When Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone speak to the world, they do so as ambassadors for the world of motorsport and Formula 1. As a person who has competed in motorsport, who works in motorsport, and who pays to watch motorsport, I have to say, they do not speak for me.
The incompetence of the FIA and Ecclestone in dragging Formula 1 into the turmoil of Bahrain’s “Pearl Revolution” is inexcusable. For over a year, this tiny island state has been embroiled in a determined struggle between the ruling clan and the majority Shiite population, yet if you listen to Todt, you’ll be told that all is well, even harmonious; “you should come and see for yourself . . “. Well we have.
So how did the FIA get this so very wrong? After all, Todt has made a number of trips to Bahrain since the troubles began.
Is it perhaps because his host was Shaikh Abdulla Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Motor Federation? A man, a prince indeed, who happens more relevantly to also be President of the FIA CIK (International Karting Commission) and a titular member of the FIA’s World Council of Motorsport.
Or is it because his co-host was Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain? The Cambridge-educated, co-owner of Lotus GP (formerly Art GP), the GP2, GP3 and kart team managed by . . . Nicolas Todt.
Or perhaps it was simply that in the presence of senior members of the Bahraini ruling family, who were deemed to be instrumental in getting Todt elected President of the FIA (following the stepping-down by Max Mosley), visiting assets owned by them (the circuit for instance), you’re unlikely to come face to face with any one of the 20% of the population who have actively participated in the protests.
Fortunately, for history’s sake, in an attempt to satisfy growing concern amongst many on the world stage, in March of last year, King Hamad established an international independent commission to inquire into and assess a broad range of incidents reported within his Kingdom. This report was released on 23 November 2011 and affirmed the Bahraini government’s use of systematic torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse on detainees, as well as other human rights violations.
Perhaps next time the FIA send someone on a fact-finding mission, they should suggest they visit Specsavers first.
21st April 2012