The continuing instability in Bahrain is putting the nation’s Grand Prix in jeopardy.
Pro-democracy demonstrations that started at the height of the Arab Spring in February 2011 are still going on, and are still being put down by the ruling Sunni majority regime. At least 35 people were killed in the protests last year.
The ongoing civil unrest is why a group of legislators in the United Kingdom want the 2012 Formula One season, which gets underway in Australia in March, to miss out Bahrain. The race in Bahrain is scheduled for April 22, and would be the fourth of the season.
The race was cancelled last year.
The group, members of the House of Lords, wrote to the Times expressing their view on the issue.
"We do not believe the time is right to return to Bahrain,” they wrote. “Given the current dire situation, with daily street protests and the deaths of more civilians, we do not believe that the time is right for Formula 1 to return to Bahrain”
The Bahraini government is trying to improve its international reputation by commissioning an independent study into the uprising and the regime’s response.
The peers, however, weren’t impressed.
"It was hoped that the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry would provide a starting point for political reform,” they wrote. “However, two months on we see an entrenchment of the positions of both sides which risks letting more extreme voices dictate the progress of the conflict.”
The boss of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, said last month in an interview with Austrian media that the race should go ahead.
“Everyone talks a lot about this part of the world, but Bahrain is the country in the region where there are the fewest problems,” said the Englishman.
Ecclestone has presided over a policy of taking the sport from its European heartlands into Asia and elsewhere. Formula One teams, meanwhile, have said that they will be guided by Ecclestone and the sport’s governing body.
“We enter a championship run by the FIA and we need to trust in their decision,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “They have a closer overview than we do, I know they have been looking at it.”
I'll keep you posted if there are any developments. In the meantime, it's another unfortunate case of politics and sport colliding, as I talked about last week.