I'm starting this thread because I am yet to find a sensible discussion on the pros and cons of the Bahrain GP going ahead, and I'm interested to hear the view of the Autocar forumers. Most of the comments on the web have been fiercely anti-Bahrain, but the arguments never seem to be cogent, and anyone in favour of the race is roundly abused for being a government/capitalist puppet or conspirator.
I, unlike most of the Twitterverse and self-appointed moral crusaders, am in favour of the event being held. I have no idea how representative the footage coming out of Bahrain is, and what the majority feeling in Bahrain about the race is, because the people pushing the footage and reports are all publicly against the race.
As far as I can see, there are two reasons for opposing the race: 1) safety and 2) political. However, the arguments being thrown around seem to merge the two into a general anti-Bahrain opinion with selected "facts" being cited to support the view and logical thought processes being bent to suit the argument.
If you are opposed to the race on the grounds of safety, then the problem is not the government - it's the protestors who are threatening to disrupt the race or cause harm to anyone who is part of it. Those making those threats are nothing more than terrorists and it surprises me that no-one has bothered to use that word to describe them, given how freely the word is bandied about these days. Safety concerns are entirely understandable, but I don't really know how real the threat is. Anyone concerned about their safety is justified in not going.
If you are opposed to the race on the grounds of the government's treatment of its people, then you are against the government and siding with the opposition. This is a purely political position, rather than a sporting or safety position.
The Bahrain GP has been on the calendar since 2004, with the exception of last year. It is not a new event that has been created to divert attention from problems in Bahrain or give a false impression that all is well, it has been on the calendar for nine years now, and has a contract until 2016 (I believe, but am not sure). Arguing that holding a Grand Prix is an indication that the FIA is allowing the race to be used by the government for political purposes may be true to a degree, but cancelling the event due to political pressure from opposition activists is just as much - if not a lot more - of a political decision. If Bahrain was trying to hold a race for the first time, it would be different. Continuing an annual event with an ongoing contract is a different thing.
Those who argue that it is inappropriate to race in Bahrain because of the behaviour of the government are conveniently ignoring the fact that other governments treat their citizens (and other countries' citizens) in much the same way as Bahrain does, but are better at keeping it quiet. I find it ironic that this argument is going on in the F1 paddock in China, where the government has a long and infamous history of brutality against its own people, yet no-one is suggesting we boycott China. No-one seems to have a problem with Russia getting a race from 2014 onwards. The Americans have a very questionable history on human rights in recent years, the Australian government has behaved badly towards its indigenous population for as long as white people have been there and the British have not been a shining light for all the world either. Turkey has all sorts of civil problems and deadly fighting, yet its race only fell over due to lack of interest rather than boycotting.
I hope and trust that all goes well next weekend, and I take issue with those who proclaim that if anyone comes to harm that it will be on Jean Todt's head. That is like saying it's your fault a criminal mugged you when you were walking down a dark street. No individual is going to lose their job if they choose not to go to Bahrain because they fear for their safety, and if F1 starts cancelling races due to the threats of terrorism then we are asking for more trouble in the future.
I look forward to sensible debate, and hope the usual childishness can be set aside for once.