The Shame of Formula One in Bahrain

Hamilton_spraying__3269562bThis weekend is the Grand Prix of Bahrain at the International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. Three years ago I wrote about the local protests in Bahrain seeking some modicum of civil liberties and fair treatment. Instead there was a violent crackdown by the tyrannical ruling Khalifa family leading to bloodied protestors and dead bodies near the track.

There is no good reason, save for greed, that Formula One is in Bahrain this weekend but, nevertheless, there it is.
What might the journalists report on were they allowed in Bahrain? Maybe the petrol bomb attack members of the Force India racing team were caught up in. The incident so shook the team that it withdrew from the second practice session and at least one team member left the country due to safety concerns.

How is this occurring? Why is the race still being sanctioned? Money and hegemony.

F1 Grand Prix is big money. Really big money.
Big money and the mighty US war machine are a potent combination and, between the two of them, are permitting the disgrace occurring this weekend in Bahrain. It is a stain on international human rights, and it is a stain on Formula One. F1 and Ecclestone cravenly hide behind the false premise that they are a business and would be allowing themselves to be politicized if they were to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix again.

The USA war machine is, obviously, the Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. That, too, is of big money and logistical importance to US Mideast hegemony. Same as the huge race sanctioning fee Bernie Ecclestone and F1 is important to their bottom line. By last report, F1 charged over $40 million as the sanctioning fee for the Bahrain race, which is far more lucrative a piece of income than many of the traditional grand prix in Europe and elsewhere. It is raw greed.

So, after canceling the 2011 race under duress, and showcasing the civil liberty atrocities of the Khalifas and their regime in 2012, there has been a lot of progress, right? There is so little mention of strife now that it must be better, right?


Sure Bernie Ecclestone put some lip gloss on the money pig:

Formula One has long-insisted this is none of its business. “We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run,” Bernie Ecclestone pointed out two years ago. The damning Amnesty report, however, was preceded by another announcement with considerably less fanfare. In it the group Americans for Democracy on Human Rights in Bahrain said that it had concluded an agreement with F1 that the sport would begin a policy of analysing the human rights impact it might have on host nations. “Formula One Group has committed to taking a number of further steps to strengthen its processes in relation to human rights,” it read.

But there is the Amnesty report, and as laid out in the Guardian article from yesterday linked above, it is not pretty. The same denial of speech and liberty, not to mention brutal oppression still maintains in Bahrain.

Worse yet, it is clear that the presence of Formula One in Bahrain doesn’t just ignore the brutal problems, it is a significant cause of them:

He does not believe this was an isolated event. “Many journalists come to cover F1 and maybe that’s why they arrested my father,” he says, adding that it was part of a wider crackdown that has occurred in areas where there are regular protests. “If you go to the villages, you will see them surrounded by police, any gathering of six or seven people chanting will be attacked with tear gas or Kevlar bullets or birdshot; the government are not allowing any protests to happen there.”

While there are human rights issues in other countries the sport visits, the activists claim that, unlike in China for example, it is Formula One’s very presence in Bahrain that makes the situation worse. Maryam al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights who is living in Denmark having been sentenced to one year in prison in absentia for allegedly assaulting a police officer, describes the reforms since 2011 as both a smokescreen and a whitewash.

“The problem is that the F1 isn’t just being used as part of that whitewash, the F1 actually causes human rights violations in Bahrain,” she says. “Right before the race we have the government going on an arrest spree to try and prevent protest. We have protesters cracked down on during the F1 and the violence that is used is usually more than what we see for the rest of the year. F1 causes human rights violations and for that reason it should not come to Bahrain.”

That would be exactly consistent with reports from the ground in Bahrain in 2012. Nothing has changed. And nothing will change so long as powerful entities like Formula One and the US Government will blindly sanction such oppression to further their own interests.

As to the race itself, practice was as expected with the Mercedes and Ferraris leading the rest of the pack. Qualifying just concluded, however, and there was a bit of a shakeup at the top. Lewis Hamilton took his fourth pole to open the season, but Vettel took P2 followed by Rosberg and Raikkonen in the second row. No front row lockout for Mercedes as they have become expected to lately. The rest of the top 10 in order are Bottas, Massa, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Grosjean.

Will the Ferrari and Williams cars have anything for Hamilton and Rosberg in the actual race? We shall see, but they are getting ever closer.

Also, baseball has started the regular season, and the Tigers and Royals look awesome so far; the Giants not so much. The NBA playoffs are starting and the NFL draft is nearly upon us.

Consider this a full Trash Talk and discuss anything you wish. And don’t be a dick like Lewis Hamilton and spray champagne into unsuspecting girl’s eardrums.

32 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    I’m sorry. I must have missed the part of this post where you give us an analysis of the civil suit just filed against Rapeis Winston.

  2. P J Evans says:

    The Jints seem to have hit the June Swoon a bit early this year. (But then just about everything in CA is a month or so earlier than usual, due to lack of winter.)

  3. What Constitution? says:

    And in feel good/upbeat/gee whiz/soon-to-be-if-not-already-too-boring-to-acknowledge sports news, Mike Trout is now the youngest MLB player to reach 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases. I’m thinking we gotta hear about him knocking over a liquor store soon or he’ll drop completely off the radar.

    • bmaz says:

      I saw that, pretty impressive young man. Maybe he can hang out with Kings hockey player Jaret Stoll to get some street creed – easier than knocking off a liquor store.

      • bloopie2 says:

        Or hang out with Johnny Football – he’s out of rehab, you know. I’ll tell you, it sure is great to have such highly accomplished people that we can knock down for being human – makes me feel a lot better about myself.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    Have there been any safety improvements since Japan? I’d think a shoulder area, outside a barrier wall, where cranes could park while they reach over the wall and pick up disabled cars, would be rather simple to implement; doesn’t have to be racing grade pavement. Typical highway construction zones are well separated from traffic; why not in F1?

  5. bloopie2 says:

    No excuse for F1 being in Bahrain. Is there anyone involved with the sport, who is so desperate for money that they need to be at that venue? If not, it’s boycott time, for sure.
    Of course, the US isn’t so great at human rights, either – witness its presence in Bahrain! Should the US be boycotted, also?

  6. JohnT says:

    The Giants?

    Well they do lead the league horse handling ;-)

    And, in the everybody stand around and watch one guy dribble the ball for 20 seconds league. I hope the Dubs (Warriors) win.

    My team is in the lottery again but they did beat the hated Lakers twice in the last week (woot!!!) But anyway one of their rookies has the greatest knickname since Mean Joe Green

    Introducing Sauce Castillo

  7. Jim White says:

    Holy crap. What other evidence do we need that there is absolutely nothing to do in Ohio than 99,000 people showing up for the spring game in Columbus? Best I can figure, the fans realize it’s the last chance to celebrate their fluke national championship before the next Meyer Meltdown.

  8. ArizonaBumblebee says:

    The reason western powers refuse to apply pressure on Bahrain’s regime to improve its human rights record can be summed up in one word: Iran. The Bahrain royal family is Sunni, and the people they rule are predominantly Shia. I realized long ago that you can’t ignore the Iran connection to any problem in the Middle East. Virtually every dispute, revolution, revolt, or repression seems to have an Iranian component to it. This is a factor in the unrest in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen and was also a factor in Pakistan’s recent refusal to send troops to Saudi Arabia to fight in Yemen since Shia soldiers represent a significant component of Pakistani troops.

    All the American talk about freedom and democracy in the region is BS. If Bahrain were to become more democratic and responsive to its citizens, it would create the potential for a Shia crescent reaching from Yemen in the south to Bahrain in the north and touching on two critical sea chokepoints. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the potential it would create for unrest and terrorist activity in the oil fields of eastern Saudi Arabia where there is a significant Shia minority.

    Interestingly, there is another factor at play in the region which isn’t getting much attention but should. The government in Pakistan is presently trying to distance itself from Saudi financial support while simultaneously developing closer relationships with Russia and China. Just today, I read that Russia will loan Pakistan $2 billion for an LNG pipeline from Lahore to the port in Karachi. Russia plans to provide the LNG for that pipeline. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to visit Islamabad later this year where he is expected to announce Chinese financial support for an oil pipeline that will connect an existing oil pipeline in Iran to the Pakistani port at Gwandar where the oil will be transferred to ships for transit to China.

    Even more interesting are the changes in Afghan foreign policy since President Ghani assumed office. In recent months he has ended the pro-India orientation of Afghan foreign policy and has reached out to China and Pakistan for closer relations. Chinese companies are already becoming a significant investor in mining and oil exploration inside Afghanistan. Additionally, to show his commitment to this new policy toward China, he recently returned to China militants his forces had captured who were affiliated with Uygher militants seeking an independent Sinkiang. Afghanistan reportedly has even agreed to let China begin training some Afghan troops.

    • bevin says:

      These Gulf regimes all owe their existence to British soldier-diplomats, moistly based in Bombay until 1948. Their rulers were almost invariably chosen from interior tribes, because the British had an orientalist prejudice against urban Arabs who they saw as corrupt because they were commercially oriented and, well, urbane. They therefore favoured the rough, raiders from the Desert.
      The Gulf cities, from Basra to Bahrain, tended be shia, the macho interior tribes, sunni. Under British rule (‘protection’) local forces, such as the Aden Protectorate Levies, were recruited from the desert tribes, their NCOs were from the sub-continent and their officers…. -see soldier diplomats above.
      I hope that you aren’t blaming Iran-in fact Iran, which was shia under the Shah too, has been very conservative in its relations with the sunni ruled Gulf states. It has taken a lot of provocation to get them to protest. And they are totally in the right: the shia of the Gulf have been treated disgraceful by the kleptocracies such as the Saud and Khalifa rackets.

      Regarding Mr Trout-Toronto, famous for its inept drafting had the chance to sign him. Luckily for him they didn’t-for some reason the Jays hate outfielders in their system. Which is another reason why the Tigers, who stole Anthony Gose-the next Ricky Henderson- last winter. Good luck in the Central Division, Anthony- some of us loved you!!

      • ArizonaBumblebee says:

        I am not taking sides on the Sunni/Shia divide. My point is that it is inconceivable that the Saudis would ever assent to a Shia-ruled Bahrain. On the contrary, they almost certainly would believe that Bahrain ruled by the Shia majority would be an existential threat to their own regime (which it probably would be). And that doesn’t even take into consideration the vital interest that the United States has in maintaining a Sunni royal family in power in Bahrain so that it can continue to use its port facilities. Actually, I think that we might agree that Iran is in many ways one of the most stable and democratic regime in the Middle East, which is anathema to most neocons.

        • bevin says:

          Yes, the Sauds would object to Bahrain being run by shi’ites who constitute the great majority of the population but their objection is as much to the idea of democracy as to the sectarian divide. They object to any neighbouring country becoming democratic, they care little what creed its people espouse. And in this they are consistently supported by the USA which shares their distaste for anything approaching popular rule in the Arab world.

  9. bevin says:

    Which is another reason why the Tigers, who stole Anthony Gose-the next Ricky Henderson- last winter are doing so well.
    Good luck in the Central Division, Anthony- some of us loved you!!

  10. bloopie2 says:

    Were the US to pull out militarily, would the place go bonkers? More so than it is now? How would it end up? Would there be any stability? Would there be a free flow of oil (the world does depend on that, of course)?

    • bevin says:

      No. The actual US military presence is both recent and superficial and a cause of instability rather than otherwise.
      What the US is doing, by using its power to prop up the Sauds and their satellites, is completely unsustainable. The revolution in Arabia is a ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ matter. And, as that wise man Nasrallah recently pointed out, the war against Yemen begins the countdown to the end of the house of Saud.

      • bmaz says:

        Not sure that the 5th fleet is superficial given the situation in the middle east. But its presence certainly does create instability and resentment. It also tremendously helps prop up and legitimize the dreadful House of Khalifa. As does the Grand Prix.

  11. Bay State Librul says:

    Thanks for opening up the channels to Trash Talk.


    Where’s the NFL Report on Deflategate?

    Do the Pats need an apology from all those bastids who vilified Brady and Company?
    Not to worry…. mark down April 23rd when The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will be honored by Barry. Count on Belichick for a few terse remarks.


    Roger Clemens ended his playing career with a 354-185 record. You can now make that 186 losses, when the lying sack of shit lost his defamation suit in March 2015. After seven long years, McNamee’s lawyers through cold water on Rusty and his Texas gang of legal manipulators. Thank God for the Federal Court of New York who saw Clemens, as the bully
    he truly is.


    • bmaz says:

      Uh, no. Clemens did not lose. The case was settled, with the entire settlement paid by the Rocket’s insurance carrier. Which means it was not that huge on a defamation case.

      • scribe says:

        Realistically, I never saw Clemens as having much of a chance of winning a defamation suit, let alone one in the posture (involving testimony or quasi-testimonial statements alleged to be defamatory) of this case. He was and is a “public figure” and a voluntary one at that, and that results in his having an almost-insurmountable mountain to climb to win a defamation suit. I viewed his suing McNamee as motivated by 3 things: (1) the desire to use civil discovery to suss out anything out there that could inculpate Clemens, (2) a desire to punish McNamee through litigating him (and his inferior financial resources), and (3) a massive athlete’s ego that could not brook the idea of being contradicted, let alone accused of anything. Even in the unlikely event he won a defamation suit, he would never have gotten his reputation back. McNamee’s mud would stick to him forever.
        None of the motivations I see (and saw) were appropriate reasons to sue, save perhaps using civil discovery to find out what else was out there.

        • bmaz says:

          McNamee sued Clemens. I think clemens sued first in another cause number, but that case was dismissed early, like in 2009 or 2010. And, yes, I think Clemens was just using parallel proceedings on him at the time, including for discovery.

      • Bay State Librul says:

        No offense but that is hooey. We know your game, and the gig is up. His lawyers recorded
        a “blown save” when the Judge said the e-mails were not protected under privilege

        “Clemens and his legal team have been called on the carpet by the federal judge hearing McNamee’s defamation case. Clemens has stalled and delayed, apparently in an effort to avoid turning over hundreds of emails between him and his advisors in the days following the release of the Mitchell Report. It was then that the idea to come out with a coordinated P.R. campaign in which Clemens denied drug use, trashed McNamee as a liar and a criminal and portrayed himself as the best pitcher and biggest victim in baseball history.”
        The insurance companies are no dummies they know if he took the stand, and he had to answer the e-mails, he would be fried as an imposter, that he is.
        Case closed —— McNamee 1, Roger – 2 (loss and blown save).

        • bmaz says:

          Absolute bullshit. You have no idea what the settlement terms were, and neither do I. But it was clearly at a figure both were more than willing to live with, and that could not have been that large if the carrier is covering it in this kind of case. You may THINK this was some huge case, but it was not. Because Brian McNamee is a scum sucking piece of shit, in my and many others opinion, and a jury would not like him. Most importantly, his actual provable damages looked to be for absolute shit, McNamee was already known as a liar, perjurer and snitch throughout baseball, the sporting press and the legal community aware of the facts. He was NOT going to get any windfall from a jury verdict, and I highly doubt he did in settlement. You have been dying for some “win” you could crow about against Clemens because of personal animosity. If you think the emails thing was such a huge deal, fine take your “win”. Brian McNamee is a snitch and a stooge, and he makes Clemens look like a prince of a man.

          • Bay State Librul says:

            If you are talking strictly money, the big winner is Rusty and friends, with a payout in the
            millions. Roger’s piggy bank takes a hit in the millions — multiply seven years, with hours and hours at a colossal billable rate, and the administrative cost to provide the nasty e-mails.

            According to some, there were two insurance policies valued some say at $500K each.

            Anywhichway, Roger is a stupid man. All he needed to do was come clean like Pettite.

            Instead, he chose to be an arrogant prick. What a loser, even though you continually defend the guy.

            • bmaz says:

              Maybe he is innocent and McNamee is just a lying asshole. Frankly, if you know how cravenly McNamee acted in other cases, the odds are just as good for that as Clemens being a big doper. I don’t know, and I appreciate Clemens and Bonds standing up to a creep like Jeff Novitsky, a lying ass self glorifying snitch like McNamee and a putrid hit job like the Selig/Mitchell report. Clemens and Bonds are heroes in my eyes.

              • Bay State Librul says:

                The crime of BMAZing occurs when a person sends a communication to someone else in an attempt to convince the recipient that he is always right.

                I never said Mac was the salt of the earth. He could have taken the hit for Clemens like
                Bond’s trainer. He chose to come clean to avoid a jail sentence. When he opted out, Clemen’s vengeance went viral and he destroyed Brian through an orchestrated public relations witch hunt. It took seven long years but justice prevailed.

                When did you lose your “right from wrong” soul


                To hold Clemens and Bonds up as heroes is way off the mark.


                Next, you might say that Lance Armstrong is a hero, or even worse that Scooter is a hero since he covered up for Cheney………………

  12. scribe says:

    This Tebow-in-Philly thing is going to be fun to watch. He has never had to deal with fans who boo because they care.

  13. bmaz says:

    I was wondering who might show up to talk Tebow.
    Sadly, only Scribe understands the awesomeness of the moment. Cause this is gonna be fun watching Tebow run the Chip Kelly offense!

  14. chetnolian says:

    You make me quite embarrassed to have watched it on TV, bmaz, and of course you are right. Interesting race though.

    • bmaz says:

      Hey there!!
      Yeah, I watched it too. It is funny that the announcers kept cackling about what a beautiful circuit Sakhir is. To me, at least, the course itself is garbage and fairly ugly. The appurtenant buildings and facilities may be great, but if so it doesn’t come across on the TV feed. I just do not get the love of these new fangled cookie cutter tracks.

  15. Peterr says:

    Why is F1 in Bahrain?

    To make FIFA’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar look like the minor leagues.

    Bernie E. takes a back seat to no one, not even Sepp Blatter.

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