As pointed out in last week’s “Track Talking,” we don’t like to get political at The F1 Newsletter, but enough is enough. I think we need to address what is going in the Middle East, and the logical place to start is with the Arab Spring. Many people cite December 17th 2010 and the Tunisian Revolution as the beginning of protests and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East, but we all know the rubber met the road when the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled.
The 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was originally scheduled to be held on March 13th 2011 and was the opening round of the 2011 Formula One season. Everything changed on February 14th, however, as Bahrain’s majority Shia population took to the streets to peacefully protest King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s regime. From there, things escalated quickly. Government forces, with the help of foreign mercenaries, used tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot to break up demonstrations. Numerous protesters were killed before the controlling regime, with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, crushed the uprising.
Needless to say, the Formula One governing body was extremely anxious about hosting a Formula One grand prix amid the chaos. The FIA postponed the event on February 21st, but left the door open to rescheduling the race. The chief executive of the Bahrain International Circuit, Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, vowed to “re-accommodate” the race. Did I mention Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa was also the crown prince of Bahrain? Khalifa had until June to figure it out.
On June 3rd, with everything seemingly in order, the FIA and Bahrain government announced the Bahrain Grand Prix would be rescheduled to October 30th as the 17th race of the season. Human rights groups and activists pounced. Red Bull driver and Aussie hero, Mark Webber, publicly voiced his concerns about human rights conditions in Bahrain. Everyone saw it coming. One week later, the race organizers officially abandoned the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Well there you have it. We didn’t solve anything concerning the Middle East, but at least you know a little more about Bahrain and the Bahrain Grand Prix. To be fair, I did warn you that we don’t like to get political here at The F1 Newsletter.