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5 live F1 in Bahrain: UNIF1ED...One nation in celebration?

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Jennie Gow | 17:22 UK time, Tuesday, 24 April 2012

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa Crown Prince of Bahrain.

I left China with certain amount of trepidation as to what we would find when we got to Bahrain. The political situation in the country was obviously very unstable, but as a sports journalist and part of the travelling F1 contingent it’s not my job to pass opinion on a complex subject that I am only partially informed on. There are many people, especially in the British media, who have reported on the wider issues in Bahrain, but I will only ever report on things that I see and experience first-hand.

So how was it to work on the Bahrain Grand Prix?


From reading reports before getting to the country it was hard to know what awaited us. On arrival it was clear the terminal was organised well, with arrows directing incoming race personnel to the correct areas. Our visas were checked, stamped and authorised and we collected our bags and headed out into the searing midday sunshine.

One of the first things I saw was a giant billboard advertising the race. It stretched along the whole length of the airport terminal. The slogan 'UNIF1ED…one nation in celebration' clear for all to see. This was repeated on our way to the hotel where one of the buildings was covered with the same logo advertising the Grand Prix.

It's important for me to explain at this point that during my time in Bahrain I never once went looking to incidents that might have been a result of protesting; I made my way from the hotel to the circuit and back again every day and never went into the centre of Manama.

On the way to and from the circuit there was plenty of police presence and as the weekend progressed the numbers grew. There was a small police tank that we passed on one occasion, parked by the side of the road. On the day of the race itself it passed us with lights flashing, heading towards the university.

The first report of any trouble was when I arrived at the circuit on Thursday morning. I spoke to Team Manager Andy Stevenson from Force India and he explained that the team were involved in an incident the night before (now well documented) and they were visibly shaken from the experience.

Team Principal Vijay Mallya was not present at this race so decisions were left to Deputy Team Principle Robert Fernley. He decided that the team's safety and comfort was more important than the second practice session, so they left the paddock ahead the afternoon session. This isn’t something that happens on a regular basis.

Force India and F1 were not targeted directly; it was just a case of their car being in the wrong place at the wrong time. No-one was hurt, and although two members of the team asked to go home as a direct result of the incident, it is important to keep this one event in perspective. Fifteen-hundred personnel and media travel to a Grand Prix weekend and, for the most part, these people saw very little unrest.

Bahrain pits

As for the race itself, standing on the grid was a little nerve-wracking. Just before I went to get my kit a rumour passed through the paddock saying a tweet had suggested an incident would take place while the teams prepared for the race. If that had happened then journalists lucky enough to be in the dream position of being on the starting grid would have been in the middle of any trouble.

It flashed through my mind that this was a fairly exposed place to be - but then I just got on with bringing you the best broadcast I possibly could. If we were to come all this way and go through all the speculation and news headlines then I wanted it to be for a reason. My grid walk passed off without incident and the drivers looked just as relieved as me to let the racing speak for itself.

As we returned from the track this evening it was clear to see protests had taken place. There were scorch marks on the roads and huge barbed wire fences erected around some of the villages. In any country where barbed wire and tanks are used to enforce order, you know there are problems. It has certainly been an education being here but I have to admit I am looking forward to coming home. Whether it was right for this race to happen or not is another question though; and one that I feel is best left to you to decide.

Jennie Gow is 5 live Formula 1's pit lane reporter. You can follow her on Twitter at @jenniegow.

For more reaction from the Chinese Grand Prix, download the Chequered Flag podcast.

BBC Sport's Formula 1 site




  • Comment number 1.

    Allow me to be first to comment on this piece.

    No comment.

  • Comment number 2.

    Formula 1 - zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Jennie, saw you in the Bahrain paddock when you came to interview Pedro and Narain in the HRT hospitality on Thursday.

    Just wanted to point out a small typo - Force India Deputy Principal is Bob Fernley.


  • Comment number 4.

    opting-out and not defending the indefensible is not easy to stomach from a BBC public servant. Still, enjoy the pool, the food, your conscious

  • Comment number 5.

    Well done Jennie for doing a professional job in what must have been difficult circumstances. We all have our own opinions on whether or not F1 should have been in Bahrain. I'm old enough to remember the boycott of F1 in South Africa in the 80's & Soviet Union & USA's tit for tat refusals to compete in the Olympic Games of 1980 & 84. Sports place in politics has long been debated going way back to the England football team competing in Berlin in the 1930's and being made to give the Nazi salute.

    Most sportsman naturally just want to compete and entertain their fans. The onus should not be put on them to make any decision about whether it is right or wrong to be part of any event. I'm pleased taht apart from one isolated incident which thankfully didn't result in any injury of team personnel that everyone has returned safe. Whether Bernie should have put people at risk is another matter. I hope the people of Bahrain come to a peaceful and satisfactory solution without further death or injury.

  • Comment number 6.

    Any reason why this blog was 'inaccessible' until this evening?

    Taking legal advice?

  • Comment number 7.

    No comment

  • Comment number 8.

    Will posted elsewhere about the disappearance. I must say, this has been heavily changed/edited. I reckon my point was proved, but still.

  • Comment number 9.

    Irrespective of whether F1 went to Bahrain or not it was the highest profile sport by far that has been there in a while. Therefore all sides are going to use it as a political tool to try and furthur their respective causes.

    Since the F1 circus left what has been seen in the media? Not very much.

    I think all the people from all the countries would rather not have been there but they had a job to do and a contract to fulfil. They all did very well in difficult circumstances.

  • Comment number 10.

    Carrie: As I said in the other post - the raw version was uploaded, and not the final. All content on the BBC (and indeed in every newspaper, magazine etc) is edited for style and checked for legal compliance as a matter of course.

  • Comment number 11.

    @9 "Since the F1 circus left what has been seen in the media? Not very much."

    You don't have to look all that far, there are other news outlets than the BBC. Hunger striker dying, bomb attacks on police, riot at the funeral of the person killed on the day of the GP.

  • Comment number 12.

    To be honest, I would want Jennie passing comment on the political stuff it not her job and she (I'm assuming) doesn't know enough about it to pass any kind of helpful comment.
    For the same reasons, I wouldn't want a news reporter commenting on who they thought would win the race, not their job and don't know enough to pass any kind of helpful comment.
    Honest enough to admit trepidation and so hasn't ignored the issue. Surely we don't expect everyone who draws a BBC salary to be an expert on every area they pass?
    Does the Test Match Special team comment on forced marriages when in certain parts of the world?
    Does the BBC Bristol correspondant on Bristol City comment on the Bristol mayoral election?
    What about golf correspondants commenting on the US elections?
    Nope, and I'm glad
    (I wander if Bahraini F1 reporters will comment on the MI6 suitcase death during the British gand prix!)

  • Comment number 13.


    I can respect you consider yourself to be a sports journalist and only want to deal with matters relating to your job. Nobody expects you to be a politician.

    However, the situation in Bahrain goes far beyond politics and the F1 circus should never have visited the country.

    The Shia majority in the country have been marginalised for years. They have demonstrated only for what we enjoy each day of our lives in the UK and I don't condemn them for that.

    The Bahrain state has systematically murdered, tortured and threatened rape on anybody seen to protest against the state, whilst very little reform has been achieved since last year.

    Sometimes you simply cannot compartmentalise politics from sport and the ruling family of Bahrain clearly used F1 as a propaganda tool over the weekend, where all participants were used to provide legitimacy to the state and it's actions.

    Imagine if the F1 world championship had existed in the 1930's when Hitler was in power in Germany. Imagine the picture of the Nazi's persecuting the Jews openly and Hitler using the F1 world championship to portray the best of Germany for his propaganda machine. Would this have been acceptable? Is there any difference between that context and the situation in Bahrain?

    Human rights are simply more important than sport, regardless of the money at stake and F1 may come to regret the decision. I'm sure history will look very unkindly on the event and it will forever be a stain on the sports image.

    Put very simply I think the sport defiled itself in pursuit of the wealth of tyrants.

    'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'. Clearly F1 made its choice.

  • Comment number 14.

    @13 So well put.
    @12 Presumably you meant wouldn't want in your first line. So all those lines the sports journalists have written about Hillsborough, or Heysel, or Munich, or Bradford, they should have just stuck to the sport should they? As far as Bahrain is concerned, the fact the sports journos were there is enough to been compelled to write about what they see and feel about the fact.


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