Bahrain peaceful as F1 sets up camp in the desert

Formula freight unpacked in Bahrain pit lane area
Formula 1 freight unpacked in Bahrain pit lane area

FIA President Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone, Formula 1’s most powerful figures, say this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix is going ahead with reports coming out of the island kingdom that things appear peaceful.

Responding to calls anti-government clashes within the island Kingdom should cause the cancellation of the race, Todt said in a letter: “It is our firm belief that sport, and the Grand Prix, can have a positive and healing effect in situations where conflict, social unrest and tensions are causing distress.”

Also quoted by the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain, Formula 1 chief executive Ecclestone insisted “it is now too late to make any changes to the calendar”.

While Ecclestone will attend the race, the fact the FIA president is staying away has attracted criticism.

An FIA figure is quoted by Speed Week: “Our president is angry. It is being said that he is not coming because he is scared, but his response is that his son (Nicolas) is there and so too are many other people he loves and respects.”

Indeed, it appears the concerns and criticism made by some actually might not reflect the true situation in Bahrain.

“The situation in Bahrain is calm,” said Andrea Cremonesi, the correspondent for Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“The images of violence or protests that land in the newsrooms across the world almost every day are in stark contrast to what you actually witness when first landing in Bahrain.”

Mathias Brunner, the correspondent for German-language Speed Week, agrees: “Bahrain is in transition, and many people are unhappy with their situation.

“But it is simply not true that Formula 1 has moved into an area of civil war.”

Speed Week’s FIA source said some other journalists, “mainly from the UK”, have “an agenda”.

But even the Daily Mail’s Jonathan McEvoy reports this week: “Friendly people, quiet streets, and the only cocktail in sight is not a Molotov but served in a crystal glass with ice and a slice.”