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Ex-pat in Bahrain

A view and written by my Father, an ex-pat in Bahrain:

Well it happened! What a great event put on at the Bahrain International Circuit – a true carnival of motor sport. Even a few spots of rain in the desert did not spoil this parade! I half expected Vettel to perform well – much like he did here two years ago before mechanical failure ended his day prematurely. He turned in a truly accomplished performance from the moment the red lights went out to taking the chequered flag.

For those interested in the support card; a day of contrasting fortunes Siedler in the Porsche Super cup completed an excellent double podium (3-1) as did Rene Rast (1-3). A solid second from Sean Edwards in race one though became 14th after an incident into turn one left him with a punctured rear right and with no Safety Car to bunch the field back up his day was over almost as soon as it had started! At least there is a promising season ahead.

The WGA Supercars ME Championship an Australian copy – produced its own excitement. With some excellent driving, there was a double victory for Batelco Racing Team driver Ramez Azzam. Over the two days, the final rounds of the class took place with championships victory for Alban Varutti. This contrasted with a particularly spectacular example of out-braking at end of Oasis straight, resulting in Nasser Al Alawi sliding across the outfield into the sand trap. His subsequent punching of the vehicle’s roof in frustration was brilliantly caught by some great camera work.
Mention also of GP2 and double victory for DAMS driver Davide Valsecchi. Two terrific drives with spectacular overtaking move on turn one of the last lap in race two, to gain top spot. Fabio Leimar had looked certain to win the second race but by ignoring waved yellow flags incurred a drive through penalty dropping him to 12th.

So as the strains of The Toreador’s March by Bizet fade away who else are left as the real winners and are there any genuine losers?

A winner was Lotus. Raikkonen and Grosjean were the surprise package and a welcome addition to the podium committee along with Vettel and Christian Horner for Red Bull Racing.

Certainly a firm loser was McLaren – two poor pits stops for Hamilton and finally an exhaust failure for Button. Ferrari would have wished for better – as did their drivers both running out of fuel on the slowdown lap the cars being carried in on recovery trucks.

Also a firm loser is the credibility of the western news media who, throughout the weekend, have seen fit to link the GP event with political unrest – even after the opposition openly stated it was because of the GP that they were stepping up their protests to sucker in world attention. Just why Channel 4 believed it correct to enter the country on grand prix tourist visas and then start interviewing protesters is difficult to imagine. Do they not realise that this abuse was unlawful and causes problems for all British workers on the island – ask my wife who was delayed by 45 minutes due to additional security checks after the last batch of activists came in. Perhaps they should be asking why they were refused accreditation in the first place.

As to all the tanks and barbed wire reported as being along the highway to the circuit, plus the ring of steel around the BIC this was complete fabrication. During the three days travelling to and from the circuit I did not see any tanks – yes quite a few police vehicles and three APV’s parked on the circuit perimeter but no more than you would expect and no more security level than a visit to Wembley Stadium.

Sport for the many thousands of fans on Bahrain went ahead without incident. Perhaps it is worth remembering that although Shia hold majority representation, in fact half of the Bahrain population is ex-pat and, along with guests, were clearly in evidence at the Circuit.

Economically the country gained $2-400,000 seems the ball park range. The impact though was best seen in the group of stadium attendants laughing and giving themselves a round of applause after completing their three day stint. Common purpose of a different kind with goals achieved. I am sure they did not earn a lot but a lot better than nothing at all!

All of those here in Bahrain are neither offering judgement on the government nor judging the level of violence which the opposition engaged in. Media seemed content to give them credibility for lobbing half-heartedly Molotov cocktails to incite police? If someone sets out to make a bomb let alone throw it so as to put me in fear, I do not stand and think whether this is even remotely related to a Grand Prix?

Maybe there is success for the moderates in government as King Hamad has reaffirmed his commitment to reform. Bernie Ecclestone’s interview on Press day was direct and the Crown Prince has again gained credibility in trying to navigate the path to peace. Those who relate to Ireland know this will be long. David Cameron in support of the process showed knowledge and understanding in complete contrast to the ignorance should by some Labour MP’s in the UK.

The opposition had their voice heard – they were winners of sort but the violence was not needed. Hopefully both sides can now start talking meaningfully.

But the real success is the fact the event went ahead. The Crown Prince wanted the race to be for the greater good. What the western world does not understand is the bloodbath which has been avoided by the race taking place. It never is good to empower extremism yet it is equally good the ruling monarchy understand not only the significant internal problem but that the eyes of the world have been turned on them. What is needed is increase in pace of reform and to achieve this requires peaceful engagement by all sides.

Did FIA breach its own objectives in taking on the event? Certainly sectors of the media have taken the opportunity to decry F1 as a gaudy spectacle and set it up as supporting a despotic regime. In the latter they failed and contracting with Bahrain was no different to contracting with places such as China and Brazil. Being more pragmatic sport has won – there will now be a vacuum, a chance to draw breath and seek a way to peace. If supporting this race pushes that a small way I for one will be proud to have been part of such a well organised event.

  1. roewedge
    April 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    You really need to stop dropping this line….

    “In the latter they failed and contracting with Bahrain was no different to contracting with places such as China and Brazil.”

    Yes it is. In this case the FIA decide to break their own statutes and rules in order to have the race go ahead. In this case they decided to let Bahrain use F1 as a political tool. If Bahrain was really concerned with fair media attention then they would not have such harsh restrictions.

    In the case of China or Brazil F1 does not hold any potential to be a significant political tool. There is a huge difference and for people to call this a victory is so short sighted.

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