Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai

Where have all the boycotts gone? // The Bahrain Grand Prix proves a lack of paddock backbone

Published by Steven Roy

Way back, when racing was welcome in Bahrain
Way back, when racing was welcome in BahrainCredit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Despite the fact that it is obvious to practically everyone that the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix should not happen it still appears that it will take place. Even previous apologists like Damon Hill have woken up and smelled the coffee and gone public with the view that the only sensible thing to do is for F1 not to go to Bahrain this year.

There was a time when teams and drivers would boycott for much more trivial reasons although I am not sure drivers ever considered their own earning potential to be more trivial than anything else. We have had races boycotted for safety reasons, for reasons of F1 politics and for reasons of retaliation. But those people were very different characters from the modern corporate sheep. Team owners then were either major companies or genuine independents. Now most of the independents have shareholdings that mean they can no longer be run at the whim of the 'boss' and there are no longer any mainstream car manufacturers for whom F1 is a minor issue compared to their main business.

The long and short of it is that we no longer have drivers like Jackie Stewart or Niki Lauda who are prepared to stand up to the powers that be come what may. These drivers and a few others not only went to war with the powers in the sport, they won. Unfortunately nowadays so many of the leading drivers are too young to have any real global perspective and those that are old enough have lived their lives in a bubble where their experience of all the countries they have visited is private planes and helicopters followed by 7 star hotels that insulate them from the realities of life.

I have never been a fan of Michael Schumacher but despite all his many faults he almost alone has an understanding of what is really important and that major events are more important than a mere motor race. It was him, along with his brother, who tried to get the Monza race cancelled after 9/11 because he was so upset by what he had seen. Regardless of the circumstances it takes a lot of bottle for a Ferrari driver to try to get the Italian GP cancelled.

I would like to see him along with the likes of Alonso, Button and Webber organise a driver's protest. If the drivers - or even a sizeable minority of the top drivers - refuse to have any part of this, the race cannot go ahead. Unfortunately I don't see it happening.

If the race goes ahead you have to consider how protestors will use it to get their message across. They are unlikely to be able to get banners and the like into the circuit and even if they did it is unlikely to have any real effect either domestically or internationally. When I think about spectator protests in F1 only two spring to mind and both of those used the same method. A spectator found a way through or over safety barriers and on to the track. Defrocked priest Neil Horan did it at Silverstone and a disgruntled sacked former Mercedes employee did the same at Hockenheim. In each case it was terrifying to watch. It doesn't take a huge stretch of imagination to picture a co-ordinated protest in Bahrain that results in a hundred spectators trying to get on different parts of the track at the same time.

If the teams and drivers don't have the good sense or bottle to boycott this race then I think the fans should. I have never chosen not to watch a GP in the 34 years since we have had live TV coverage. When people have talked about boycotts because of F1 political reasons I have always refused to have anything to do with it but this is very different. It is time we showed Bernie that we will not just accept whatever he gives us. We have accepted all the Tilkedromes while great circuits were dropped. We have accepted far too many things that made the sport worse but we cannot accept the sport putting innocent people's lives in danger.

If a driver dies in a racing accident it is because he chose to put his life in danger. He knew the risks and decided they were acceptable. That is his right. It is not acceptable for people to be put at risk simply because they live in a country where the government is prepared to pay obscene amounts of money just to have a motor race and to prioritise that race above the safety of its people.

If it is unacceptable for Turkey to have a Turkish Cypriot politician present a trophy because that meant the Turkish ASN were using F1 for political reasons then it must be clear that the Bahraini ASN is in breach of the same rule for using a race to pretend that normality has returned to the country. Presumably Bernie would also be in breach of the same rule for allowing the race to go ahead despite being fully aware of the situation and for constantly putting out statements saying the race will go ahead which can only serve to raise the tension in Bahrain.

I am still not convinced the race in Bahrain will take place. I am still convinced that Bernie is playing his own infantile game of brinkmanship because in his mind all publicity for F1 is good publicity. My inclination right now is to totally ignore everything that happens in Bahrain if the race goes ahead. I feel like I should ignore not only live coverage of the event but also news reports and even any Christine's Rankings points that result from it. Unfortunately I have to be aware of the championship points situation for future events to make any sense but beyond that I really don't want anything to do with the race.




  • Bit mean to assume there will be Christine's Rankings points. Who says I'm not boycotting it too?

  • i wonder if this year the situation isn't as straightforward as it was in 2011. seems to be very hard to ascertain exactly what is happening in the country.

    last year there was clear video evidence of innocent people being gunned down in the street. this season there are rumours on top of rumours and a considerable amount of misinformation.

    i'm not saying there is nothing wrong with bahrain, and surely f1 doesn't need to be involved at this stage, but is that enough to cancel a race? tough one.

  • I assumed at least a small group of drivers or personnel would boycott, maybe a team or two even if it were only lower order ones.. these days the top teams wouldn't give up the points available.

    Sadly with connected investments in McLaren, Ferrari, Williams maybe it's not surprising.

    Will I watch? I don't know yet. A part of me wants to watch to see what the protestors do, because I expect them to do something... I just hope whatever they do remains peaceful. But I don't want the Bahraini Government or Bernie to get good ratings figures.

  • Definitely a different environment to last year. Who knows what's going on?

  • It says on every motor-sport ticket "Motor Racing Is Dangerous". Does the Bahrain ticket say "Bahrain in dangerous - Motorsport is safe"?

  • Bit mean to assume there will be Christine's Rankings points. Who says I'm not boycotting it too?

    Just needed an example of something that wasn't live or directly connected with race reporting and the best example I could come up with was the Rankings.

    Will I watch? I don't know yet. A part of me wants to watch to see what the protestors do, because I expect them to do something

    I kind of feel the same. My only concern is that whatever happens will end violently either through contact with cars or due to guns or bombs and I really don't want to watch that happen even if it is historically important.

  • My only concern is that whatever happens will end violently either through contact with cars or due to guns or bombs and I really don't want to watch that happen even if it is historically important.

    true enough. ben (who has to go), seems to think it'll be okay - https://twitter.c…89440891889524738

    very glad i don't make my living from f1 though. having a choice is nice (if not a little bit complicated).

  • true enough. ben (who has to go), seems to think it'll be okay

    His viewpoint is disingenuous at best. There may be isolated incidents now but the race will be a huge focal point and will therefore lead to an increase in violence.

    I don't give a damn if the Gov protects F1 people. They have the choice to go there. I am more interested in it protecting the locals. The government will do everything it can to protect F1 so that a positive message of their regime is broadcast to ther world. The easiest way to ensure that happens is persecution of people who only want basic human rights.

    If he thinks it is so safe he should refuse any protection and go to areas outside the bubble

  • It won't be happening common sense will prevail, I think Bernie his doing his usual, pushing the pressure onto others to make the decisions he who's it won't be happening, meanwhile f1 gets loads of column inches, which bernie likes. It will end up with the teams saying "no" ..

  • I would like to see him along with the likes of Alonso, Button and Webber organise a driver's protest. If the drivers - or even a sizeable minority of the top drivers - refuse to have any part of this, the race cannot go ahead. Unfortunately I don't see it happening.

    Sure! Has not the six car U.S. Grand Prix at Indy taught you that if the F1 circus shows up for a race, they are going to race come what may.... You are just giving away badly needed points to Virgin and HRT!

    Either the top brass at F1 HQ is going to call off the race, or it is going to run, simple as that.

  • I have written 2 replies which ended up far to long for me to post.

    I dont think its right to say F1 wont go to the race for political or moral reasons, it opens an absolute minefield about a lot of races on the calendar. The same for boycotting it.

    I do think they are 100% correct if they dont go because it isn't safe.

    I also think a lot of people are leaping to judgements about the situation in Bahrain without a proper understanding of the politics of what is happening there. It isnt as simple as a lot of the articles i have seen banded around make out.

    As nice as it would be to see the protestors as one big group and the government as one big group facing off against each other, it is far from that simple.

  • is boycotting the race as a fan going to do much if you don't have a people meter? no ones even going to know.

  • I'm sure I remember some teams boycotting the south African GP back in the 80s. Even then though, a lot of teams still turned up and raced. These days however they seem to do whatever Bernie tells them.

    I am not so worried we will see protests. I suspect we will see an almost empty venue with heavy security. I just reflects how ridiculous f1 has become. Chasing any venue where a government will pay, rather then where fans want a race.

    Boycotting watching this race might be a relief from have to watch another boring tilkedome race!

  • is boycotting the race as a fan going to do much if you don't have a people meter? no ones even going to know.

    if you don't agree the race should happen, boycotting it is essentially the only power you have.

    will bernie notice? no chance. but if you object to the race happening, what else can you do.

  • "We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand and to be honest if it wasn't for a few more police you wouldn't know any difference from the last year we were there." - Lotus F1 team

    www.autosport.com…port.php/id/98693

  • Just no idea whatsoever.

    There’s been some media speculation recently to the effect that the Teams may seek to cancel this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. That would not be possible. Teams are unable to cancel Grands Prix. We race in an international series called the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and it is therefore for the FIA to offer the Teams guidance on these issues.’ - FOTA, via F1Enigma who seems to be the only one to have got a reply.. or was the only one to ask?

    FOTA apparently losing sight of the fact they aren't being asked to cancel the race, they are being asked to not turn up to the race.

  • FOTA apparently losing sight of the fact they aren't being asked to cancel the race, they are being asked to not turn up to the race.

    FOTA aren't being asked to even do that. individual teams, maybe.

  • The secretary of FOTA has a twitter account and he says that the statement was only published by F1Enigma

    https://twitter.com/#!/ollyFOTA

  • is boycotting the race as a fan going to do much if you don't have a people meter? no ones even going to know.

    I am not sure how much effect it will have if any but watching it amounts to supporting the race happening a condoning the inevitable casualties.

  • The secretary of FOTA has a twitter account and he says that the statement was only published by F1Enigma

    he doesn't say "only" does he? either way, bernie never mentioned FOTA, he said "teams":

    "We can't force teams to take part. They would be in breach of contracts if they didn't, but we would deal with that matter as a separate issue.""

    www.bbc.co.uk/spo…formula1/17663875

  • he doesn't say "only" does he? either way, bernie never mentioned FOTA, he said "teams":

    OK. I assumed only.

    Bernie doesn't want to believe FOTA exists

  • It's getting weirder

    Notus are going to issue a statement on being quoted on Bahrain without permission

    https://twitter.c…89794361746272256

  • Notus are going to issue a statement on being quoted on Bahrain without permission

    ...and here's the statement:

    Earlier today, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) issued a press release attributing quotes to our team showing support for the Bahrain GP. These quotes were part of a full internal and confidential working document, that was also sent on a confidential basis to all F1 team managers last week. Lotus F1 Team is one of 12 contestants of the Formula 1 World Championship and we would never try to substitute ourselves for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which is the only party entitled to determine if a Grand Prix should go ahead or not, and we endorse the FOTA statement that was issued earlier to this effect.

  • ...and here's the statement:

    Makes you wonder how the circuit got hold of the report. At least they are not denying anything and muddying the waters

  • Makes you wonder how the circuit got hold of the report.

    which f1 team most wants to be in bahrain?

  • which f1 team most wants to be in bahrain?

    McLaren is 50% owned by a company owned by the Bahrain government so I guess them

  • McLaren is 50% owned by a company owned by the Bahrain government so I guess them

    i guess. but then they're so obvious a choice, would they risk it? interesting guessing game :)

  • @adamcooper: Funny that the disputed Lotus/Bahrain quotes emerged from a fancy "strategic advisory and communications consultancy" in London

  • i guess. but then they're so obvious a choice, would they risk it? interesting guessing game :)

    I would be very surprised if Bernie was not on the distribution list and if I was looking for the source FOM would be my first choice

  • I would be very surprised if Bernie was not on the distribution list and if I was looking for the source FOM would be my first choice

    williams today released the oddest (unrelated) press release, that featured a random quote from bernie.

    therefore i'm betting it was williams that leaked the info.

  • Interesting piece from Bob Varsha of SpeedTV: formula-one.speed…hrain-grand-prix/

    Also Radio Le Mans' MWM will be talking a lot about this at 8pm UK, if you've been following @radiolemans this week you'll know Eve isn't impressed (understatement).

  • I think Bernie, FOM & the FIA want the Bahrainis to call the race off, like last year.

    That way, there's less come back and everyone saves face [in terms of the race, not the greater situation]

    China will give all parties a chance to sit together and talk it over, in private or in an organised fashion. I don't expect anything to be decided until Sunday morning

  • It makes me sad that none of the drivers are vocal about their own views on the issue. After all, all of us are looking at them all weekend long right?

  • we no longer have drivers like Jackie Stewart or Niki Lauda who are prepared to stand up to the powers that be

    Which would have been a great point, except that Stewart has gone on record today as saying that the race should go ahead, and that "When all the trouble was going on in Northern Ireland we still had rugby and football matches going on." He seems to be succumbing to the old "sport and politics should never mix" idea, which was largely blown out of the water by a certain Nelson Mandela.

    www.bbc.co.uk/spo…formula1/17697011

  • Which would have been a great point, except that Stewart has gone on record today as saying that the race should go ahead

    oooh, i've never disagreed with jackie yet. interesting.

  • Which would have been a great point, except that Stewart has gone on record today as saying that the race should go ahead, and that "When all the trouble was going on in Northern Ireland we still had rugby and football matches going on." He seems to be succumbing to the old "sport and politics should never mix" idea, which was largely blown out of the water by a certain Nelson Mandela.

    Unfortunately on this issue he is not independent because he has had a personal realtionship with the Bahraini royal family for a very long time.

    I read Mark Webber's statement today and it was as bland as possible. Usual we have to trust the FIA nonsense. If Jackie Stewart had trusted the FIA(CIS) we would still be killing several drivers per year. If Niki Lauda had trusted the FIA drivers at the end of their contracts would not be allowed to drive for another team. If a protester gets on the track and Webber or someone else hits him at high speed it is not the FIA who might get killed.

    This is like the Michelin issue at Indy again. Everyone can see the problem but no-one is prepared to take responsibility for sorting it.

  • The FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled

    fia.com/en-GB/med…s/f1-bahrain.aspx

    the question now, is to watch or not to watch.

  • I'll be watching.

    I don't watch F1 races to support the local government, or promoters, or Bernie Ecclestone. I watch for the racing - not that it will be very good in Bahrain. If I was to stop watching F1 because of stupid political decisions, I would have stopped watching years ago!

    I think this does show the F1 is pretty much rudderless. IF Bernie doesn't tell them what to do, no-one knows where to turn.

  • Joe has a few posts on the announcement that the Bahrain race will go ahead. First he has a short post on the way the news was greeted in Bahrain. Protesters threw firebombs and the police responded with tear gas.

    joesaward.wordpre…reets-in-bahrain/

    There have been protesters dressed as racing drivers complete with machine guns along with a few thousand other demonstrators

    joesaward.wordpre…n-the-bahrain-gp/

    Joe also picked up on the 'uniF1cation' issue that Alianora covered a few days ago. If it is against FIA rules to use the sport for political reasons and Bernie harasses people for using the term F1 it seems odd that the Bahrainis are allowed to use the F1 logo in what is a clear political slogan.

    lcmb.blogbaker.co…12/04/unifacepalm

    I am still far from convinced the race will actually happen but F1 being F1 they could just blunder into this blindly because no-one is prepared to make a stand.

  • How does anyone report what Bernie says without putting "LOL" at the end?

    They don't get involved in politics? Really? Why are they in Bahrain at all? UniF1cation?!

    Bah!

  • Damon hill:oops, someone listened to me, better change my story fast! "everything in Bahrain is now sweetness and light with dancing pink unicorns ". Phew! That's better.

    www.autosport.com…port.php/id/98779

  • Damon hill:oops, someone listened to me, better change my story fast! "everything in Bahrain is now sweetness and light with dancing pink unicorns ". Phew! That's better.

    I will never treat anything Damon Hill says seriously again.. We should go. We shouldn't go. We should go. Round and round he goes. Where he stops nobody knows.

    I guess it will end with we were right to go, we really should not have gone.

  • How does anyone report what Bernie says without putting "LOL" at the end?

    All you have to do is put "NOT" at the end.

  • I think I've only heard of one driver speaking out and saying the race is a bad idea. Nico Hulkenberg, who, I think said it before Thursday evening when the team personnel had their near miss.

    Good for him. I wonder if it'll be detrimental to his career though?

  • I am shocked at how little I missed not watching any sessions or the race this weekend. For some odd reason the only thing I really felt I missed out on was qualifying which is odd. Today I read the race result but didn't really feel I had missed a race. Maybe it would have been different if there had not been a race last weekend.

  • I am shocked at how little I missed not watching any sessions or the race this weekend.

    having missed races in previous years, it's surprising how little any of the sessions actually mean. skipping two or three f1 races is pretty easy.

    having followed much of the action this weekend, i'm not sure a boycott was necessary. largely the country seems improved from last year's disastrous handling of its people. sure there are pockets of unhappy people around, but in f1 terms it seemingly neither gained, nor lost, anything by forcing the race to go ahead.

  • Random other point. I think Michael was also responsible for another near boycott of a race. He wanted a race moved because it fell on Easter Sunday which he felt was not appropriate.

Comments closed to new entries.