Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 6°C Saturday 10 April 2021

Going ahead: F1 bosses have no plans to abandon Bahrain visit

Calls from human rights groups for the FIA to withdraw Bahrain from their race calendar have fallen on deaf ears.

Protesters throw stones at armoured vehicles in the streets of Sanabis, on the edge of Manama, yesterday.
Protesters throw stones at armoured vehicles in the streets of Sanabis, on the edge of Manama, yesterday.
Image: Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images

DESPITE CONTINUED PLEAS from human rights groups, the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as planned in April.

Last year’s race was due to open the Formula One season, but was cancelled after continued pro-democracy protests.

Yesterday, the anniversary of the uprising in the gulf state was marked by further protests and clashes with police in Manama.

The visit of the Grand Prix is seen by opponents of the current regime as a corporate flagship to signal ‘all is well’ to the western world.

A message which is vehemently opposed by Maryam al-Khawaja, of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, who has called on the FIA to call off the race once again.

“The government want the message to go out that it is business as usual.” al-Khawaja told the Guardian;

“But today armoured vehicles went into residential areas for the first time since last year’s martial law ended in June. I have heard reports of protesters being thrown from rooftops and others having legs broken. That it is why Formula One should make a stand and call this race off.”

However, no such plans are afoot according to both Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA. Ecclestone downplayed the significance of the violence saying:

“I expected there was going to be a big uprising today, with the anniversary. But I think what happened, apparently, was that here were a lot of kids having a go at the police. I don’t think it’s anything serious at all.”

In touch

Ecclestone, who holds commercial rights for the sport, did concede that if the problem persists, the F1 road-show may pull out again , but only on the say so of the Bahraini government.

“It doesn’t change our position in any shape or form. If the people in Bahrain (the government) say, ‘Look Bernie, it wouldn’t be good for you to come over here,’ then I would think again. That is what they said last year.”

“I am in regular touch with the Bahrain government and they would tell me if we shouldn’t be there.”

Oireachtas committee meets over human rights abuse in Bahrain

Eamon Zayed’s Tehran derby hat-trick caused a fan to ‘have a heart attack and die’

About the author:

Sean Farrell

Read next: