Ecclestone doesn't seem to see the real issue in Bahrain

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2012, 12:00am


Apparently the Bahrain Grand Prix is much like the Brazilian race. Not in terms of the exciting, anti-clockwise Sao Paulo track. Not in terms of the history and heritage of Brazilian motor sport or even the fanaticism of the fans. No, the two are similar only in security terms.

There was much unease in the Shanghai paddock among the teams when the sports governing body confirmed the Middle East race would go ahead. Contracted they are to go to the event, and go they shall - but not without a lot of planning for their own safety. In this, much of it is like their time in Brazil, except that in South America it's to avoid armed robbery, whereas in this instance they are anxious to avoid becoming targets of civil rights protests.

Marussia won't be the only team not to travel to the circuit in team kit. They have been told to stick together, and team principal John Booth revealed: 'The drivers will be taken to and from the track by a chauffeur fully trained in the art of defensive driving, somebody who recognises potentially awkward situations and knows how to avoid them.'

Many have decided to take skeleton crews, cutting out frills such as catering staff for sponsors. Some have had to travel with a few less people anyway.

One Williams catering employee was sacked after refusing to go to Bahrain on moral grounds. Fair play to her, because she obviously grasps something that Bernie Ecclestone can't, and that is that it's not about the security, it's not about the money, it's about the morality of turning up in a place that has a serious human-rights problem.

Ecclestone will argue that sport and politics don't mix, but when a global event such as a Formula One event can confer legitimacy to a regime at loggerheads with its own people then surely he is wrong.

As the circus was racing in China, protesters in Bahrain were still being injured, foreign embassies were being picketed and effigies of Ecclestone were being burnt. That won't change his mind, although he has talked about not renewing Bahrain's contract when it runs out. That won't be because he is persuaded by the arguments, more likely it will be because it's just too much hassle and there are easier opportunities elsewhere.

As for matters on the track, it will be fascinating to see if Mercedes can pick up where they left off in China. They may have racked up lots of wins providing engines for other teams recently, but this was a first win with their own chassis since 1955. A first win for Nico Rosberg is reward for his constant bettering of teammate Michael Schumacher.

Mercedes seem to have pulled off a technical coup which is helping their efforts. They have played clever with the Drag Reduction System on the rear wing. In layman's terms, it has been linked to the front aerodynamics so that the boost the DRS gives when opened is amplified. Other teams have complained that it is illegal, but the powers that be have looked at it more than once and have concluded it's not.

Ross Brawn, the team boss, says it will take a long time for other outfits to respond because what they have done is integral to the car design. Up until last weekend it made a difference to qualifying, where the DRS can stay open for as long as the team like. But in race situations it can be used only sparingly, and the tyre wear on the Mercedes was worrying.

However, in Shanghai it all came together and the question now is whether the team have done enough to be consistent contenders for the season. Whatever happens, it's another example of Brawn's genius.

He helped engineer Ferrari's period of dominance and surprised everyone with a world championship for his own team. After Mercedes bought him out he has had a couple of rebuilding years, but now looks back in the groove.