Despite what money-hungry promoters try to tell us, sport is political, and Formula 1 missed a PR coup this weekend over its disastrous mismanagement of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Boring. A rich man’s sport. Overly regulated. These are the usual criticisms levelled at Formula 1. After the weekend, we can add “a wanton disregard for human rights” to that list. As the Gulf state’s internal turmoil – centred around citizens’ demands for democracy and increased human rights – raged outside the racetrack, the Bahrain Grand Prix went ahead as planned. Sebastien Vettel won… not that anybody seems to care.
At least one protester was killed during the protests, and F1 managers – never ones to cover themselves in glory – produced a string of remarkable statements that seemed to suggest that they either hadn’t foreseen problems; or worse, failed to see them as they were in progress.
After debating whether to hold the race at all, the powers that be look to have decided that, despite the security and moral issues, they would rather turn a blind eye and cash a large check from the Bank of Bahrain. It is not sport’s primary job to be a moral compass, but it is definitely a significant, secondary concern – and Formula 1 is morally poorer as a result of its decision.
In terms of cold-hearted finance, staging the race may well have filled the coffers of the world’s premier motor sport, at least in the short term. But it has generated the overwhelming stench of a cash-is-king culture that has the distinct possibility of turning off many fans – and hurting the sport’s bank balance in the long term.
Cancelling the race due to “safety concerns” would have been acceptable to those opposed to it, and would probably have given the Royal Family enough of a smokescreen for them to pretend that they weren’t being hung out to dry.
As it is, F1’s “let them eat cake” moment has left a bitter taste in the mouth.
Management ups and downs
For no other reason than guiding his Reading team to winning Europe’s most competitive league – The Championship. Enough said.
A season to forget for Wolves. After firing Mick McCarthy, the club replaced him with his assistant Terry Cooper who, despite being a congenial chap, had seemingly no new ideas, leaving him out of his managerial depth for such a tough assignment.