Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Don't shoot the messenger, China and Bahrain.

Put the chocolate down, it’s time for the Desperate Despot F1 tour to begin. An all expenses paid, to the top 5 teams, trip through some of the highest profile abusers of human right in the world today.

First up China, with its envious record of imprisoning political and religious protestors, it’s continued occupation of Tibet and ongoing attempts to suppress calls for more personal and democratic choice in this one party state.

After a tedious and very possibly wet race in China, we shall be flying direct to the Royal Kingdom of Bahrain, which is demonstrating to everyone except the FIA delegates that Syria is not the only country that can violently suppress its angry population.

Come and join us for tear gas parties and mass dissident executions.

Well that’s what the world’s media would have you believe. Just like the media storm against going to the 1982 Moscow Olympics after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The South African Rugby and Cricket tours during the Apartied years. And who could possibly forget Jackie “porkie” Browns infamous late refusal to come to my 8th birthday party just because I said she had fat ankles the day before the party.

Events that will forever, live on as still actually happening despite some people getting into a bit of a huff and there being one less present at an eight year olds party.

Freedom has always come from the point of a gun, not from a well timed pass or a fast wheel change. I fully understand why protestors and governments alike latch onto high profile sporting events to get across their message of “Chaps, it’s all okay, they’re terrorist/downtrodden scum” or “ Them bastards drove a tank through my chip shop and shot my four kids it the face”

But most jolly motor racing fans don’t really care about either argument. They probably care more about how much longer Massa will last at Ferrari, than the number of protestors shot on the street of Bahrain this week. Or if Vettel can get his season back on track than how many Chinese citizens were killed because of antiquated and dangerous working practices for western electrical companies.

So these big events give the good guys a chance to talk about just how bad the bad guys are, whilst the bad guys put on shiny suits and talk about happy workers and impending political reforms just as soon as the down trodden scum learn their place.

Which isn’t to say any of its right, you understand. Shooting flag waving protesters armed with nothing more than a sense of injustice, a spray can and a facebook account is as abhorrent as blowing up a police station or burning down a furniture store. Everybody should have the right to determine their own course through life. Choose who they listen to and who they pray too in my opinion.

So should the F1 circus roll into these countries?

 Not going isn’t going to stop any of the bad things happening, it might bring a bit more international pressure to bear, but whilst the likes of Syria openly try to shoot every last citizen left in the country, China will calmly get on with buying up the world and the Bahrain royal family will cling onto power. On the flip side going to China and Bahrain does bring the international media to these countries and the good guys get a chance to be heard for a few days.

But would that not be seen as F1 condoning the actions of these questionable government ?

Well, until Bernie and the FIA delegates returned to Bahrain, was anyone other than the regional media covering the event on the ground?  After the Saudis went in and stamped out the uprising, it all went very quite on the news front as first Libya and then Syria became the new wars of choice for the international news crews.
Once Bernie said “Saddle up lads, we’re going back in”, the protesters were given a voice to say “Hang on, there is another side to this story”.

There is talk of a track invasion after the race by protesters, would they be getting that chance is there was no race. How will the world react if the security forces start gunning them down, or banners are torn down and people dragged out of their seats mid race.

Sport has always provided not just a platform for governments to show how great their country is, but protesters to gain media attention and point out the ugly bit the governments don’t want you to see.

So it’s china first, it’s wet there at the moment and it’s expected to be wet for the race, so Alonso must be favourite, if their new exhaust system is all they claim it is anyway. Pat Fry is talking about the car still being a second off the pace, but in a wet race that doesn’t matter too much.

After whinging like a little girl that he was attacked by Karthikeyan in Malaysia, Vettel has gone very quiet and refused to apologise. The driver steward at the race, Johnny Herbert, said it was all Narains fault for coming back across the line and clipping Vettel before the German had finish passing the HRT. To me it looked like the HRT was trying to avoid the wet grass and Vettel chopped the poor guy.  The Redbull PR machine is been low key these past two weeks, well they would really, there isn’t too much for them to crow about so far. But they have a whole shed load of cash to fix the problem and I expect they’ll be up the front this weekend.

The endless grumbling about Mercedes trick DRS wing continues to rumble on. Charlie Whiting has been asked to clarify once again if it’s legal. No one has actually protested it you understand ... they just want to know how legal it is. Whilst no doubt the bigger teams are working out how to fit one to their car so they can go backwards in the race.

Mercedes meanwhile have said they are going to concentrate on better tire ware rather than get bogged down with qualifying gizmos.

Team Lotus have told Genii Lotus to pay up their title sponsorship money or get lost, so Genii Lotus have left Team Lotus, but the team is still called Lotus and is still painted black and gold. Obviously only selling four cars a month isn’t paying enough to sponsor an F1 team, several WEC teams, supply a dozen Indy car teams with engines and generally ponce about painting everything black and gold and promising the earth.
This has been rumbling on for month now and no one is really surprised the Lopez the owner of Genii Lotus is doing a runner. He always struck me as the all mouth and no trousers kind of team owner, who was there to swan around glad handing the rich punters and selling snake oil to the idiots. See also BMW and Richard Branson.

Williams have been talking up Maldonardo, i don’t know why; i don’t think he has any more money. They seem to think he has potential and will start to deliver any day now ... I think he will continue to hit things and generally deliver poor results in a promising car.

Finally Peter Sauber, fresh from telling anyone that will listen, that Ferrari did not ask him to stop Perez from racing them. Has announced that he’s going to retire at the end of the season, he will be passing the team job onto Monisha Kaltenborn. "Monisha will become the first female F1 team boss in history. She has been with us for 13 years, always in a leading role. I am confident that she will do a very good job." Good luck to her and the team. I think this might be their break out year and the likes of Mercedes and Lotus should be watching over their shoulder.

Right then, that’s rather a lot of words.  So I’ll end it there.

In conclusion, China and Bahrain are both run by bad people, F1 isn’t going to change the world by not turning up. It’s up to you if you want to watch the race and feel bad about it.
China will be as dull as ever, Bahrain if it happens will be as awful as ever too. I do hope the race in Bahrain gets cancelled so I don’t have to waste 2 hours of my life watching cars drive around a dusty waste land as more young men and women get beaten for asking for a better choice.

I would welcome any thought or comments.

Don’t forget to update your predictions before Thursday for China.

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