David Tremayne: As F1 takes a battering, where is the silver lining?

The GP boosts wealth for organisers, but also the little people, corner shops and taxi drivers

Now that the most politically volatile grand prix in the sport's history has been run and the dust has settled momentarily in the troubled Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, amid a welter of arrests and protests allegedly involving 50,000 people in Manama, two questions are worth considering.

The first is: what did Formula One gain from going to Bahrain?

In public relations terms it was a spectacular own goal, with global media coverage slamming the perceived greed of those who run the sport – Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA president, Jean Todt, came in for savage maulings – and reinforcing the view of it as an elitist sport run by and for multi-millionaires who are unconcerned for humanity. Ecclestone habitually takes the view that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but though the race went ahead without any feared disruptions even he and Todt must be reflecting on that philosophy and pondering whether so much adverse reaction will have a knock-on effect on potential sponsors. Descriptions such as "vile", "amoral" and "lacking any moral compass" have been applied to F1 in recent days.

The other question is equally important, and may be more positive: what did Bahrain gain from the grand prix? And that doesn't mean just the Sunni leadership, who were so insistent on it going ahead, or the vocal Shia protesters upon whose every word so many media outlets hung during the weekend. It also means the silent majority of law abiding Bahrainis.

Hasan Emad, a self-employed Sunni working in real estate, told me and other journalists: "I had tears in my eyes when they first announced a grand prix in Bahrain. I have been a fan since 1994. I love Michael Schumacher!"

His friend, Yaqoob Salman Mohamed Al-Slaise, also a Sunni and an IT lecturer at Bahrain University, said: "We frankly need the race, whether to help our slumping economy with many Bahrainis buying tickets for the first time for the sake of making the race a success, or showing that the country's people will not 'stand down' in the face of those who incite violence on the street under the cloak of 'peaceful protesting' or attempt to sabotage the F1 by scaring away teams, media and fans.

"Violence does not bring democracy nor better human rights, nor does sabotaging a sporting event bring reforms. It only leads to more hatred and spite and keeps us in a political stalemate."

Perhaps the most interesting view came from their friend Ahmed Al Mahri – because he is a Shia and they are universally portrayed as anti-F1. "The grand prix marketed Bahrain," he said. "Nobody knew anything of Bahrain before it. And staging it this year helps us because people like you are here and you are listening and getting the right picture of what's going on in the country. And it boosts the wealth, not just for the organisers but for the little people, the taxi drivers and the corner shops."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions