Well I’ve been covering the protests for 2 weeks now and it looks like they’re going to race anyway.
Here are the latest developments-
Bahrain analysis: how Formula One plan may have backfired for Gulf kingdom’s ruling family
By Rosamund De Sybel in Manama and Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph
8:55PM BST 21 Apr 2012
(B)y persuading the sport’s governing authority to stage the race, cancelled last year, the ruling family sought to show that the recent upheaval was over. Officials came up with the slogan “UniF1ed” had hoped that Bahrain’s showcase event would deflate the Shia street protests that had campaigned so vocally for its cancellation.
Yet the opposite seems to have happened, with the questionable nature of the regime’s triumph exposed by the thousands of demonstrators who gathered on Friday and Saturday, the first two of three “days of rage”, to denounce the ruling family.
Protest leaders had feared that the roar of the racing cars’ engines would drown out their grievances. If anything, however, the race has rejuvenated their flagging campaign.
Friday’s protests were among the largest in recent months. Had the race been cancelled, the turnout may well have been far smaller.
Despite the regime’s efforts to ban non-sports journalists — reporters from Sky News, The Financial Times and Reuters, among others, were denied entry into Bahrain — the race has also refocused international attention on the Gulf Kingdom.
Bahrain’s Formula One Gala Not Going as Planned
By SOUAD MEKHENNET and RICK GLADSTONE, The New York Times
Published: April 20, 2012
Instead, the opposite seems to be happening. While Bahraini officials vow that the Grand Prix will be held as planned on Sunday, Shiite opposition groups and rights organizations have denounced the race as a public relations stunt that has sought to mask what they call the monarchy’s failures to address causes of political discontent here.
“It’s definitely backfired on them,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It seems like their main focus is managing this as a P.R. exercise, but it’s impossible to repress the reality, which is that there is a great simmering discontent.”
In a more aggressive punctuation of the point, the activist group Anonymous hacked the official Formula One Web site for a few hours on Friday. Visitors to the site encountered a message castigating Bahrain’s government and the racing organization and urging people to oppose the race. “The Formula One racing authority was well aware of the Human Rights situation in Bahrain and still chose to contribute to the regime’s oppression of civilians and will be punished,” the message read.
Formula 1 Racers, and Protestors, Get Ready for Bahrain’s Big Day
By Aryn Baker, Time Magazine
April 21, 2012
As the protests escalate, and the crackdown becomes more violent, there have been several calls for a last minute cancelation of the event. That would set a terrible, and possibly terrifying, precedent for the upcoming Olympics in London. The reality is, the F1 should never have been allowed to return to Bahrain in the first place. Never mind the fact that race organizers, and the Bahrain government, seem to have underplayed the level of violence in the country-after all, protests have been going on almost every night for the past year-but does Bahrain actually deserve to host the F1?
Last November the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a government funded but independent investigative body, released its findings on the February 2011 uprising and the subsequent crackdown. The report cited a litany of graphic human-rights violations, including systematic torture, unlawful detention, excessive and indiscriminate use of force, night raids designed to “create fear,” workplace purges of protest participants, sexual abuse, the threat of rape along with beatings and the administration of electric shocks to elicit confessions, and the destruction of religious sites that “give the impression of collective punishment.”
A Formula One race too far as sport and politics collide in Bahrain
Paul Weaver, The Guardian
Saturday 21 April 2012 18.00 EDT
I feel a pebble under my foot, but when I look it is a small, black rubber bullet. Ominously, there are also larger bullets, the size of broad beans, at the demo site. According to my guide, the police come in, even after peaceful protests, and shoot tear gas and rubber bullets to remind everyone in this troubled Gulf state who is really in charge.
There are a few hundred protesters in this demo and, as things get nasty, we are hurried to a rooftop before the police break it up. More tear gas. More rubber bullets. I feel more like a war correspondent than a sportswriter, but since only the latter have visas I am in the thick of it.
Bahrain protester found dead on eve of grand prix
Jo Adetunji, Peter Beaumont and agencies, The Guardian
Saturday 21 April 2012 10.30 EDT
Bahraini authorities confirmed on Saturday that the dead man was Salah Abbas Habib. It said in a statement that the 36-year-old had suffered a wound to his left side and the case was being treated as a homicide.
The opposition group al-Wefaq said Habib’s body was found on the roof of a building after he and other protesters were beaten by riot police who suppressed a demonstration in the village of Shakhura late on Friday night. They released a photograph of Habib’s blood-covered body on a corrugated iron roof. He was apparently found wearing a teargas mask. Reports suggested he had been shot.
Deadly protests mar Bahrain Grand Prix
By Al Jazeera Staff
Sat, 2012-04-21 13:20.
It’s still unclear whether he died in the clashes that broke up that demonstration, or whether he was killed in the night of village skirmishes that followed.
There is an even more sinister rumour circulating: that he was snatched by police, died in their custody, and his body was dumped on the roof in the hours of darkness.
But regardless of how Salah died, the claim of many Shia protesters that Formula One is racing on their blood becomes harder to argue against.
Further protests from Bahrain’s restive Shia population are planned this weekend, including one near the Sakhir race track on Sunday.
Violence will almost certainly accompany them. Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s ruling king, has insisted from the get-go that Bahrain is a safe country to race in.
If Salah could still speak, he would probably tell you it’s not such a safe country to live in.
Protests, clashes, death cast pall over Bahrain Grand Prix
By Alan Baldwin, Reuters
Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:49pm EDT
A funeral march for Habib will probably take place on Sunday, once his body has been released to his family, setting the stage for riots during the big race itself.
Activists say his death takes the total dead since the uprising began on Feb. 14, 2011 to 81, including police killed last year, a figure the government disputes.
F1 teams to race while rage boils on Bahrain streets
By Alan Baldwin, Reuters
Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:10am EDT
Black smoke from burning tyres wafted over Budaiya on Sunday morning, before the final race. Budaiya, outside the capital of Manama, was the scene of mass protests on Friday.
The death of 36-year-old protester Salah Abbas Habib – found sprawled on a rooftop on Saturday after overnight clashes – provides more fuel for outrage among a Shi’ite Muslim majority that complains of being marginalized by ruling Sunnis.
(N)ightly TV images of streets ablaze with clouds of smoke and teargas are an embarrassment for Formula One and the global brands that lavish it with sponsorship. Thomson Reuters, parent company of Reuters, is a sponsor of the Williams Formula One team.
Jean Todt, president of Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation, broke a media silence on Saturday to say he was sorry “about what has been reported”.
“I am not sure that all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country,” he added.
Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead despite protester’s death
Paul Weaver and Peter Beaumont, The Guardian
With dozens of armoured personnel carriers guarding the main route to the circuit, the decision by F1 and the Sunni minority royal family to push ahead with the event – partly to help convince the world of Bahrain’s return to normality – appeared to be degenerating into a human rights and PR catastrophe.
Despite claims by F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and regime officials that the race was safe and the threat of violence “hyped”, the buildup to the contest has been marked by increasingly large anti-government demonstrations that have been put down with teargas, birdshot and stun grenades.
Wefaq official Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi said it was not clear what caused Habib’s death. “We haven’t got the body because the official investigators have surrounded the area, but we understand he was beaten severely. His colleagues with him last night were beaten with batons and the butts of rifles used to shoot teargas and birdshot.” Bahrain’s interior ministry described Habib as having suffered “a wound to his left side”.
The decision to go ahead with the race was defended by Jean Todt, president of the FIA, the sport’s governing body, who echoed Ecclestone’s comments late last week criticising the reporting of the situation in Bahrain. “I came here after the Indian Grand Prix to assess the situation and to understand better the situation. I had discussions with the British ambassador, the French ambassador, the Italian ambassador, the German ambassador – and the authorities,” he said. “Everybody was very comfortable with the situation and about the implementation of new solutions for the country.”
Bahrain Race Is Not First Controversy for Formula One
By JOHN F. BURNS, The New York Times
April 21, 2012, 8:16 pm
Formula One, in the guise of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the sport’s governing body, made its own on-the-spot assessment in Bahrain during the winter, led by Jean Todt, a Frenchman who is the organization’s president and former head of the Ferrari grand prix team during Schumacher’s glory years. Satisfied with what it found, the organization ruled in favor of resuming the race. In the background, strong pressure in favor of racing came from Bernie Ecclestone, the Englishman who is Formula One’s ringmaster, and the man who negotiated a $40-million fee from the Bahrain government.
The teams and drivers, discreetly, were much less keen, with some of the sport’s marquee names acknowledging the human rights arguments, but agreeing, in the end, to follow the lead of Mr. Todt and Mr. Ecclestone. In this, financial considerations played their part. The larger racing teams like Ferrari operate with budgets that can exceed $300 million a year. While few drivers can match the $50 million to $100 million a year that Schumacher is said to have made in his heyday, contracts that pay $15-million and more are the standard at the front end of the starting grid. A racing driver’s career can be short – tragically short, if they are unlucky – and there are few cases, if any, of a driver defying his team and refusing to race for reasons of conscience.
The move was of a piece with a broader pattern shaped by Mr. Ecclestone, the sport’s principal entrepreneur, who has moved progressively over the past decade to move races to countries like China, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi with little or no motor racing history, and scant support for Formula One that manifests itself in anemic crowds. To make way for these fixtures, Formula One has abandoned the races in some countries – notably, France – where the sport has a long history but less willingness on the part of their motorsport bodies and track owners to raise the fees that governments in the new venues are prepared to pay for the veneer of respectability that comes with staging a grand prix that will be watched by perhaps 100 million television viewers.
Perhaps, in the end, grand prix racing’s image problem – and the reason it has seemed to many so out-of-touch in its decision to race in Bahrain – is that it is, by its nature, an elite sport, and carefully nurtured to remain so. In an earlier age, many of the drivers were aristocrats – Siamese princes, German barons, Belgian counts, American department store heirs, English aristocrats – who raced with ascots and bow ties, and who disported themselves with the devil-may-care attitudes of a privileged class. These were men who drove cars up the staircases of luxury hotels, quaffed magnum bottles of champagne, smoked the best Cuban cigars, and cast each other off hotel balconies into swimming pools – until, inevitably, many of them died on the track.
Today’s drivers are of a different class, many of them like Schumacher and the current world champion, the German Sebastian Vettel, the sons of modestly placed fathers who got them early into go-kart racing, and guided them as they rose the ladder to Formula One. But they, too, are cocooned by privilege, above all by the kind of wealth that runs to private jets and yachts, and by the care that the race officials, including the F.I.A., take to ensure that the media coverage is concentrated among people who do it full-time, who themselves become part of the closed Formula One circus – eager to discourse on the merits of this aerodynamic innovation or that computerized engine management system, but disinclined, in most cases, to look beyond the confines of the tracks where they spend their working lives and take the measure of the societies beyond.
Formula One lives in a Bahrain bubble
By Alan Baldwin, Reuters
Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:55pm EDT
On Saturday, the body of a demonstrator was discovered on a rooftop after a battle at which witnesses said police fired birdshot at crowds. His funeral could be held on Sunday, setting the stage for riots on the day of the race itself.
(F)or those within the sport’s entourage who have not ventured out to see a different reality, talk of petrol bombs, death and torture might as well be from another planet.
Red Bull’s world champion Sebastian Vettel said shortly after arrival on Thursday that he thought much of what was being reported was hype.
He looked forward to getting in the car and dealing with the “stuff that really matters – tyre temperatures, cars.”
Bahrain Grand Prix: Defiant Force India feel wrath of Formula One
Paul Weaver, The Observer
Saturday 21 April 2012
Force India have been punished by Formula One by being blanked from the television screens after missing a practice session because of concerns over their safety. BBC and Sky viewers bombarded the channels with calls, emails and tweets after Saturday’s’s qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, asking why the cameras did not feature the Force India cars of Paul Di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg, even though Di Resta was a top-10 finisher.
Both TV channels have their own teams at races, but their pictures come from the feed controlled by Formula One Management. Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s commercial rights holder, denied the charge on Saturday when he said: “I was busy and didn’t notice Force India were not on. I will look into it. It could be technical, but I suspect it was more to do with the Bahrain laws on no alcohol advertising. They have a whisky company prominently on the car. They should have taken it off. TV could not show that.”
However, Force India, who number Whyte & Mackay among their sponsors, appear to have been singled out for punishment because all teams submit their livery for approval when they race in countries with restrictions, such as Bahrain. Pictures were broadcast of the team in practise without sanction. Force India refused to comment last night, but a team insider who declined to be named said: “Everyone knows what happened. Bernie is giving Force India a slap on the wrist for missing Friday’s second practice session.”
Meanwhile, the FIA president, Jean Todt, said his conscience was clear despite a disastrous week for Formula One. “I am sorry about what has been reported,” he said “I am not sure all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country. But I feel F1 is very strong. It is a very strong brand, and all the people among the teams to whom I have been speaking are very happy.”
Bernie Ecclestone has followed the money and turned Formula One into a pariah sport
Richard Williams, The Guardian
Saturday 21 April 2012 12.01 EDT
News of the death of a protester in Bahrain, reported just before 24 Formula One cars set off for their qualifying session for grand prix, drowned the noise of engines everywhere except inside the paddock at the Sakhir circuit, where the drivers and engineers maintained their concentration on settling the order of the starting grid. In the view of Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, they were getting back to what really mattered. Much of the outside world, however, had long since lost interest in listening to commentators discussing tyre temperatures and drag-reduction.
What has happened on the oil-rich island in the Persian Gulf is a direct result of the way Ecclestone has run the sport since taking control 30 years ago. His willingness to tear up its traditional roots and follow the money into new territories opened the way for an eventual collision between a spectacle whose audience is still largely European and countries with non-democratic systems of government. Bahrain is the wrong time and the wrong place in which to maintain the pretence that sport is sport and politics is politics, and that the two have no interdependence. The country’s royal family destroyed that fiction when they had posters put up around their Sakhir circuit featuring the slogan “UniF1ed – One Nation in Celebration”, an explicit use of Formula One to bolster their claim to have taken steps to improve conditions for their people since the first demonstrations in March 2011, part of the “Arab spring”, caused the cancellation of last year’s grand prix.
Amnesty International’s most recent report on the situation in Bahrain calmly but remorselessly dismantled those claims. Most of the action taken by the rulers, it suggested, has been in the area of public relations. Little of any substantive nature has been done to address the discontent felt by the Shia majority at the discrimination exercised by the Sunni royal family and their governing elite. Official investigations have gone slowly, and no senior figure has been charged with liability for the violence – including allegations of torture – meted out to some of last year’s protesters and to medical personnel who went to their aid.
But protesters, Ecclestone told me last year, tend to be “people who’ve got nothing to do on a Sunday”. They are certainly not, by and large, people likely to contribute to his enrichment, who are the only type of people in whom he is really interested.
The Bahrain affair also exposes the conflicts of interest that flow through Formula One. The crown prince of Bahrain sanctioned the building of the Sakhir circuit and the payment of the annual $40m to Ecclestone; both are members of the FIA’s powerful World Motor Sports Council. The investment arm of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat Holdings, owns 40% of the McLaren team, which is perhaps one reason why Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have been economical with their opinions this weekend. The crown prince also shares the ownership of a team in the GP2 championship, F1’s supporting attraction, with the son of Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, who was in a position to order the cancellation of this weekend’s race but declined to do so.
Ecclestone’s habit of taking the money and asking no questions ensured that one day he would place the Formula One teams and their personnel in the position they now find themselves: nervous of their personal safety and uncertain how to respond to the question of whether they should be there at all. Thanks to him, a sport whose conscience was once troubled only by its environmental impact now looks like a pariah.
You may well ask if I am re-evaluating my support for McLaren after learning that Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund is a 40% owner.
The answer is yes.
On the competition front- Pole position keeps jumping around, I can’t recall if we’ve had a repeat or not. This time it’s Vettel’s turn again, even so it remains to be seen if he can use the early advantage to get clear of the pack enough to put the race out of reach.
Because the big deal is going to be tires. On full fuel the Softs are only lasting about 5 or 6 laps at all, with just one good one in the middle there somewhere. They’ve been having to warm them up slowly to keep them from twisting right off. The Mediums are not much better with only about 11 laps of life in them.
Teams were parking early trying to save their Mediums because considering you only get 3 sets of each and the race is 57 laps a little simple math will show you that they’re going to use up every bit of them and then some. Personally I think this is madness and compromises safety, but if you’re going to race in a war zone anyway I guess safety is not the first thing on your mind. The back markers were even chatting up how it was better to start 11th and have fresh tires than to start on Pole. I guess you have to have some hope for the fans.
Pastor Maldonado had a Kinetic Energy Recovery System problem that required a gearbox change and caused a 5 Grid penalty.
GP2 starts at 6 am on Speed with a repeat Sunday the 28th at 2:30 am. The main event kicks off with your half hour of hype at 7:30 am with a repeat today at 1:30 pm.
Pretty tables below.
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||01:32.422||18|
|3||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||01:32.637||17|
|10||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||01:33.510||15|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||01:33.807||12|
|21||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||01:37.883||6|
|4||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||36|
|5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||28|
|12||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||7|
|16||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||2|
|2||Red Bull Racing-Renault||64|