Formula 1’s return to Bahrain “will eventually cost Formula 1 dear,” Max Mosley says in an opinion piece in the Telegraph.

The former president of the FIA makes it very clear in a reasoned piece that admits sports sometimes must be in questionable areas, but that a sport’s presence can have positive effects.

Bahrain is different, Mosley argues:

If sport has a political function, it is in drawing together groups and factions, even countries, which are otherwise at loggerheads.

Motor sport has many examples of this: a World Championship rally criss-crossing the border in Ireland with the support of both communities; rallies in the Lebanon producing a temporary truce during the civil war; a similar story a few years ago in the Balkans; there is even an Israeli presence in the Middle-East Rally Championship although, for understandable reasons, it is not obvious.

With this background, it will be claimed that reinstating the Formula One race in Bahrain is beneficial. It will bring the Shia and Sunni communities together, uniting the warring factions as part of a process of reconciliation.


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.

If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula One 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.

It is worth remembering that the trouble in Bahrain began with peaceful protest. The crowds were not seeking the removal of the ruling family, merely a move towards democracy and rights for the Shia majority comparable to those enjoyed by the Sunni elite.

These modest demands were soon met with brutal repression. Demonstrators were shot dead. Protesters were imprisoned and, according to credible reports, hideously mistreated, even tortured and killed.


Having carried out these horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That’s where the Grand Prix comes in. By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.

By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. 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.

I don’t know that I have much to add. I agree, and we all know we should panic when we find ourselves agreeing with Max. Is he wrong, though?

  • Becquer

    I’m not sure he’s wrong. But it would’ve been nice had he understood the political function of F1 in this way while he was president of the FIA. It also doesn’t help that he’s the son of a fascist and, to my knowledge, hasn’t really denounced his father’s ideology, instead, merely melding into his brand of “conservatism” back in the ’80s. Max needs to work for his credibility. Maybe this helps, but I still don’t think he understands that.

  • gsprings

    pretty sensible statement from max there,i can’t argue with it

  • To the point that he oversaw the regulatory body as it managed F1’s move into these nations, it is a clear indication that the FIA had little or no pull on where FOM was taking F1 in the 2000’s. If it did and Max felt this way, little doubt we’d had heard more rumblings in the press about the fraction between the FIA and FOM on the future of F1.

  • AbeFroman

    Well, if anyone knows how to jeopardize F1’s future, it’s Mosley.

    I don’t care what he says anymore. I’d like him to go away. He would have been in a position to stop the sports expansion into other “oppressive countries” himself – China, Singapore, UAE, Bahrain, etc. Did he do it? No.

    He’s looking to see his name in the papers again. That’s it.

  • Williams4Ever

    One indicator of F1 being in Deep $%&T is – Things Max Mosley says start making sense….

  • The harsh reality, like it or not, is that Max is a very intelligent guy and a heck of a politician. I have not always agreed with him and was certainly done with him during Spank-gate but he is a smooth character and wasn’t about to miss this opportunity to slate Todt and his decision making process. Just to say that the FIA would be in bette rhands if he were still there.

  • F1 Kitteh

    What does Flabbio have to say?

  • Jules

    A man with morals, hard to find. *snicker*. Are you kidding me? F1 is a sport, leave the politics to the politicians. I think the innocent people of this country deserve a bit of entertainment, no? Might as well be brutalizing them? Crawl back in your hole Mosley. And stay there. Unbelievable.

  • UAN

    just to play devil’s advocate, all politics is a gamble of sorts, and so too is business. I’d say the odds of holding the Bahrain GP this year costing F1 in the long term are slim (especially in money terms which is the bottom line), and any costs that do happen would be offset by the gains of holding it. It reminds me of DC’s commentary during Monaco on the BBC – “position is king, and more important than anything else”. Holding the race is the stronger position.

    Don’t forget, in March 2008, there was a protest in Tibet that was brutally suppressed by the Chinese government and they still had held the Olympics there. And F1 raced in Shanghai that year–was there any handwringing in F1 at that time?

    Devil’s advocate position number 2: Canceling the GP could cost F1 in the future. I’m making this up, but a dissident group could try to make a statement against their government by targeting their countries GP in the hopes of getting it canceled.

    DA Number 3 (with a needed clarification from Mr. Mosley): Is he suggesting Bahrain be removed from the F1 calendar completely? This year and next and so forth? What’s the difference between running Bahrain in at the end of October vs. next March? Does he think F1 gets some sort of reset politically by running the GP in 2012? That’s no different than rescheduling it for this year: business as usual. Does he think the people against the oppression in Bahrain will think F1 is principled for waiting to kick off next season in Bahrain? (maybe those in the West I suppose).

  • Now that FIA has put the race again in the calendar, I wonder if anything has changed since last year and it seem not. What I always tried to understand in Mosley opinion, is why repressions in Bahrain is so different from those in China.