After the furore that surrounded the on-off Bahrain Grand Prix in 2011, F1 looks set to face further ethical soul-searching after pleas to boycott the 2012 event began in earnest over the weekend.
Eyebrows were raised when the Sakhir event was included on the 2012 schedule last December, just weeks after a humiliating climbdown by organisers finally put a seal on the 2011 debate. The race had been scheduled to kick-off last year's campaign, but the effects of Arab Spring uprising that began in Tunisia and eventually engulfed the likes of Egypt and Libya, saw tanks roll into the Bahraini capital a couple of weeks before the first practice sessions were due to get underway. The race was postponed, allowing Melbourne to open the season, but was then reinstated at the end of the campaign, much to the dismay of teams and disgust of human rights protestors, who insisted that, despite fighting in the streets having ceased, there were still transgressions taking place as the ruling party attempted to subjugate its citizens.
The 2012 running of the Bahrain GP is scheduled for 22 April, with Bernie Ecclestone having insisted that the situation in the country was suitable for F1's return, but human rights groups continue to oppose the race, with pleas now being made directly to the teams.
“We will campaign for … drivers and teams to boycott," Nabeel Rajab, vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told the UK's Guardian
newspaper, "The government wants F1 to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal [and], 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.”
While the teams were united in their opposition to the race taking place in 2011, their association, FOTA, no longer speaks for all twelve participants, making it unclear whether there would be a unified response to the boycott pleas.