Max Mosley is calling on the FIA's World Motor Sport Council to re-think its decision to re-schedule the Bahrain Grand Prix and he has warned that if the race does go ahead F1 will be 'complicit' in what has happened there and it will 'eventually cost the sport dear'.
The WMSC announced at the end of last week that the event, which had to be cancelled back in March due to civil unrest and political protests, had been given a new date and would now take place on October 30, the slot originally given to the inaugural Indian Grand Prix [see separate story - click here
]. However the decision has not been exactly well-received, with Mosley joining those in saying it is a 'mistake'.
“It is worth remembering that the trouble in Bahrain began with peaceful protests,” wrote the former FIA president in a column in the Daily Telegraph
. “The crowds were not seeking the removal of the ruling family, merely a move towards democracy and rights for the Shia majority comparable to those enjoyed by the Sunni elite. These modest demands were soon met with brutal repression. Demonstrators were shot dead. Protesters were imprisoned and, according to credible reports, hideously mistreated, even tortured and killed.
“Doctors and nurses who treated the injured were themselves arrested and imprisoned. When these measures failed to crush the protests, the Bahrain government called in troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia to crush all opposition with naked force.
“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, F1 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 F1 dear.”
The WMSC argued as part of its justification for re-scheduling that the race will help 'unite people as the country looks to move forward' [see separate story click here
]. Mosley however, is not convinced and while he points out 'it is not the function of a sporting body to seek to dictate to governments what they can and cannot do' and there are 'several reasons for this', he added that the 'line has to be drawn' somewhere.
“It will be claimed that reinstating the F1 race in Bahrain is beneficial. It will bring the Shia and Sunni communities together, uniting the warring factions as part of a process of reconciliation We will be told that holding the Grand Prix in October will show that, once again, Bahrain is a happy, peaceful country. So why is it wrong for F1 to go along with this? Why is this different to running an event in any number of countries where people are oppressed, kept in poverty, held without trial and mistreated (or worse) in prison?” he asked.
“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.
“If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If F1 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 brutalise unarmed protesters.”