Formula 1 writer
F1: It's Bahrain time again
Posted on: 08:30 AM IST Apr 05, 2012 IST
The debate on Bahrain has now become an annual feature in Formula One. Last year, despite attempts by Bernie Ecclestone to stage the race (by changing the dates), the teams refused to go to Bahrain citing unrest. There were many (former and current drivers, Human Rights organisations) who opposed an F1 race in this Middle East kingdom last year because of the alleged high handed manner in which the government had tackled citizens' pro-democracy protests. Despite postponement and aggressive PR by the hosts, the team's refusal to go to Bahrain resulted in the race being cancelled.
It's that time of the year again when the Bahrain issue has come to the fore. With just a few weeks left for the race, noises from both the sides have started emanating once again. As expected, Ecclestone is saying that the race would be held as scheduled on April 22 and has claimed that all teams are keen on racing there. Obviously, the F1 management would want the race to go on this year, especially after last year's cancellation. The kingdom has the distinction of being the first in the Middle East to host an F1 race when it staged the first Grand Prix in 2004.
Ever since then the Bahrain GP has been a regular feature on the F1 calendar with the facilities there also being used for pre-season testing. Even former world champion Damon Hill, who opposed the race last year, has come out in support now saying that Formula One can go to Bahrain with a clear conscience. However, opposition groups are again urging against the staging of the race in Bahrain, citing government's inability to usher in reforms.
Since there hasn't been any word so far from any of the teams so far, it can be assumed that they have agreed to race in Bahrain. However, the situation could become tricky as we approach closer to the F1 weekend. Formula One is a giant PR exercise not only for the hosts, as is the case in Bahrain, for their opponents. The fact that the entire world media will descend on Bahrain - a place which is otherwise not frequently discussed in the world media - provides a huge platform for the government opponents to be seen and heard. And precisely, it is for this reason that the intensity of protests could rise in the coming weeks. And that is something that teams could get wary of.
So even as arguments from both sides continue to forward their respective points of view, developments in the next couple of weeks will be crucial as far as the 2012 F1 race is concerned.