Opinion: It's not Formula One's job to take a 'political lead'

Demonstrators were protesting in Sitra against the government holding the F1 Grand Prix
Demonstrators were protesting in Sitra against the government holding the F1 Grand Prix last month Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

ITV's sport editor Steve Scott gives his view on the FIA's decision to hold Bahrain's Formula 1 Grand Prix next week.

Nothing is certain of course but it's very likely the Bahrain Grand Prix will pass off without violent incident. At least, it's very likely if there is a flashpoint, the outside world will not witness it. The Bahraini regime will make sure of that. Of course the race is potentially a target for protest, even terrorism but Formula 1 can not be blamed for honouring its contract.

More than that, Formula 1 cannot be blamed for side stepping a moral judgement and filling a vacuum left by Western governments. That is not their job, for the sport's governing body safety, and only safety, can be their concern.

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain leads a group of cars in the early stages of the Bahrain F1, 2010
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain leads a group of cars in the early stages of the Bahrain F1, 2010 Credit: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

Of course the decision is complicated, though not compromised, by the fact that Bahrain invests heavily in F1 and next weekend's GP is one of the most lucrative on the calendar. But imagine the hypocrisy of taking a decision to pull out of Bahrain on human rights grounds on the eve of a race in China.

Sport should of course have a conscience at all times but it can not take a political lead unless it's about something as clear cut as apartheid South Africa. England's cricketers refused to go to Zimbabwe in the 2003 World Cup but they were given an opt out clause by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair who said he'd rather they didn't go. But by and large the Western world has stood by and watched Mugabe's thuggery flourish.

The former cabinet minister Peter Hain said this morning that the FIA's decision not to go to Bahrain was wrong, "Sport is not on a different planet to politics - the two do mix." he said. Well of course they do but without political leadership sport should not be expected to do the bidding. If I want business guidance I might just seek out Bernie Ecclestone, I'm not sure we should be chasing his council on human rights though.