F1 teams urged to boycott Bahrain Grand Prix again
Human rights groups have urged Formula One teams to consider boycotting the Bahrain Grand Prix in April amid continued political unrest in the Gulf kingdom.
Bahrain’s season-opening race at Sakhir circuit was postponed last March after widespread political unrest in the country and the deaths of a number of pro-reform demonstrators.
Efforts were made to reschedule the race, but the Gulf state was eventually dropped from the 2011 calendar in June after protests from Formula One teams and drivers.
“We will do campaign for….drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal,” said Nabeel Rajab, vice president for Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
“Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn’t take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.”
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said in November he would press ahead with plans to return the race to Bahrain and did not believe the Grand Prix would become a focal point for protesters.
“It's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us,” he said.
Bahrain reportedly paid around $39.2m in hosting fees for last year’s scrapped three-day race, after refusing an offer of a refund from F1’s Jersey-based parent company, Delta Topco.
“They have internal politics and I doubt very much whether they'd use international matters to sort out internal politics,” Ecclestone added.
Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March last year demanding curbs on the power of the ruling Al-Khalifa family and an end to perceived discrimination.