Former motor racing chief Max Mosley added his voice on Sunday to those opposed to Formula One racing in Bahrain this season, warning that the sport would pay a heavy price for the decision.
The sport’s governing body, that the Briton headed until 2009, announced on Friday that the country’s Grand Prix, scheduled for March but postponed amid a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, would be reinstated for October 30.
The decision, sought by the country’s rulers and also backed by the main opposition party, has been heavily criticised by human rights campaigners and local activists.
“By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened,” the ex International Automobile Federation (FIA) president wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. “It becomes one of the Bahrain government’s instruments of repression.”
“The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear.”
Mosley argued that while it was “not the function of a sporting body to seek to dictate to governments what they can and cannot do” it could not afford to be used for political purposes.
“We will be told that holding the Grand Prix in October will show that, once again, Bahrain is a happy, peaceful country. So why is it wrong for Formula One to go along with this?,” he asked.
“Why is this different to running an event in any number of countries where people are oppressed, kept in poverty, held without trial and mistreated (or worse) in prison?
“Surely the line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions,” he continued.
“If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If F1 allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime’s guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters.”
Webber raises Bahrain GP doubts
Australian Mark Webber has spoken out against Formula One’s controversial decision to race in Bahrain this season and said he did not expect the grand prix to happen.
“Even though a decision has been made, I'll be highly surprised if the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead this year," the Red Bull driver said on his website after the controversial decision to reschedule the race.