There’s been a lot of talk about this being a strong possibility throughout the interwebs in recent weeks, and we should give a loud shoutout to Formula1Blog.com for really leading the discussion and analysis of the potential implications. Today, the official word came down from Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, that the season opening grand prix at the Bahrain International Circuit has been canceled due to the explosion of civil unrest. There had always been protests in Bahrain as the Shi’a felt that their rights and concerns were not being honored by Sunni-dominated government, but the never with the level of violence seen in recent weeks. The situation had grown so tense in the small kingdom that both the US and UK issued travel advisories, warning strongly against going to Bahrain and that any US or UK citizens still within the country should vacate. With that in mind, the Bahrain GP has been cancelled, or at least postponed.
“At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain.
“Although Bernie Ecclestone had graciously made clear that a decision on the race was entirely Bahrain’s to make and was not yet required, we felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting of Bahrain’s Formula One race to a later date.
“I would like to extend my personal gratitude to Bernie Ecclestone for his support and understanding.
“After the events of the past week, our nation’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.” — Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, from Autoweek’s article Bahrain GP Canceled.
There’s a slight possibility that the race could be held later in the season, perhaps after the race at Abu Dhabi. Regardless, its sad to see politics intrude upon motorsport, but this isn’t the first time that races have been canceled for political reasons, and sadly it won’t be the last. The question is, “What now, and what are the consequences of this termination?” Sponsorship is, of course, priced partly on the number of opportunities a company will have for the exposure of their product and treating clients to the hospitality of a race weekend. In such an important commercial center as Bahrain, the latter has to be a serious concern and one wonders if there won’t be legal repercussions of this decision.
One thing of note, is that Bernie Ecclestone declined to make the decision himself and instead handed that responsibility to His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince. As we ALL should know by now, Mr. Ecclestone does nothing that isn’t precisely calculated. I suspect that there was a legal reason why he had elected not to make the decision himself. While many are happy that the Australian GP will now open the 2011 Formula 1 season, I can’t help but feel trepidation about the legal storm that is to come. I’ll not defend the quality of the Bahrain GP; let’s face it, it’s not a circuit that lends itself to exciting racing, but neither am I happy about its removal from the calendar by these present circumstances.
What are your thoughts on what happens to the Bahrain GP from here? Good decision? Bad decision? Should they reschedule later in the year, or simply allow it to be absent from this year’s championship? I certainly have no expertise regarding the legal ins-and-outs of the Concord Agreement and would welcome insight from any who would be willing to share it.