I really think Formula 1, specifically FIA and rights holder Bernie Ecclestone needs to step up and do the right thing, by cancelling the 2012 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. The race is scheduled for April 22, with practice and qualifying starting April 20. They need to cancel the race due to the human rights violations committed by the Bahraini government against their own people and to draw attention to those issues. Just as staging the race brings positive attention to Bahrain, withdrawing the race will bring worldwide visibility to the plight of the citizens of this country.
I do think sometimes sports needs to be more than just entertainment and in a situation like this, the sport, as a whole, can do a lot of good by cancelling the race. I wrote about this issue in December 2011 (Formula 1 Should Cancel Bahrain GP Over Human Rights Issues: Fan's View), when the Formula 1 2012 calendar was announced and the Bahrain race appeared on the schedule. I applaud Formula 1 for cancelling the 2011 race, but I do think they did the right thing for the wrong reasons. Instead of taking a lead and helping to spread democracy, they just got worried about possible protests and team safety, and cancelled the 2011 race. Well, the Bahrain race withdrew itself, FIA didn't officially cancel it.
Now there have been more protests recently and some teams are starting to indicate they don't feel safe traveling to the Middle Eastern country. Now, according to Autosport.com, FOTA, the official association of all the Formula 1 teams and owners, has said the decision to cancel the race is not with them, it's with FIA, the sport's governing body.
Many political activists and other citizens remain in prison, after the country was rocked by the Arab Spring popular uprisings last year. The government cracked down hard with violence and I think Formula 1 needs to support the people of Bahrain, not the rich heads of state. Human Rights Watch , an international organization that monitors issues around the world, has called for the government of Bahrain to release the prisoners and change their actions, but they have not done anything other than talk, but yet do nothing.
A bit of controversy has come up with the Lotus F1 Team, which visited the country to prepare a private report on safety for all the F1 teams. The Bahrain International Circuit, the host track for the race, released some of the comments publicly, which supported staging the race. Lotus then fired back with a press release saying the comments were not meant to be public and they were part of FIA, and did not speak for the group.
A life-long auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter -@thefredsherman
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