Not axing Bahrain GP would be simply asking for trouble
Bernie Ecclestone should avoid trouble by axing the race, writes Gareth Llewellyn-Stevens
The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix is under threat of being cancelled as protests and military action on the streets of the island kingdom intensifies.
For all the politics that goes on in Formula 1 it is hard to believe that any driver would really want to take part in a race in such circumstances.
Risking your life by driving at breakneck speed on circuits or rally stages through mountains and forests is one thing -that goes with the territory -flying to Bahrain to take part in a race which has already been threatened by protest groups is just madness – and something organisers would have trouble justifying should it go wrong.
It would be simply reckless for such a large event to take place while the protests continue.
Some GP2 drivers already in Bahrain have reported hearing machine-gun fire from their hotel rooms, while others have seen lines of tanks and other heavily armoured vehicles snaking along roads close to the circuit.
It’s no surprise that the Bahrain Motorsport Federation requested that event to be cancelled, and it will be no surprise to see the F1 test and opening race go the same way in the coming week.
On Thursday, some F1 fans said on Twitter that the race should go ahead, but what is two weeks more to wait? Would they risk their life to go to Bahrain in the current climate?
The FIA, Formula 1 Management, the organisers and the Crown Prince who make the decision on whether the race is cancelled have not helped the situation. Given the decision to cancel the GP2 Asia event, they could have called off the race immediately. Waiting, even a week, to make a decision, is surely delaying the inevitable.
Others have said the race should be cancelled to show F1 supports the protestors’ cause, but that’s taking it too far. F1 has nothing to do with the trouble in Bahrain and Bernie Ecclestone and the sport would gain absolutely nothing at all by getting involved.
FIA president Jean Todt’s comments to the Irish Independent in Dublin on Thursday said it all.
Ultimately, the safety of the drivers, team personnel, officials, spectators and members of the media is of paramount importance. With that in mind, it’s very obvious that in the interests of all parties the race should be cancelled.
Some fans have already declared they will boycott the race if it goes ahead, and some are contacting drivers and team personnel begging them not to race. Admirable, but what do they hope to achieve?
If the organisers believe the event can go ahead safely, and the other relevant parties accept that, then, as Virgin Racing boss John Booth said yesterday, the teams will go, and while that might be the case with his team, it is difficult to envisage all 12 teams and 24 drivers easily agreeing.
In 2005, seven of the 10 teams pulled out of the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis after the formation lap because of a problem with their Michelin tyres, yet the current teams are happy to go into the middle of a volatile situation in the Gulf to race?
For Ecclestone and the organisers they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
But the overwhelming sense of opinion is that by going to Bahrain, they are simply asking for trouble, especially with protest groups already threatening to disrupt the race.
And even if the government and military manage to get the situation under control it only takes a small number of people for it all to go horribly wrong.
They have an opportunity to remove any such threat in front of the world’s media, which seems to be what the majority of fans want.