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F1 Opinion 88

Nigel Roebuck on the Bahrain GP

Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the race went ahead without disruption.

Would it be on the F1 schedule again in 2013? “Absolutely,” said Bernie Ecclestone. “For ever. No problem. I think it’s good because people talk about things, you know. You know what they say – there’s no such thing as bad publicity…”

opinion  Nigel Roebuck on the Bahrain GP

Ecclestone’s comments on the situation in Bahrain had been similarly glib throughout the weekend, so his post-race remarks should cause no surprise. As usual the event had a tiny crowd – 28,000 was the claimed figure – but this is one of those modern-era races where spectators don’t matter, where a particular country seeks to have a Grand Prix only for reasons of prestige, and is prepared to pay whatever it takes. The sort of country of which CVC’s dreams are made.

If they get their way, Bahrain, for all its manifold problems, will indeed be on again next year, for Grands Prix, as we know, get wiped from the calendar only for financial reasons. In Montreal there was a disagreement about money not long ago, and the race – in a country where they love Formula 1, and the event sells out – was missing from the World Championship in 2009. When its fees cause a circuit to struggle, F1 is merciless.

opinion  Nigel Roebuck on the Bahrain GP

In its attempts to accommodate Bahrain, however, it has bent over backwards. Last year, for reasons of civil unrest in the country, the Grand Prix was ‘postponed’ at the 11th hour, and the decision was taken by the Bahraini authorities themselves, rather than the FIA. Afterwards a fatuous attempt was made to cram it back into the calendar late in the season, when the schedule was already tight. Would a similar effort have been made for Montreal or Spa? One doubts it.

A rescheduled Bahrain Grand Prix never came to be in 2011 because in the end the teams refused to accept it – and at a meeting in Suzuka last October many also voiced concerns about going back in 2012. When the schedule was published, though, Bahrain was on it, and the word put about was that all was now calm again in that country.

Or maybe not. Last year pro-democracy protesters had promised ‘Three Days of Rage’ over the duration of the race, and it was clear evidence of their intent that caused the Bahraini authorities to call off the race. This time a similar threat was expressed, but it was firmly decided that the Grand Prix should anyway go ahead, endless platitudes circulating to the effect that this would have ‘a unifying effect’.

opinion  Nigel Roebuck on the Bahrain GP

In Shanghai many in the F1 fraternity were expecting – indeed devoutly hoping – to be told that the following weekend’s race in Bahrain had been called off, but finally Jean Todt announced that the FIA was satisfied that the safety of F1 personnel was guaranteed, and the race would go ahead. So that was all right, then.

Once in Bahrain everyone predictably kept to the party line – ‘We’re here to race’. Although most declined to comment on the state of play in the country, Vettel said it was ‘all a lot of hype’, which doubtless delighted his good mate Bernie – who remained resolutely flippant about the situation throughout the weekend – but it did Sebastian little credit, and served to reinforce the belief of many in the wider world that F1 is not only avaricious, but insensitive, too.

Then came the incident on Wednesday evening when a van ferrying Force India mechanics back to their hotel was caught up in a traffic jam, in which firebombs were thrown. A couple of team members decided to return to England forthwith, and on Friday the team skipped the second practice session, so as to ensure that its people did not have to travel back in the dark. Nico Hulkenberg was on the mark: “We shouldn’t be put in this position…”

opinion  Nigel Roebuck on the Bahrain GP

The following afternoon, even though Paul di Resta made it into Q3, you would not have thought, from the TV pictures of qualifying, that Force India had any cars in Bahrain. Funny, that.

Ecclestone has always maintained that sport and politics have nothing to do with each other, an easy cop-out with absolutely no basis in reality. On the one hand the Bahraini authorities insisted that putting the race on would showcase its country, demonstrate to the world that democratic change was underway; on the other, the protesters of course saw it as a matchless opportunity to prove this was not so.

At the circuit itself all was peaceful, evidence of the security lockdown in place for the duration of the Grand Prix, but elsewhere the ‘Three Days of Rage’ were all too apparent, and one wonders quite how the authorities – to say nothing of the FIA – could have expected anything else. Across the world Bahrain featured heavily in news bulletins, but hardly in a manner which reflected well on the country. No surprise, perhaps, that many news journalists, such as those from Sky News, were denied access to Bahrain during race week.

Here in the UK such as Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper predictably leaped on the bandwagon, calling for the race to be cancelled or, at the very least, for British drivers to withdraw from it. Ross Brawn, so often a softly-spoken beacon of commonsense in the F1 paddock, responded appropriately: “I find it very frustrating that, once we got here, politicians in the UK were saying we should withdraw. Why didn’t they say that beforehand? For someone to try and make Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton determine the foreign policy of a country is wrong.”

As for F1 itself, what does one say? For an activity ordinarily obsessed with Public Relations – with keeping its dirty linen well away from the eyes of the world – it is not less than astonishing that it chose to venture into a situation which was surely never going to be other than a PR disaster.

Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the entire episode is that during the build-up to the Bahrain Grand Prix the only emphasis was on the safety of those making the trip there. It goes without saying that this was of paramount importance, but at no stage did anyone publicly question the morality of venturing to a country which severely punishes doctors and nurses – those who treated injured protesters in the violence twelve months ago – for simply living by the Hippocratic Oath. If there were nothing else untoward, that in itself was surely justification enough for considering Bahrain beyond the pale as a Grand Prix venue.

Ecclestone is committed to a 20-race World Championship, and it has long been evident that the composition of that championship is based, not on interest or enthusiasm for F1 in a given country, but simply on its ability to pay ever more outlandish fees to hold a Grand Prix – very often, despite Bernie’s protestations that politics and sport should be kept separate, for purely political reasons. Ross Brawn was indeed right last weekend in his suggestion that in future the teams should be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to settling where, and where not, F1 should go.

Ecclestone has always claimed to have a long list of countries ‘queuing up to have a Grand Prix’. That being so, might it not be a sound idea to replace Bahrain with one where there is no need for armed personnel carriers around its circuit? He is quite wrong in his affirmation that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’: the fee from last weekend’s Grand Prix may have been hefty, but the damage to F1’s image incomparably greater still. Bernie himself may not care too much about that, but the manufacturers and sponsors of F1 will perhaps feel differently.

Add your comments

88 comments on Nigel Roebuck on the Bahrain GP

  1. Mark D, 23 April 2012 12:13

    I will reiterate a point made on Bahrain within these pages on why F1 should have not gone to Bahrain.

    The sad thing for the Bahraini’s is that this will now be yesterday’s news as the media move on to other stories, only to be resurrected yet again when we get around to the 2013 F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain for a repeat of the same situation. I would also bet on no lessons being learnt from within the F1 bubble. F1 will now resort to default in terms of media reporting and I am sure there will be echoes of “problems, what problems”, from the F1 heirachy. Its a sad enditement of the modern world that its driven by commercialism for the ultimate benefit of very few individuals as opposed to actually “doing whats right”, F1 being the ultimate expression of that point. As fans of the actual sport, as opposed to the politics, will we remember the last few days in a few months or so?, or will we serve to fuel F1 and all that goes with it without asking or seeking change which made the 2012 Bahrain GP a race too far in terms of being a political tool and not a sport as it should be.

    As far as sponsors are concerned, I doubt whether they will really care unless those who watch F1 make them by being vocal, to wit, I refer back to the comments above.

    I should also add that I have a huge amount of respect for Motorsport magazine and for those F1 reporters out in Bahrain, Kevin Eason being one, who reported as journalists first and foremost and not as an F1 flunkies.

  2. Richard Baxter, 23 April 2012 12:16

    A wonderfully put piece, Nigel. It’s been extremely difficult viewing, this weekend’s race.

    Very few of my friends fully embrace, even, understand Formula 1. This weekend I’ve encountered the same view from almost all of them, that F1′s presence in Bahrain was at best unpalatable, and at worst totally unacceptable. I’m afraid F1 made no new fans in the past few days.

    F1 is, put simply a dictatorship. Actually, not unlike the Bahrain administration. Bernie has total control over the coverage, and therefore the message broadcast by F1 to the public. That’s why the viewing F1 public are kept blissfully unaware of the weekend’s unrest, save a few brave roving reporters who I hear, have been detained by the Bahrain authorities.

    The teams, and the drivers are hapless victims at the mercy of the FIA’s financially fuelled decision making process. I Feel so sorry for Jenson, Lewis and all the other drivers, teams and presenters who have been appointed the front men for this whole sorry affair.

  3. Michael Spitale, 23 April 2012 12:25

    I still am conflicted on how so many journalist are taking the moral ground on this, BUT…. I never hear a word of the highest poverity in the world just outside the gates of the India GP where we all know many were thrown off the land to make way for the track. China’s record on human rights is horrible, but once again not a peep from journalist. We all know Bernie would race in Antarctica if the penguins could come up with his fee. I just think there should be some reflection on the bigger picture of what F1 is doing with its races and not just on Bahrain.

  4. James P, 23 April 2012 12:51

    I can’t remember ever feeling more disappointed in Grand Prix racing than I did this weekend.

    Vettel’s comments about tyre temperatures and suchlike being the “things that really matter” were bad enough but some of Ecclestone’s remarks were disgusting. And what a shame that most of the drivers followed the whole ‘I trust the FIA’ line, although that was probably to be expected. At least, reading Nigel’s piece, Hulkenberg spoke out.

    Also, if you want to concentrate on the on-track action, quite how Rosberg’s driving was acceptable is beyond me.

    I think the whole sport has finally lost the plot.

  5. Christopher WG, 23 April 2012 13:05

    It has always the case that sport and politics are inextricably linked. After all, many of us approved of the boycott of South Africa during the apartheid era and there have been many other instances where sport has had to bow to wider international situations.

    Some drivers’ comments were, to be kind, naive (especially Vettel’s) whereas others such as Webber’s indicated an awareness of life outside F1 that were refreshing.

    Money talks in international motor racing and has always done so – because it is expensive – whether it is from wealthy drivers or from big corporations. This by nature causes decisions to be made with that in mind, but I do wish that motor racing woke up to the world around them and sometimes put the wellbeing of the world’s poplutions over and above pure greed.

  6. Adrian Muldrew, 23 April 2012 13:13

    It is very encouraging to see the considerable authority of Nigel Roebuck being brought to this debate. I know you have spoken out against the Bahrain GP several times over the last year, Nigel, but it is good that you are doing it again in the aftermath of the weekend. Mark D is right to worry that this will all quickly be forgotten by most of the media, though the damage has been done and the stench around F1 will linger. But Mark can take heart that the editor-in-chief has seen the need to file his own piece, even though there is already a race report, to which some off-track observations have inevitably been added, plus an article opposing the event which was posted only last week. If I have one minor criticism of the layout of this excellent website, it would be that articles drop away from the homepage chronologically, when more editorial discrimination is sometimes justified, and thus last week’s article was already less prominently positioned than perhaps was ideal whilst this shabby weekend was playing itself out. Perhaps that’s something that could be looked at for future reference, but things have quickly been rectified with two of the top three items now being Bahrain-centric, sandwiching another excellent piece by Gordon Kirby which is also critical of Mr E for other reasons and manages to get a dig in at Bahrain too. I take this as a strong signal that Motor Sport, for one, will not let this issue go away, nor the deeper malaise of which it is merely a symptom.

  7. Adrian Muldrew, 23 April 2012 13:45

    It was remiss of me to omit that Rob Widdows also spoke out very forthrightly against the decision to go to Bahrain, in his supplementary comments to his piece on the French GP negotiations, so that’s actually four salvoes on the matter in the space of about two weeks, plus Gordon Kirby’s asides on it too. Not for the first time, the Motor Sport team deserves a medal. It is really important, though, that the momentum is maintained not merely to campaign against individual GPs, but to campaign for the real reforms to F1 that we all know are years overdue.
    As I said on one of the other threads, Mr Ecclestone has accomplished many things,but even Midas lost the Midas touch in the end. When he is prepared not only to lead the sport into what Nigel rightly describes as a PR disaster, but then compound it in the full gaze of the world’s media by saying things that are crass beyond belief, like “what we need is an earthquake”, then he really has lost the plot. Alongside this, the nettle of FIA governance needs to grasped once and for all. It is simply not acceptable that Jean Todt has been (incompetently) presiding over this mess for a full year, whilst his son continues to co-own a racing team with the Crown Prince of Bahrain. I sense Todt gets an easy ride, not least sadly from Motor Sport, just because he is “not Max Mosley”, but this wilful disregard for conflicts of interest is not totally disconnected, I would argue, from the manner of his Mosleyesque election, with he and the clubs who put him there (Bahrain prominently amongst them) scratching each others’ backs.

  8. Hedley Thomas, 23 April 2012 13:48

    Thought provoking comments by Nigel and the those who have contributed so far.

    I am troubled by a few issues – like many, I felt that F1 should not have gone to Bahrain, both because of the political situation and that I think there are many other nations and circuits where I would prefer to see a GP anyway – a Bahrain GP is as soul-less and meaningless as a FIFA World Cup in Qatar!

    On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that F1 has helped put the spotlight on Bahrain in these troubled times – the world is more aware of Bahrain today than if the GP had been cancelled. However, I doubt if many people outside the world of F1 will thank F1 for providing this service.

    F1 doesn’t seem to have come out of this well – it is after all a great big decadent target. As has often been the case, Mr. E, the circus ringmaster hasn’t exactly helped. When interviewed in recent days by the non-F1 media he has come across as flippant, maybe rude, arrogant and somewhat dismissive of the situation outside the Sakhir circuit. Whilst the F1 community are used to his behaviour and see it as part of his charm, I don’t think his comments have helped F1′s image in the outside world – a great businessman he may be, but a diplomat or a practitioner of tact and good PR he is not!

  9. Ray T, 23 April 2012 14:17

    “…there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
    Well, no one knows what happened in Bahrain this weekend off of the track, the world non-sports press was kicked out of the country. There was a report of a death.It will take weeks to learn about what happened there Sunday.

    “As usual the event had a tiny crowd – 28,000 was the claimed figure – but this is one of those modern-era races where spectators don’t matter.”

    I doubt there were 28,000 people at that race. F1 has made it painfully obvious that spectators don’t matter in the modern-era.
    F1 drivers used to be brave, but not one of these millionaires spoke out against going to Bahrain, and not one driver boycotted the race.

    Silly me, I thought Indy 2005 was the lowest point F1 could go. I didn’t watch it, and I’m rapidly losing interest in the whole circus.

    I read the Motorsport interview with Mike Thackwell last month. I can completely understand why he quit F1.

  10. Mike Knight, 23 April 2012 14:17

    First rate analysis Nigel as ever; for me motor sport as a whole was brought low when this event was sanctioned and run; it was of course the perfect storm. A unique set of circumstances put a hopelessly compromised FIA right on the spot. It has been 30 years since its role included deciding where and when a GP would take place. Strangely (unique in main line sport perhaps), it’s the commercial rights owners who decide, and having done so, instruct the FIA to sanction; CVC clearly defend their interests to the hilt. If this event serves as a catalyst for the traditional GP circuit owners to combine forces to defend their own interests some good may spring from it. Being unfairly priced out of a successful market – which exists in part thanks to them – without any recourse to independent knowledgeable arbitration should not be acceptable in a 21st century business world.

  11. Ray T, 23 April 2012 14:20

    I forgot..see you all in Pyongyang for the Dear Leader Grand Prix in 2014!

  12. hamfan, 23 April 2012 14:47

    I like Richard Baxter’s observation that F1 is a dictatorship. It is. Where we diverge is on the position of the teams. They could, if they weren’t equally devoid of principles, so easily leave and set up their own show (what better excuse than this weekend?)

    But let’s not worry too much. The financial crisis is only just warming up – give it another five years and most living in UK and Europe will be paupers (food banks opening at a terrifying rate across the UK) – doubt the likes of Santander will stick around for long. F1 will, like a spent supernova, end up primarily outside Europe, meaning we, within, the empty core of the supernova, can start again with a new series suited to us, something like F1 used to be.

    PS. I hate having those ‘flashing’ ads alongside this article in my peripheral vision when reading – made me feel quite ill. Please stop this, MS, or at least slow down the frequency of ‘rotation’.

  13. Rob M, 23 April 2012 14:59

    Did Bernie really say that ‘sport and politics have nothing to do with each other’?

    So what was the connection between: Mr E – £1m – The Labour Party – Tobacco Sponsorship?

    Just a very strange co-incidence?

    Or does Bernie no longer consider F1 a sport but just a business?

  14. Dave Coen, 23 April 2012 15:02

    Well said Nigel but don’t be surprised if Bernie gets Pasquale to cut your Pit Pass off next time your at a GP!

  15. Mark in Toronto, 23 April 2012 15:40

    “As for F1 itself, what does one say?” A somewhat rhetorical question Mister Roebuck. It says, quite clearly, that F1 is concerned with money. Not racing, not politics (ha!), just filthy lucre. All well and good up until a certain point… which I feel has been reached. “The race must go on”, and the on-track activity was such that I actually didn’t fast-forward through 50% as usual, but still and all a balance must be found between sportsmanship and humanity. Doubtful Mr. E is the right chap for the job though.

  16. Bill Collins, 23 April 2012 16:05

    Absolutely right in your assessment of the impact this debacle will have on the image of F1. As one who started to follow Grand Prix racing (as opposed to F1.com) in the late 60′s I am devastated to see this sport and its history consigned to an amoral profit and loss account. Not doubting the good that Bernie has done for F1 but as time passes he seems to bebecoming more divorced from the world the rest of us inhabit. Time for a change of captain as we are firmly among the icebergs now!

  17. Rich Ambroson, 23 April 2012 16:13

    ‘Would it be on the F1 schedule again in 2013? “Absolutely,” said Bernie Ecclestone. “For ever. No problem. I think it’s good because people talk about things, you know. You know what they say – there’s no such thing as bad publicity…”’

    This is the man who blithely said Hitler was on to something.

    He should be removed from any position of power dealing with F1. He does seem as though he’d be able to find gainful employment with Bashar Hafez al-Assad though.

  18. Rich Ambroson, 23 April 2012 16:16

    I must add to my appreciation of the efforts of Mr. Roebuck and Mr. Widdows to bring this subject into a proper light. Well done, good men. And thank you for showing that there ARE still people in the business who think about the big picture.

  19. Chris Wright, 23 April 2012 16:20

    The bottom line here is that the sport I fell in love with, in the days of the Nordschleife, Zeltweg, Mosport, Brands, Zandvoort, Kyalami et al, is now, China and Spa excepted, basically populated with sterile, more boring than watching paint dry, would be car parks for circuits.

    As was proved at the weekend, if you have the money to pay for it, you can indeed have a grand prix wherever you like, regardless of your morality and, perhaps equally importantly to long term enthusiasts, any understanding of what made the sport special in the first place and a desire to put the challenge back in F1 driving.

    Once again, we see a demonstration of Mr Ecclestone’s view of the world being at odds with those of the teams and sponsors and one really has to ask how long can this ridiculous situation be permitted to continue.

    This weekend’s race was arguably the lowest point of the Formula One World Championship since its inception and a microcosm of all that’s wrong in our sport.

  20. John Saviano, 23 April 2012 16:34

    F1 got more coverage in the US for Bahrain than anytime I recall since the death of Senna. But it certainly wasn’t positive. US media seemed, like many of us, unsure of why F1 was in such a strange place in such strange circumstances.

    This is a terrible example of greed outweighing good judgement. The sponsors should be ashamed, even if BCE is incapable of such.

  21. Wayne Jansen, 23 April 2012 16:57

    Mr. Roebuck, Thankfully a much needed ‘real world’ perspective on how blinkered F1 can be… I suppose in the West most would not give a damn about the Arab Spring and the lingering remnants of it in Syria, Bahrain and yet to be announced Iran. Afterall here we have a people, nation, culture who openly despise the West and we are supposed to care for them. Pardon me! That is a very glib view but I do not for a moment doubt that this is the view of some people in the developed West. Indeed F1 and it’s ringmaster will take this supposed sport to frontiers that most people with common sense and decency would rebuke. The underlying point to all of this is – Brands… Global Brands! They participate in this supposed sport for global awareness programs. The fact that they are on TV to a huge audience worldwide means that a small country such as Bahrain has negligible effect on boycotting these said brands. The only power remaining with the audience is to not purchase products and services by these brands. The INTERNET! It will be common knowledge by now that certain hacking groups were responsible for a ‘denial of service’ attack on http://www.f1.com. Twitter has been hijacked on the #F1 tag with all manner of posts on Bahrain and so called ‘martyrs’. It’s frightening but if you follow F1 on twitter it is hard to decipher an ‘on topic’ tweet when it is buried in political comment. This is set to continue until the internal issues of Bahrain have been exorcised. A Bahraini GP in the future will engender twitter as a platform more on political statement than on other trending news.

  22. Stan Kirk, 23 April 2012 17:24

    The comments about the event display a lot of repeat remarks from entrenched positions with strongly held views but for me there was one new thing which came out of the weekend which was at least encouraging. From a country which basically does not allow outside journalists in, the invasion of F1 scribes gave the opportunity for a third force to be heard in that country – not Government propaganda and not Government opposition which are the only two sides thus heard. The new voice was that which is normally called the ‘silent majority’ – quietly going about daily activities, pro reform but anti violence. This group probably accounts for 90% of the population and it was refreshing to hear from them for a change.
    Should F1 have been the vehicle through which this group was able to get some publicity? Probably not. The race was undoubtedly ‘politicised’ by Government propaganda/publicity about a unifying force, an activity for which Turkey was punished not that long ago. F1 should not have got involved.

  23. Paul Christie, 23 April 2012 17:43

    What a very well written piece I think the majority of F1 fans will agree with you or just people with a sence of decency & with morales both of which Bernie Ecclestone seems to not have.
    I did watch the Bahrain Gp but the whole thing felt uneasy and
    somewhat tainted. I hope the teams do get more of a say & F1 can go where the fans are rather than just keep chasing money.

  24. Rob K, 23 April 2012 18:22

    Over the years I have had a form of grudging respect for Ecclestone. You sense that whilst he was in it for the huge piles of money he could make, he was also in it for the sport. I did worry somewhat, what would happen post Ecclestone.

    I respect him no more, and think he should hurry into his gilded retirement. To see him and Jean Todt walking around the paddock like mini Marie Antoinette’s, contemptuous of any opposition to the race, from journalists, activists, politicians etc, one just felt shame for a sport I have loved for thirty years. And embarrassment. Embarrassment compounded by hearing the voices of team owners and drivers talking on subjects they didn’t really understand, and were not really qualified to comment on.

    Christian Horner and Stefano Domenicalli know much about mechanical grip, and tyre wear, but little on the history of Bahrain, the Arab spring or human rights abuse in the Middle East. But because they were forced to go, because Ecclestone had done a deal with a corrupt and failing regime, (responsible for the death of a protester, whilst the race was there lest we forget) we had to listen to, and squirm at, the banality of their responses and their complete ignorance.

    And Vettel. I thought he was a charmer! Stick to counting your fastest laps. You look a fool now.

    I kept quiet at work today about being an F1 fan. Once again outstanding article by Nigel Roebuck.

  25. Cédric Berner, 23 April 2012 18:29

    Great summary Nigel, I sincerely hope it doesn’t get you into hot water – although I’m sure you don’t care!
    I do suggest that your followers try to read Joe Sawards reports to balance their judgements. My view for what it’s worth is that F1 is a fantastic modern day sport with a massive brand. It cannot be harmed by the Bahrein episode, in fact it may be that in future we may come to see the whole thing as having been positive! And just for the record, I find it amazing to read such criticism of Bernie Ecclestone based on the fact that he makes money out of the sport. What exactly is wrong with that? It’s a massive success story and I feel respect for what he has achieved. I don’t know him so I cannot judge what he’s really like but I’m glad he’s done what he’s done. At least today I get to see my favourite sport on TV and I marvel at the level of professionalism attained by the teams and the drivers. When I started to follow the sport in the mid sixties we weren’t exactly at the same level were we? It was great, don’t get me wrong but you have to admit that thanks to Bernie we get a pretty good deal today.
    I’m not really bothered where they run the races providing I can watch it on TV. Ok, some of the tracks are not great but I personally think the Bahrein track is not bad, and the race was pretty exciting this year, I’m glad Raikkonen’s back!
    My only concern is how long Nigel Roebuck will continue writing about the sport, I can’t imagine what it will be like the day he decides to stop – now that will be the end of F1 the way I know it….

  26. Frank Butcher, 23 April 2012 18:51

    Meh, I remain unmoved. It seems that the whole world cares about Bahrain, as long as it’s Grand Prix time. Politicians and writers always seem to know when to poke their heads up, for maximum exposure. And we are merely observers of the Arab Spring phenomenon; we have no answers to offer. We certainly don`t want to get involved first hand again, do we? And F1′s image, of being a prestigious event, is it’s biggest problem. Damage it all you like; if F1 went back to being car racing, none of this crap would happen.

  27. David H, 23 April 2012 19:13

    Thank you Nigel and Rob.

    Disgusting to read of the pressure put on Force India not to miss that practice session. ‘Appearances’ of more importance than their choice to leave at a safer time.

    Thanks Ray T for poignant words “…no one knows what happened in Bahrain this weekend off of the track, the world non-sports press was kicked out of the country. There was a report of a death. It will take weeks to learn about what happened there Sunday.” (If we ever hear at all.)

  28. Bart, 23 April 2012 20:51

    I agree with Niki Lauda this time, who I believe spoke some true words when comparing the Bahrain race to his own drives in Argentina and South Africa many decades ago. Perhaps much more disputable regimes at the time. Seems that this time the, mainly British, press corps created too many headlines for sake of a storyline. How many countries will be refused to particpate in London in 2012 I wonder? MS has offered us some respectable views in recent weeks, but still I feel these are out of place nevertheless.

  29. moriaty, 23 April 2012 23:04

    Firstly, Force India lost on airtime due to the alcohol sponsor’s branding carried on their car, and Bahrain being a dry country. McLaren removed their Johnny Walker and got plenty airtime. So no conspiracy here.

  30. John Read, 23 April 2012 23:31

    Is there a succession plan out there for Bernie? Hopefully there is one being cooked up by the teams or CVC or someone because if there is one I hope the wheels are turning.

    It’s time.

  31. DDT, 24 April 2012 01:48

    These things are never clear cut. But as you made clear, the race is an economic farce. The thing makes no money for the country, and is therefore part of the profligate abuses of the Royal Prince. It adds to the crimes of an exploitive monarchy, and has no ‘unifying effect whatever’. At best it has no effect.
    On the other hand, who would’ve thought I’d actually learn something about the recent political situation from the SPEED channel!? This year at least, it did shine a global light on all aspects of the country.
    It pains me to say it, but as long as Bernie is in charge, money will be the only factor.

  32. Don Larsen, 24 April 2012 02:53

    I do wish some enterprising financial reporter would start to follow the money in Formula 1. Finance is mostly a skull crackingly dull subject, but it would be fascinating, in this case, to see where all that money goes.

  33. Rod Rothacher, 24 April 2012 03:00

    Such a shame that a season that started with such promise had to stub its toe so badly.

    There may be “no such thing as bad publicity,” but here in The States the news of an automobile race taking place against a backdrop of civil unrest went over only slightly better than a large fart in church. Job done, Bernie, considering your plans to bring The Circus to Texas in November.

    For all of his business prowess, The United States has been a media nut which Bernie has been unable to crack. This latest sham of a race did little to sell grand prix tickets to the curious or casual American fan. Newsflash Bernie: that’s they key to your coveted American market!

    As it stands, more Americans watch shows about people buying storage lockers than Formula One. Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Maybe Bernie should reconsider his “bad publicity” crack, because as it stands, Americans find the contents of a ten by fifteen room in Hemet, California more captivating than an F1 race not held against a backdrop of oppression and murder. Just sayin’.

  34. Rich Ambroson, 24 April 2012 03:21

    Don, that’s a fine idea, but something tells me that reporter would need Simon Templar as an ally…

  35. Terry Worth, 24 April 2012 07:23

    I think people should go and read Joe Saward’s blog

    http://joesaward.wordpress.com/

    Joe was highly critical of the event beforehand, but his experiences within Bahrain have changed his view somewhat. It is inevitable that situations such as those in Bahrain are very complex, and one cannot merely believe one of the two extremes involved in the argument. Also the world’s media have not covered themselves in glory by the reporting of events in Bahrain. Certain media outlets setting alight tyres so they get a good clip to show for instance.

    You need to view events on news channels, papers, internet reports etc with some suspicion. Whenever I have known intimate details of a news story it has ALWAYS been reported erroneously.

    F1′s reputation is tarnished as a result of the weekend and the way it has been reported. I don’t believe Bahrain is as culpable as China in regard to human rights, and no-one ever complains about the Chinese GP.

  36. Wayfarer, 24 April 2012 13:28

    In principle I think that you are right and the Bahrain GP should never have been on the 2012 GP Calender.
    In retrospect though, I am rather glad that it did, for no other reason than the whole world has had an opportunity to see what Bahrain’s citizens really want, just as they have had the opportunity to use a media event to let the world know.
    So I really think that in your balanced article you might have put that argument across a little more strongly; while also stating job done, the world is now watching Bahrain keenly, and F1 should not go back until all the serious problems, that Bahrain so clearly has, are resolved.
    It could well be said in future that F1 truly did put Bahrain on the map

  37. Les, 24 April 2012 17:43

    Great article Nigel and I think you’ve got it pretty much spot on regarding the situation in Bahrain. It seems F1 goes there purely on the basis of greed and its sad when you think that Imola would have been packed to the rafters but as you said spectators are not important to Bernie and CVC which just isn’t right really (not that its likely to change). As long as they can pay the fees. I wasn’t aware of Vettel’s hype comment till now but poor show from him…

  38. gary amer, 24 April 2012 18:23

    thank you for a very clear comment, as always , on sunday my son a well trained,by his father, he knows who jim clark was posted on face book basically so sad that people are racing while people are getting hurt.
    this is possibly one of tha saddest weekends of my adult sporting life i amold enough to remember where i was when jc died at hockenheim.
    now i do know and hope a lot more do now, Ecclestone does not and has not cared about motor racing for a very long time, he has only one interest in life!
    Well bernie you are in your eighties , i get the last laugh what you going to spend it when mother nature says it is time to go.
    to prove the point about memory i celebrate my 60th birthday this year , now i remember ego over commonsense louis stanley a good comparison anyone
    thanks gary amer hertfordshire

  39. gary amer, 24 April 2012 18:35

    hi please excuse my errant typing from my previous comment i
    hope the essence was clear
    have thought of a really good future for formula 1. bernie and cvc sell the whole the cars drivers teams races to news international they will probably just as accomodating to the race managements as bernie and the can charge even more to show all the races on sky

  40. Lewis Lane, 24 April 2012 20:35

    If every sport refused to go to any country that was felt to be, shall we say, “politically sensitive” by somebody else, then there would be no sport anywhere in the world, so we have to put some of F1′s locations into a wider context. However,going into a situation where the event itself is the subject for potentially violent protest against what’s basically a government funded event, in the midst of a regional revolution, betrays the neutrality that any sport will claim to have, and sport should always be as non-political as possible. For the people in charge of that sport to then claim to be politically neutral whilst pretending that nothing is wrong and all is peaceful is at least, crass, and at worst plain arrogant – and showed F1′s greed, ignorance and avarice to the world. Bernie’s “nothing to do with us” statement regarding calling the event off frankly, stank. The actions and statements made this weekend merely highlighted how out of touch with the real world F1 is. If you want to be neutral, don’t suck up to rich governments – or this is what happens. I see some paddolk folk are apparently blaming the media for the bad publicity. T***s. You bought it on yourselves, and if it brings you trouble – start looking inwards. Oh, and whilst you’re looking, you might just take care to notice that there’s a revolution in which people are dying going on in that region, but hey, you keep worrying about your sport’s image – that’s far more important than people dying. Obviously.

  41. Jackal, 24 April 2012 22:23

    Mr. Roebuck, for accuracy sake Vettel’s exact quote was:

    “There seems to be no problem. I haven’t seen anyone throwing bombs. I don’t think it is that bad. There is a lot of hype which is why I think it is good that we start our job here”

    Considering that the situation in Bahrain is not incorporated into the nightly news regularly and was only the focus of any media coverage because f1 was racing there I think he is entitled to his opinion. He did not say it was “all a lot of hype” as you’ve stated in the article …. he has simply stated what he had experienced during his time there.

    Some other quotes you’ve left out of your piece:

    “There are lots of other things going on in the world that are tragic. But they are not in our control. Our control is making sure that we race well on the circuit.” Ross Brawn (Mercedes)

    “There are various issues, which are up to the country to fix. But there are issues in every country, even in England, France and other European countries, and the over-dramatisation was definitely wrong.” Eric Boullier (Lotus)

    “I am probably quite surprised by it all, because I believe irrespective of the criticism and some of the issues we have had, it puts Bernie [Ecclestone] and Jean [Todt] in a very visionary position,” he told AUTOSPORT. “They have delivered F1.” Bob Fernley (Force India)

  42. Carl, 24 April 2012 22:30

    The race was most remarkable for ecclestone’s further embrace of dictatorships beyond that of adolph hitler, who, according to bernie, and as everyone beholden to bernie agrees, had basically sound ideas but just went too far.

  43. Charlie Whitingk, 24 April 2012 23:01

    That nice man with the eccentric haircut knows what you want and need more than you do. If he says we’re going to Bahrain “Forever”, and Spa and France must rotate their GPs, well, he knows better than you or I, doesn’t he?

    And if he says “Europe is finished” or “Hitler was on to something”, well we should listen, shouldn’t we? I mean he has all the Euros and power, so he’s clearly not only smarter, but wiser and more pure than the rest of us. What are we but the mere unwashed masses, who yearn to be part of his “exclusive” little show (exclusive; but boasts of having the largest viewership. That’s an oxy-something-or-other, I hear…), and if he tells us we should enjoy our gruel, then gruel it is!

    Hurrah Henry!

  44. hamfan, 25 April 2012 10:51

    Lots of people laying into Bernie/CVC here. F1 is a business and has to be accepted as it is. The current business model is clearly making money for the main stakeholders, Bernie and the teams. You, the customer, have to choose to accept the ‘product’ or reject it. How many of the moaners here will choose the latter option? Not many, if any, I’d guess. Which means the product on offer really can’t be that bad. Really, you might as well be moaning to Bird’s Eye about the size of Fish Fingers. This is like the Sky thing all over again…

  45. Colin Blackhall, 25 April 2012 10:58

    Mr. Roebuck, Re Bahrain – Your comments are spot on, thank goodness you are not dancing to Ecclestone’s tune.
    Formula 1 stinks these days, “those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad…”
    I despair that this once great sport has declined to its present state – I could write more but I can’t pay libel damages.
    At least you have the guts to apply common sense and put it into print. More power to you.

  46. Ian, 25 April 2012 11:10

    Being South African I know all about politics and sport, and when it is good (Nelson Mandela – rugby world cup 1995) and when bad (apartheid years). I am a F1 fan through and through and think Bahrain was a bad idea, but I agree with Michael below that those commenting can’t be selective. China has a terrible human rights record, many other middle east countries have appalling woman’s rights records, the India problem listed below. F1 / the FIA must make a stance and then apply it consistently.

  47. Alan Maxted, 25 April 2012 11:25

    As elequent and sensible as ever – Nigel has summed it up perfectly. If only Ecclestone would go and someone like Ross Brawn would run the show……… well I can dream can’t I ?

  48. Mark D, 25 April 2012 11:33

    The key to Bahrain which makes it stand out from other GP’s with questionable human rights is that this race was politicised by the Bahraini’s at the outset through the “UNF1ED” campaign with the strap line “One nation in celebration”. As far as I can tell, no-one from within the F1 media or from the external media has actually questioned the FIA or FOM as to why they allowed this to happen in full breach of their own regulations, particularily as other GP’s i.e. Turkey have been penalised in the past. This made this particular race unacceptable and breached the sporting convenant by which the other races, at least outwardly, appear to be run by.

  49. Peter Allen, 25 April 2012 12:02

    Where next, Bernie? North Korea?

  50. John Simister, 25 April 2012 12:09

    How fantastic it would have been if Sebastian Vettel had dedicated his victory to the doctors and nurses who suffered so badly last year for daring to treat the injured protesters. Had he done so, I wonder what would have happened next?

  51. Hugo Pring, 25 April 2012 12:22

    It must be possible to establish precisely who was the TV Director in charge of the F1 feed in Qualifying last weekend? Can not someone simply ask him directly whether or not he feels he was instructed (formally or informally) to boycott the Force India cars in Qualifying and/or the Race itself? This is a serious allegation and if there was any such order, the person making it should explain his actions.

    As I write this, I see a story on Bloomberg TV that two more Merchant Banks have been engaged on the F1 flotation in Singapore (far away from proper, European-style, regulation and corporate governance). I suspect that this is where Mr Ecclestone’s real attention lies at present and it certainly explains his attention on maximising profitability by any means possible.

    I wish I didnt love so much about F1 as I would love to register my disgust by simply switching off (as I did during the Schumacher era). Can’t sadly…..

  52. Colin McArthur, 25 April 2012 12:44

    Here in the US few other than we F1 aficionados were interested in the path F1 (Bernie) and the F1 community (lemmings) would take on the Bahrain race. Would he (they) take the ethical high road (unlikely) or continue on the path of greed and lack of sympathy for anything occurring outside the gates of the Disney-like facilities that are many of todays F1 venues? Bahrain was a great race, however it put a stain on F1 that will remain long past remembrance of the race itself. Bernie is the ringleader but face facts. The teams hid behind his decision and, as much as I respect Ross Braun, his comments were disingenuous. All Bernie needs is a witches hat and a black cape and he would be the perfect villain.

  53. Carlos Sanchez, 25 April 2012 12:45

    So, where are the rest of the comments?

  54. Carlos Sanchez, 25 April 2012 12:46

    There’s only two (the last) visible. How can the rest be seen?…

  55. Andy Douglass, 25 April 2012 12:50

    Once again, Nigel is the only person in the Paddock with the balls to speak the (unpalatable) truth.
    Well said Nigel, spot on.

  56. Rob Marsh, 25 April 2012 14:27

    Well done Nigel-at last someone in the F1 world is telling the truth about Eccelstone and F1. I have been a long time fan of F1 but seriously believe Eccelstone is starting to fundamentally damage the sport. He should go- his callousness and greed is showing through and it is not nice to see. The Bahrain GP should never have happened, but until the sponsors start protesting with their wallets nothing will happen. It took a sponsor blackout, small though it may have been at the time, to get the South African GP cancelled after 1985. By going to places like China and Bahrain F1 and the sponsors are supporting these regimes by being there. It’s time for people and corporations to vote with their feet.

  57. Tim Hain, 25 April 2012 14:33

    Spot on Nigel. F1 is indeed “merciless” – and appallingly insular and arrogant.I thought of those Bahraini doctors and nurses you have previously referred to when Vettel made his sickening comment about concentrating on the “important stuff …like tyre pressures.”

    I learned of the decision to go ahead with the event on Easter Monday, which happened to be the 50th anniversary of my first F1 race, and meeting – the day Stirling Moss crashed at Goodwood. I wrote to Autosport expressing my sadness at this, relaying a story from the Telegraph about a Bahraini F1 fan, Al-Samadi, who had been shot dead days earlier whilst secretly filming the security forces.

    They did not print my letter, only one espousing the bland and blinkered “politics and sport shouldn’t mix” line. I used to buy the magazine every week, but since you moved on it gets no more than a very occasional, clandestine flick-through on a news stand.

    I was hoping for the race’s cancellation right until the last minute. Nonetheless, when the time came, like Mr Pring in the previous post, I couldn’t help watching the BBC highlights, and enjoyed the RACING, Kimi especially.

    Does this make me a hypocrite?

  58. Adrian Muldrew, 25 April 2012 15:23

    Carlos, it looks like this thread has proved so unprecedentedly popular that it has caused some sort of overload! That says it all about both topic and article. Whatever problem has arisen, I really hope it can be fixed, because when I last read the comments, there were about 24 of them, and there are apparently 56 as I’m writing this, so I would love to read the latest 30-odd.

  59. Jo Ramirez, 25 April 2012 15:38

    I am probably Nigel Roebuck No.1 fan an a personal friend, but have to disagree with some of his comments, I was in Bahrain, it was a great race, I saw no problems whatsoever at the circuit or in town, and hope that the race contribute to solve the small diferences that the Kingdom is suffering at the moment.
    Bahrain is a very small Country that has always been very peaceful, they had some problems now, not worse that the riots in London or other big cities, and politicians wants to boicot the Country and take away their biggest show, definately not fair. Part of Formula One is still a sport therefore do not mix it with politics.

  60. Richard, 25 April 2012 15:58

    Could the author please express his views on Bahrain’s investment in an F1 team?

  61. Adrian Muldrew, 25 April 2012 16:27

    I see the problem’s fixed now. Thanks guys.

  62. Tony Carruthers, 25 April 2012 17:23

    Send Bernie back to Bahrain put him in an F1 emblazoned car and see how he reacts when somebody throws a petrol bomb at him. His reaction to the Force India situation shows what an ignorant,arrogant little man he is.

  63. Rich Ambroson, 25 April 2012 17:24

    Many thanks to the staff at MotorSport for restoring the visibility of all the comments!

    I agree with Mark D about the inconsistency with which the rules about politicizing an event have been applied by the FIA, specifically with regard to the Turkish GP/Bahrain GP…

  64. Paul-Henri Cahier, 25 April 2012 19:27

    Excellent, Nigel. My only criticism is the over emphasis on Bernie’s role in the Bahrain affair, and the lack of emphasis on the role of Mr. T…

  65. Lucas Verhoeven, 26 April 2012 01:58

    Once again, I find myself entirely in accord with everything you say Nigel. It is absolutely morally reprehensible that F1 went to Bahrain. Bernie particularly, and the FIA as well, have shown themselves to be morally bankrupt and indeed devoid of any honour, compassion and human consideration.
    When will the teams, the wider personnel and stakeholders in F1 garner the courage to stage a revolution and dispose of the current “regime”?? For a “regime” it is. Bernie is disposable; it only takes courage, intelligence and fighting spirit to get rid of him. He was, is and will continue to be bad for F1 and any sporting “ethos” that still remains. In fact people with a sporting ethos would never have wanted to go to Bahrain…..

  66. Rod Rothacher, 26 April 2012 03:27

    I see today that what really concerned Bernie during his weekend in Bahrain was the country’s unauthorized bastardization of the F1 logo in some of their advertising.

    At least he has his priorities set.

  67. hamfan, 26 April 2012 08:15

    Who’d have thought F1 fans (or MS readers?) would be such a bunch of moaners? I happen to think Bernie’s an idiot for not retiring long ago and enjoying his wealth with his kids, BUT the guy has clearly built F1 into what it is. He’s the reason you get to watch live races – all of them. Perhaps because I can remember the BBC’s ‘coverage’ in the 1980s I can put things in perspective…

    I also happen to think the flyaways (barring Canada, Aus, Brazil and Japan) are unnecessary and yes, the fees involved are staggering (but people pay them, which is their own business, right?) BUT all this fuss about Bahrain? If you’re going to criticize it, just do it on the ‘lack of history/fans’ line and say the same for China, Malaysia, UAE etc too. Frankly, the ‘democracy’ line is stupid.

    This is one group of muslims arguing with another – Saudi Arabia vs Iran – and whatever happens it isn’t going to mean ‘democracy’ as we know it (see what’s happening after the Arab Spring elsewhere – see the extremists taking power – democracy? My left buttock it is.) And don’t forget, Italy has an undemocratic EU-appointed commissar in control (Spain too, soon) – why not lobby to scrap their GPs too?

    Lose Bahrain. But lose it because it’s a crap circuit far from the ‘home’ of F1. Lose it because we don’t want to lose Spa. Lose it for the right reason.

  68. Jimmy McInnes, 26 April 2012 09:24

    “sport”! BAH!!
    Eccleston plus sport nor eqyable.
    However, please don’t let F1 stop being televised. It gives me the best weekend afternoon’s sleep within two laps of the race atart. I’ve been active in motor sport since 1955. Raced against friend Jim Clark at Charterhall (he won, doubtless to say) when I was driving Barry Filer’s A C Bristol (race mechanic another friend Sir JYS).
    Sponsorhip consisted od a pair of blue Dunlop overalls everything else voluntarliy provided. After yearrs of rally driving and rally organising- winning Scottish Rally Championship against friend Andrew Cowan in 1966 eventually becoming race commentator at Charterhall ingliston then Knockhill.
    I say all this to emphasise my many years of enjoyment being involved in motor “sport”. Regrettably all Grand Prix racing has gone into the clutches of Mamon!! The best comment I have read from one of your letter writers is that the teams can only day NO to Ecclestone.
    Watch this space.
    Jimmy McInnes
    Chairman, Veterans of Scottisk Motor Sport Association

  69. Jeremy Willings, 26 April 2012 11:33

    The comments of many indicate their apparent acceptance without qualification of everything expressed by opposition and activist groups concerning the Bahrain GP. Moreover, F1 has become a huge sporting entertainment business generating very large sume of money on which, like it or not, teams, drivers and all involved, have become dependent. All this wealth is sustained by the FIA/F1 sanctioning GP’s in countries on whose funding they rely. Clearly, if morality becomes an issue, then they would be expected to withdraw support of GP’s in certain countries and risk losing financially while seeking to replace them with others more morally acceptable. Bernie Ecclestone would rightly insist that a deal is a deal and resist Ross Brawn’s suggestion that the teams should be involved in where or where not F1 should go. Perhaps FI would please Motor Sport fans if it returned to its European roots, avoiding those countries with no GP traditions. But this would be to fly in the face of globalisation and progress. There is no simple answer to the problem but at least, we should be aware of the realities of a world not as we would like it to be but as it is in actuality.

  70. stanley sweet, 26 April 2012 16:53

    I can never understand why some of the more established drivers are so gutless. If Vettel spoke out against the regime and said they should never have gone, what are Red Bull going to do – sack him?

  71. John Read, 26 April 2012 20:01

    Is it possible for the publisher of Motorsport to put something in place to avoid the possiblity of a takeover bid for the magazine by (say) Mr Ecclestone?

    Just a thought.

  72. chris b, 26 April 2012 20:06

    an excellent article Nigel, full of insight and righteous anger – whether people feel we are hypocrites or whatever for feeling disgusted by the Bahrain affair is irrelevant – the circuit is awful, the comments so appallingly crass blessed would be motor sport fans when Mr E hopefully retires

    and one ray of hope for motor sport fans, the opportunity that Ross talks of, the teams having a say in which circuits we go to-

    how about you journalists starting a campaign on behalf of motor racing fans worldwide- where would we want the GP’s>

  73. Lewis Lane, 26 April 2012 21:47

    Great article Nigel, and it’s great to see all the varied opinions here. Particularly pleased to see Jo Ramirez give his views – a man i’ve long respected. For me Snr Ramirez, the idea of F1 being a sport (i wish it still was), and shouldn’t be mixed with politics (i wish it wasn’t), vanished when it started signing deals for government funded events at government built and supported circuits.That’s where the line got crossed as far as i’m concerned – F1 has politicised itself in the chase for profit; it’s not down to media reporting as has apparently been claimed by some in the paddock – it’s F1′s own doing. If there was no government involvement in some of these venues and they weren’t “sport for the sake of politics” events, situations like this wouldn’t arise and i’m not convinced we’d all be so troubled by it as fans. Sport can be a force for good in the right circumstances, and that means being totally impartial, neutral and independent. This was none of those as far as i can see.

  74. Carl, 26 April 2012 23:32

    hamfan: Your comment is silly and simplistic. bernie ecclestone’s control of Formula One is not a product and supplies only profit, first and foremost to himself by way of monopoly. ecclestone has nothing to offer racing fans except abusive contempt.

  75. Reddo, 27 April 2012 07:38

    Whilst a well-written, objective and calm article, in the big scheme of things nothing will change until Bernie becomes to infirm to administer these things or indeed pops his clogs (the two being one and the same thing methinks). So as time and tide wait for no man, we just watch and wait and count the days…

  76. hamfan, 27 April 2012 10:11

    Carl,

    Yep, you can say all that – how terrible Bernie is, blah, blah, blah – but it’s been this way for years and years.

    And yet you keep watching…

  77. Rich Ambroson, 27 April 2012 15:34

    The lone BCE proponent here seems to think we’re all still watching. Well some of us have gone back to the old ways and read about the events, from multiple sources. If a particular “highlight” makes it to the internet for viewing, perhaps that will be perused. But not all the eyeballs are going to CVC, and they won’t be able to ride the wave of novelty for some new viewers forever.

    In the U.S. the NASCAR viewership as well as attendance has gone down significantly from the highs of a few years ago. The economy plays some role in that for sure, but many of the core fans were put off by the France family taking the series away from traditional tracks and going to corporate cookie cutter tracks. Other mistakes haven’t helped retains long-time fans either.

    A similar drop in ratings, attendance, etc. could happen to F1 world wide, not just in places with no history of appreciation for racing in general, and specifically F1® (it’s hard to think of it as real Grand Prix racing anymore.

  78. hamfan, 27 April 2012 16:21

    No Rich, it’s just you who’s claiming to have stopped watching (but only certain races, the ones where the drivers you dislike win, right? Though how you know in advance…)

    Most of the moaners and nit-pickers (including me) continue to watch. You’d have to be insane to believe that one person choosing not to watch on the basis of principle (or boredom) could make any difference. We’ve had this discussion before, I know, but really, Bernie and CVC clearly don’t see Europe as being important to F1′s major stakeholders (themselves, the team sponsors, the teams – in that order). And the US is totally irrelevant to them (which is why it’s so baffling to find so many from the US posting about F1 on this site). Follow the money Rich – it’s Asia and the ME that Bernie and Co care about. Growth and FUTURE potential, not the past. Europe is on the brink, the US is 12 (going on 15) trillion up the spout. BCE is a rational businessman. You, and most of us here, are just ‘some irrelevant schmuck’ as far as he’s concerned. Let’s enjoy F1, warts and all, while we still have it – before the subscription prices us out.

  79. Rich Ambroson, 27 April 2012 17:00

    hamfan, I never said my not watching would make a difference. I am just noting that when you call folks out for watching an event or series they find to be no longer what it once was, that some of us (myself for one) do not actually watch, and are consistent in our actions and statements.

    Believe me, I’m sure one person on their own makes no difference. But when more people with similar views do act in similar manner, some form of difference is made, if only in the attendance and ratings figures, as per the NASCAR reference.

    Either way, don’t be so sure that everyone who makes a post regarding their opinion here is entirely inconsistent in their actions.

  80. mke dodd, 28 April 2012 14:59

    Mr (why hasn’t he been knighted for his services to ducking and diving?) risks becoming a parody of himself and may be the next Rupert Murdoch.I strongly support the diplomatic common sense of Ross Brawn and his suggestion that the teams should have formal input into the choice of venues, both current and future.

  81. Peter Bowyer, 29 April 2012 10:51

    There is another aspect about the race, the stuff that took place on the track. After China I was extremely pleased to see Nico Rosberg win his first race but his moves to prevent the overtaking by Hamilton and Alonso were beyond what is acceptable. The cynical might suggest that one move on Hamilton only would have resulted in no action by the stewards – but to do it to Alonso would normally have brought the full force of the stewards to bear… What was the point in the bringing in the one change of direction rule if it is not going to be enforced?

  82. meditek, 29 April 2012 16:35

    Hmmmm….

    Let us consider the following scenario. Race riots precede the Olympics. A couple of people die in the process. Would the Olympics be cancelled?

  83. MIKE ALLASTON, 4 May 2012 09:56

    Brilliant comments.
    On another subject I wonder what the facilities will be like if the French GP does resurface at Paul Ricard which just happens to belong to Burnt Ecclescake

  84. Richard, 7 May 2012 12:08

    In the June 2012 issue of Motor Sport, Damian Smith mentions Bahrain’s “welcome investment” in F1, but does not elaborate. Others choose to ignore this issue completely.

    The double standards on display are abominable.

  85. Jonathan Douglas, 13 May 2012 17:54

    I am going to be a rather lonely voice of dissent here, in support of running the Bahrain GP. There is not much wrong with what Nigel R has written, and I do not support Bernie E’s comments at all, but there are very good reasons to run the race nevertheless. The race meant that the world’s media had to visit Bahrain. Had it been Syria, I am sure it would have been cancelled so that the regime could hide. The Al-Khalifa’s have shown they have little to hide, and are not a tyrannical regime. The unrest may possibly represent a majority of the Bahrain population, but it is by no means all Bahrainis. The unrest is sponsored by Iran, seeking to destabilise the region and damage Saudi. The ‘Arab Spring’ is a very mixed blessing, while Gadafi had to go in Libya, the benefit of changes in Egypt and Tunisia are much less certain, with extremists much freer to terrorise people who don’t agree with them. The Al-Khalifas are moving towards change, albeit slowly. But the most positive reason for the GP is that it is part of a huge effort by the Al-Khalifas to promote industrial development in Bahrain. The oil wealth is diminishing, so the country needs a new form of wealth creation to replace it. The UAE has only focussed on property and tourism, but Bahrain is seeking real industry, and notably, whatever you think of a government of which about half the posts are occupied by members of one family, that family really do work at it. The Crown Prince himself is the leader both of this development and the faction pushing for constitutioinal change. We should support him.

  86. Bojan P., 14 May 2012 21:43

    Well written (again), Nigel. Well said, Ross Brawn.

    “Ecclestone has always maintained that sport and politics have nothing to do with each other.”

    Which is exactly why in the mid-eighties he carefully plotted the deal to have a brand new circuit built near Budapest to host the Hungarian GP from 1986 in then still a communist led country. Yes, Hungaroring was all about and nothing else than a sport which was deeply rooted in the traditions of Hungarian society. Nothing at all to do with politics.

    But look at the bright side of it. Think of Bahrein 2012 as of Budapest 1986 and look around Middle East for what might be an equivalent of the “Berlin Wall” in that area in few years time? After all, this GP assured much more worldwide and universal media coverage of the issues in Bahrein than tens of massive peaceful demonstrations in Manama could have done.

  87. Bojan P., 14 May 2012 21:45

    Erratum: “Berlin Wall” in that area to be kicked down in few years time.

  88. Don Mei, 27 June 2012 14:29

    Nothing will change until Bernie goes. Sad, really.

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