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Formula 1 still keen on Bahrain Grand Prix 2012

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Despite widespread protests and calls by human rights groups to call off the race , formula one seems keen to hold the race. And they are also spreading good news (propaganda) about it. An article on Bloomsberg claims that 3000 temporary jobs will be created in Bahrain due to the race and also that the race would earn 500 million  USD for the Bahrain economy.

“The F1 generates huge returns for Bahrain by regenerating interest in Bahrain as a friendly and hospitable environment,” Sheikh Salman said.

Sheikh Salman is the chief executive officer of the Bahrain International Circuit which has also been criticized for firing folks on whims and fancies like liking a facebook age which promoted democracy for Bahrain.

The official news agency of Bahrain is doing even more propaganda hinting that the racing event is needed for national unity (while people are still getting arrested ?). Below is an excerpt from a press release on Bahrain News Agency’s website.

So unfortunate it was when the Bahrain Grand Prix Race was cancelled last year, even more unfortunate were the events that lead to that. Bahrain had gone through a rough period of time in 2011, but the comeback of the event of the year is proof that our beloved Bahrain can, is and will always be moving forward and in alignment with the progression of the rest of the world, that Bahrainis will, at the end of the day, always put their differences aside and unite in their love for their country, and the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix is the perfect event to set the ideal mood and the ideal scene for unity. The excitement, the anticipation, the economic opportunities and the festive events and shows that are all steady companions to the Grand Prix every year are sure to unite us.

The event is currently scheduled for the April 20-22 weekend, and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is in no mood to back down and cancel the race. In a rare show of support for any such activity. He made the following comments :

“Of course the race is going to happen. No worries at all,” Bernie Ecclestone

“What I don’t understand are the negative statements being made, people catching them and continuing them. They’re saying things they don’t understand.

“People say to me ‘There’s not going to be a race.’ And I say ‘Well how do you know?’ And they tell me they saw or read something, but it’s all nonsense.

“These people (the Bahrainis) were brave enough to start an event in that part of the world, and that’s it. We’ll be there as long as they want us.”

My personal opinion is that its shameful that commercial interest is being put above human rights and formula one will be allowed to be a showcase for Bahrain to fake to the world that all is ok.

Written by Formula One Addict

April 1st, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Should formula one dump the Bahrain Grand Prix ?

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2011 Bahrain Protest for Democracy

That’s the million dollar question (quite literally too !, Bahrain apparently paid around 40 million dollars to the FIA to host last year’s race which was canceled) , with human rights groups asking the FIA to set an example and cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix due to gross human rights violations in the Middle Eastern country.

F1 fans would remember a similar debate last year when initially the race was delayed, then rescheduled and ultimately cancelled for the same reason. At that time also there was a lot of pressure from human rights groups and even teams and drivers who were aghast at some of the stories that were surfacing from the troubled country.

The Bahrain center for Human rights has been quite vocal about the F1 race and its implications on the country’s politics and internal situation. Their website hosts a photo of a woman complaining that her husband got fired from the Bahrain International Circuit just for liking a protest photo on facebook. Their website not surprisingly has been banned in Bahrain.

My two cents are that the F1 event can be used as a medium by the Government in Bahrain to show the world that all is well (thoughts which are also echoed by the VP of Bahrain Center for Human Rights). A formula one race is no less than the Olympics in terms of popularity across the world and formula one drivers and teams should be looked upon as ambassadors of peace. Any controversy and that too of this scale has the potential to deal a serious blow to F1’s image and reputation.

Articles as recent as Jan 2012 detail how even now people are being tortured for bein a part of pro-democracy protests that took place next year. In such an environment, do we really want a formula one race to happen ? Bernie Ecclestone has to answer this question for the millions of formula one fans across the world.

Leaving you with some quotes from Human Rights organisations about the situation and their recommendations.

“We will do a campaign for drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal,” said Nabeel Rajab, vice president for Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

“Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn’t take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.”

“The FIA should consider the serious abuse of human rights in Bahrain and the fact that to this day authorities continue to suppress pro-democracy protests.” Mariwan Hama-Saeed of New York-based Human Rights Watch told Arabian Business.

“I doubt that Formula One can be a success in a country where serious human rights abuses have been committed. The political situation is unstable and polarised in Bahrain. We are very concerned about the government’s commitment to implement meaningful reform.”

Photo Under Creative Commons from Al Jazeera English

Written by Formula One Addict

January 8th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Formula One moved to paid TV ? What’s the big fuss about ?

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Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

When the British media collectively goes up in arms, its either due to the fact that some celebrity was caught holidaying on a beach in the Bahamas or its just that it was a slow news day and they needed to cook up something. From what I understand half of the formula one races next season would be shown on free TV. This has got the British press and fans scared about the future of formula one.

BBC has made a deal with SKY in which Sky gets to show all the races whileBBC only gets some of them as Live, BBC has already taken Monaco, Silverstone and the last race in the 2012 formula one season. Now its going to be Russian Roulette style with BBC choosing 3 races then sky chooses three races and this will continue till no more races are left.

But wait, in India its always been on paid TV, Star Sports and ESPN who are known for their more than generous amount of subscription fee have been the sole owners of the F1 feed for quite some time now. I do remember some races being simulcast on Ten Sports a few years ago but without Chris Goodwin and Steve Slater, no one watched those. However despite paid TV and increases in fee by Start Sports and ESPN, formula one as a sport has only grown in India.  When I was in middle school, telling someone that you watched formula one in India was equivalent to social suicide, now it’s a cool thing. People sling Ferrari and Vodafone bags, sip from Red Bull sippers all over the place. The penetration of formula one has been awesome in India despite the paid TV thingy.

The only loser in this deal would be BBC in my opinion, no ones loves watching half the season on TV and no one would like to keep switching back and forth between Sky and BBC, so most will subscribe to Sky and would dump BBC anyway. Fans also lose out a little as a few of them would not be able to afford Sky and would only get to watch half the races. This number might be big as a percentage of Britain, but it would be interesting to see this number as a percentage of the world population.

As this was progressing a scandal has also emerged. Channel 4 apparently had agreed to match the bid by BSkyB but formula one bosses did not consider it in a move that many speculate was to prevent formula one from going to BBC’s terrestrial rival.

It remains to be seen what would be the impact of all of this, all we can do is wait and watch, or we can protest, if the Bahrain Grand Prix can be cancelled, surely this decision too can be reversed if there is enough consumer pressure.

Written by Formula One Addict

August 13th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Criticism galore for Bahrain Grand Prix’s reinstatement

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The World Motor Sport council voted to get the Bahrain Grand Prix re-instated in a move that was praised by Bahrain’s prince but met with sharp criticism elsewhere.

The Bahrain Grand Prix now pushes the Inaugural Indian Grand Prix to the end of the season. The Indian Grand Prix will now be held in December andd Bahrain Grand Prix takes the 30th October slot.

The Bahrain Crown prince praised the move :

“Having the race back in Bahrain has, indeed, significantly unified the people of Bahrain in this period,” Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said

“Their love for their country and caring for its interest has motivated them in supporting efforts to bring the race back to Bahrain this year,” he added.

This is ofcourse in stark contrast to what the rest of the world feels. We had recently reported on the democracy protests in Bahrain, what we didn’t report (as we aren’t a political blog) was how the protests were crushed and citizens detained in the kingdom state. Its no wonder that the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix has people up in anger all over the Internet.

Former FIA president Max Mosely was vocal of his criticism and hoped that the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix would be reversed. In a piece for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote :

“Surely the line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions” Max Mosley wrote.

“If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula 1 allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime’s guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalize unarmed protesters.”

“Having carried out these horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That’s where the grand prix comes in. By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.

“By agreeing to race there, Formula 1 becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government’s instruments of repression. The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula 1 dear.”

Red Bull driver Mark Webber was also critical and till now one of the only f1 drivers who seems to have come out openly against the decision, He wrote on his website :

“In my personal opinion, the sport should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year rather than constantly delaying its decision in the hope of being able to reschedule it in 2011.

“It would have sent a very clear message about F1′s position on something as fundamental as human rights and how it deals with moral issues.”

“Like it or not, F1 and sport in general isn’t above having a social responsibility and conscience. I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually but now isn’t the right time.

“As a competitor I do not feel at all comfortable going there to compete in an event when, despite reassurances to the contrary, it seems inevitable that it will cause more tension for the people of that country.

“I don’t understand why my sport wishes to place itself in a position to be a catalyst for that.”

For better or for worse, formula one is motivated by money,  of course we overlook that 30% of the McLaren formula one team is owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain.

However its (commercial interests) working in the other way also, countless petitions have been started to pressurize Red Bull and other consumer dependent companies to pull out of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

FOTA is another key player in this mess, however FOTA’s current president is from the McLaren team who are owned partially by Kingdom of Bahrain, so expectations are low from them.

At this point, it does not seem like we have seen the last of this matter. Its likely to snowball into something huge in the coming days.

Photo : Soman, under CC Attribution/Share Alike 2.5

Written by Formula One Addict

June 5th, 2011 at 8:15 am

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton admit McLaren has had some issues in 2011

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Jenson button in Pits McLaren

After the high of last year it looks like its going to be a bumpy ride for the Brit team McLaren and their all Brit duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. After the recent rounds of testing completed , both drivers seemed skeptical of their car’s performance and acknowledged that the car needed to improve for them to have a chance in the championship.

Jenson Button was not happy about the setup work due to the short testing period that teams are getting. He commented that the improvement done to the car till now wont be enough once the formula one season starts.

“It’s tricky because we haven’t had enough testing in the car to do proper set-up work which is disappointing. It’s been bitty in testing. We have improved it but not enough.

“The next test is really important to us to see what this car can do and hopefully we will be ready for the first race. If we went racing now we wouldn’t be quite ready because we have not done enough testing.”

Lewis Hamilton was also disappointed about the small testing windows and the fact that McLaren is playing catch up to its rivals in testing.

“One day we did only 38 laps. That’s nothing major but we have had mechanical issues at the back of the car and that has really hampered us. In the last test we got 170 laps so we have picked up but we are behind on mileage and we can’t catch it up on the testing left. But hopefully it will not hinder us too much.”

In other news the Bahrain Grand Prix though cancelled due to democracy protests in the country and subsequent bloodshed could be back in the 2011 season itself at a later date. Keep reading for more. In an interview, Bernie Ecclestone said :

“I’m hoping upon hope that things settle peacefully in Bahrain and we can find a slot later on in the year,” said Ecclestone.

“I don’t know how likely there will be peace, but if there is then we will find a way.

“We will have a look and see what we can do, how we can swap things around a bit. Maybe we can change it with Brazil, or something like that.

“But forget August. It’s too hot for the public to sit in the grandstand at 40-odd degrees .”

Image : McLaren Media

Written by Formula One Addict

March 3rd, 2011 at 6:52 pm