Former FIA boss Max Mosley has criticised the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix in this year’s calendar, as it becomes clear that Formula One is facing a growing backlash.
Mosley says that although the sport can’t possibly avoid all countries where human rights concerns are a factor, Bahrain is a special case because there have so clearly been a very large number of problems. Over the past few months, Saudi forces have been used to crush demonstrations, and there have been plenty of cases in which noted civil rights activists have mysteriously vanished.
The Independent recently published an account of some of the suffering that was endured by people working at the Grand Prix circuit during the demonstrations earlier in the year. It makes for chilling reading and adds to the question marks over the race.
Formula One visits many countries where human rights are an issue, including China, India and Singapore. In the past, the sport was criticised for racing in South Africa during the apartheid era, while this year the Williams team has been attacked by some within the sport for carrying sponsorship from Venezuela’s national oil company. F1 bosses have usually argued, however, that the sport exists in its own bubble and is apolitical.
That argument might not work this time. The decision to go back to Bahrain was taken at a time when there was no obvious reason why F1 should not wait to see how the situation develops. This year’s inaugural Indian Grand Prix has been pushed back to December to make room for Bahrain on the calendar. Many drivers and team members are said to be angry at the way that the whole thing has been handled, with both Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello having voiced their concerns.