apparently the Troops approached while most of the protestors were sleeping, and just started to open fire on them. And then medical staff were threatened at gunpoint not to treat any of the injured. Which is why the people leading the protests now seem to be key doctors and medical staff. If the race is to go ahead, I shall be emailing ALL sponsors that I am a customer with urging them to put pressure on the teams, to withdraw. Our spending power and ‘brand loyalty’ together with letters of complaint are the only way the general public can have any influence whatsoever. If Vodafone recieved a million letters threatening to switch networks, then you can be sure there would be words said to big Ron.

  18. kaz

    see this, —tweets following—>they make me feel ill reading it, Explain please what they will stop at to curtail this. Do i really really want to read tear gas used inside the circuit, where close friends will be working and watching. This needs stopped on pure security reasons, not interested in any of the rest of it, on pure security reasons they cannot guarantee it will not happen, so in my head its just not cool.

    NickKristof Nicholas Kristof
    by adamcooperf1
    Police attacking protesters here at hospital in #Bahrain. Tear gas inside. Panic.
    19 minutes ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

    NickKristof Nicholas Kristof
    by adamcooperf1
    Army just fired again on #Bahrain protesters.
    23 minutes ago

  19. MarkG

    Sport often has the impossible task to be apolitical, I think most fair minded people appreciate that. However, shooting your own people who are protesting peacefully is another matter. We all know that double standards are an inevitable part of life but some times you just have to take a stand. Eccelstone, wake up, kids could of been killed. If F1 goes to Bahrain at this point it’s little short of condoing what’s happeneded. We have to make this complicated situation easy. F1 can’t go. I’ll be boycotting the race.

    A 30 year F1 veteran.

  20. Stone the crows

    Yes, they should cancel the Bahrain GP and should have done it yesterday. Not only is it for the saftey of the participants and fans, it is to prevent the event from becoming a gigantic media poidum for protesters, regardless of how righteous their cause may be. The Bahrain GP (if it goes on) will be an irresistable draw for those trying to make their case, and it will serve as a prefect foil for the argument of government indifference to the oppressed. In short, having the Grand Prix has the potential to escalate the tensions. Cancelling is the right thing to do. Cancelling will be costly to FOM, but not as costly if they press on and it becomes the focal point for a fiasco.

  21. kevin stege

    I guess we should have seen this coming.Years ago we all bitched about the new venues.It was all about the money forBernie it wasn’t about the racing or the history of the sport,Now it has all come around,of course Bernie can still retire comfortably,but to him it is still about the money.He could care less for the people of any given country(British Gp).Its all about him, his money, his power. Always was always will be.

  22. F1 should not be political, it should not take sides. It should not say ‘we support xxx or xxx’. But F1 should be safe. And for everyone there, teams, fans and media, it wouldn’t be. Let me ask this – to those saying it shouldn’t go ahead so F1 can support the protesters, surely if that is the case it should? The Army couldn’t shoot protesters at a Government sanctioned event in front of the worlds media.

    No. F1 needs to be safe. Bahrain is not.

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