The Formula One teams want the sport’s governing body to cancel — or at least postpone — the Bahrain Grand Prix, which is scheduled for Sunday week, because of increasing safety concerns.
A leading member of the 12 team principals, who would not be named, but who said his views were representative, said: “I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain.
“If I’m brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lock—down there. And I think that would be unacceptable, both for Formula One and for Bahrain. But I don’t see any other way they can do it.”
Until now the teams and sponsors have kept quiet, maintaining a united front and leaving the big decision to the men who rule the sport. And Jean Todt, the president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the sport’s governing body, and Bernie Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder, have insisted that the race will go ahead.
But the team principal who broke ranks on Monday added: “We’re all hoping the FIA calls it off. From a purely legal point of view, in terms of insurance and government advice, we are clear to go. But what we find worrying is that there are issues happening every day.
“I saw an interview with a human rights activist on BBC World, and he said that there would be demonstrations and that they would be peaceful. But that is the way all demonstrations start off.
“Other team principals are going through the same worries. I spent all last week making sure the insurances are right so I can reassure the teams.
“I’ve sent out an email to our legal department to make sure all our employees are covered for acts of terrorism and civil disorder while travelling to, during and coming back from the Bahrain GP.
“We have a lot of people. Our first and foremost priority has to be our employees. And their families. That’s what concerns us most, even though we’ve not said anything about it.
“It seems to me that while there has been some political progress in Bahrain they’re not quite ready. The best thing would be for the race to be postponed until later in the year, or even cancelled.
“But that is a decision that must be made by the FIA, FOM [Formula One Management] and the commercial rights holder. I never anticipated a decision being made until the week before China. I believe Jean Todt is in China, which is interesting.”
The fact that this Sunday’s race, in Shanghai, and the Bahrain GP are scheduled back—to—back has complicated travel arrangements, with many half expecting the Bahrain event to be put back. Some teams have reportedly been issued with two return tickets, one home via Bahrain and the other directly home.
Last week, in the London—based Guardian, the former world champion Damon Hill, a Sky Sports commentator who had spoken out in favour of the race taking place earlier in the year, called for a rethink by the FIA.
Hill, who last year called for the race not to be rescheduled following its cancellation for safety reasons, added at the weekend: “F1’s chiefs must not act like they do not care.
“I think at the moment it is hotting up, which is not a good state of affairs to be wanting to go to Bahrain, when it is actually getting more inflamed.” MPs are also voicing their concerns in the wake of fresh protests and the growing concern for the condition of the jailed activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who has been on hunger strike for 60 days.
Last year more than 40 people died, many after being tortured, following Shia—led protests against the Sunni ruling family.
Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2012
Keywords: Bahrain Grand Prix