It seems like a script each year, the Bahrain Grand Prix gets close and the social media fires up with anti and pro sentiments spamming timelines and pages with pictures of oppression (from who knows where) and placid city streets from days unknown. The propaganda machine is in full effect when the Bahrain Grand Prix comes round.
With each year comes the obligatory questions for Formula One’s boss, Bernie Ecclestone, about the viability of the race and the safety of teams and crews who travel there. Political unrest is never a good environment to bring hundreds of outsiders to a country for a race that is seen by both sides as a tool to bring light to their causes. According to international rights groups, the two-year unrest has claimed 80 lives but the US has recently called on the nation to engage in talks to end the violence and unrest as US Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Rashad Hussain, delivered the message:
“He underscored US encouragement for all segments of Bahraini society to promote unity and reform through the ongoing National Dialogue,” said the State Department.
“He discussed the importance of rejecting the use of violence and promoting human rights, including religious freedom, for all Bahrainis.”
That may be the key to ending unrest but F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is keenly aware of the situation and feels everything is perfectly fine to carry forward:
“I haven’t had any negative reports from anybody there,” said Ecclestone.
“Somebody who actually lives there came to see me yesterday and said everything’s very normal.
“I think they (both sides) are talking now anyway… so I don’t think they’ll upset the talks by making protests,” added Ecclestone. “It didn’t help them last year, so if they had any brains they’d just get on with their talks.”
Ecclestone is rarely short for words and rarely misses an opportunity to marginalize conflicting parties whether it be in business or politics. The venerable F1 leader says he thinks the Bahrain Grand Prix has a long-term future in F1:
“Yes, yes, absolutely,” he said. “Everything that is there is as far as we are concerned good. They do a very, very good job of the race, the whole support from the top is good. No problems.”
Bahrain has a long-term interest in the race and legitimization it brings the country and if they had any brains, they’d keep F1 coming and keep it a center piece of prosperity and normalcy in the kingdom by using it as a tool to deliver a political message… after all, that’s why they brought the race there in the first place.