The F1 headlines have, for the past few weeks, been completely dominated by the ongoing issue of whether or not the race will go ahead and if it is safe, and it has led to widespread criticism of F1 personnel, with many expressing their disapproval at their apparent nonchalance.
But by putting the obvious arguments aside for a moment, it’s clear to see why the F1 teams can’t say no to the Grand Prix, even if they’d rather not be there.
First of all, there’s the Concorde Agreement. Going against what they’ve signed could result in suspension from the championship or at the very least, heavy fines. It is against the written agreement for teams to pull out of events for moral or ethical reasons if the race is scheduled to take place.
But once again, we’re moving back towards those already much-debated issues by exploring that aspect.
It is no secret that F1 is incredibly close this year, with many teams struggling for pace and finding themselves in a less than ideal position. Some teams, such as Ferrari, are feeling the pressure more than most and have gone to no great lengths to disguise it. Fernando Alonso’s win in Sepang was not representative of the car’s abilities, and it was a race won on strategy with a dash of luck (and his obvious talent!). But Ferrari have themselves admitted that they’re not where they wanted to be and the mood, despite some strong results, is not exactly happy.
But what has this got to do with Bahrain? Well, it’s quite simple. The teams want as much track-time as possible to help with development and to give them more time to chase down — or pull away from — their rivals. How much the teams can learn depends on how much time they’re given in which to do it.
And on top of that, Bahrain is a unique circuit in that it provides teams with hot and dry conditions. In many ways, this is perfect for research and development but in addition, the climate will suit some teams more than others. At this stage, no-one knows for sure who is going to benefit most from the conditions, which explains why they would most probably be interested.
Of course, Force India elected to sit out FP2 for safety reasons, but from a purely racing perspective, the teams had probably been looking forward to this race for some time.
However, it doesn’t end there. Sponsorship is also an issue that could potentially arise considering teams are locked into various contracts. If the deal they’ve struck states the sponsor will get 20 racing weekends of international exposure for a certain price, the companies paying to have their name seen on an F1 car are going to feel cheated when one twentieth of their (supposed) F1-generated revenue is thrown away.
The sport is, in many ways, a business, and it is driven by money and success. No, the two are not mutually exclusive as one often breeds the other, but political issues with potentially deadly repercussions should take priority over F1, and it is safe to assume the teams have taken that into account.
F1 has taken a massive risk by coming to Bahrain, and so far, it hasn’t gone exactly to plan. The official Formula 1 website has been taken down by revered hacking group Anonymous after they released a message, warning FOM of their plans.
It’s a difficult situation that F1 has found itself in, and there’s no completely flawless way of looking at it, which means it’s not as simple as saying yes or no to the Bahrain Grand Prix. There is a lot to be gained or lost. And whatever happens in Bahrain this weekend, some will gain and some will lose.