Money talks as F1 show goes on regardless

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Amid the protests and the prayers, Vettel claims pole position from Hamilton

Bahrain

If you closed your eyes and put everything that has happened over the past week out of your mind, it was possible to imagine that it was business as usual yesterday.

Under the balmy atmosphere of a pallid sky and palm trees lit by fluorescent red bands, the paddock last night was a long way from the Molotov cocktails and tear gas to the north. And if you ignored the hushed conversations, you would not have known that controversy has stalked the event from the moment the 2012 calendars listed it as returning to the world championship after cancellation of last year's event.

So why, when the decision to stage the race has brought almost universal condemnation from human rights activists, have sporting leaders such as the FIA president Jean Todt and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone been so insistent on its return?

There is, inevitably, a financial element. It's believed that the $36million fee payable to CVC Capital Partners, whom Ecclestone represents, was placed in escrow and would become payable so long as the 2012 event went ahead. This year's fee, under the terms of a contract which always ramps up 10 per cent annually, is believed to be worth $40m. Thus the interested parties stood to lose $76m – 50 per cent payable to CVC, 50 per cent to the teams – if the race did not go ahead.

Then there is Todt's need to consider the concerns of allies within the FIA and their influence in the region, a potentially important factor when it comes to re-election.

Team bosses and drivers have been reluctant to comment on the political situation in Bahrain, and have been slated for it. But the simple fact is that the moment Todt confirmed last Friday in China that the race would happen, all were in their own ways contracted to participate regardless of their private feelings.

The teams have been protected from the raging international debateby their own trademark insularity. It has been suggested by cynics that they would only become aware of the outbreak of a third world war if they arrived at the airport on a Sunday night to discover that all flights had been cancelled.

For Formula One it has been life as normal, with the exception of Force India where a threatened mutiny was quelled by their deputy team principal, Bob Fernley, on Friday after two incidents on successive nights when team vehicles had been caught up in the aftermath of incidents between extremists and police on the motorway to Manama.

Todt's implacable belief in the F1 brand and its importance in the Middle East, may yet cost him his job if his confidence in those advising him on security matters proves misplaced.

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the chief executive of the Bahrain International Circuit, admits that threat of disruption this afternoon is his greatest fear. "We have tried to be subtle in our security," he says.

Ahmed Al Mahri, a Formula One fan and a local Shia who works in banking, said: "We have heard the rumours of planned disruption, but hopefully the extremists will not accomplish that. They are so good with the media, they know just how to use the propaganda. But we had the Air Show late last year and nothing happened there, and we have the golf here and nothing is happening there."

He added: "F1 has created a lot of jobs for Bahrainis, created a lot of opportunities and raised the standard of life in Bahrain in the past eight years. It's marketed Bahrain. When you are in a position claiming that you want reform, that you want a better future, you don't fight to stop such an event, where your own people are the number one beneficiary from it."

Ironically, the race could rival last week's epic in China as the first eight drivers on the grid were covered by less than a second. Sebastian Vettel returned to form to beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position by a tenth of a second, with their respective Red Bull and McLaren team-mates Mark Webber and Jenson Button close behind.

Track hazards

During the 2000 German GP at Hockenham a man fired by Mercedes on health grounds waved a banner criticising the company as he walked on the track.

At Silverstone during the British Grand Prix in 2003, priest Neil Horan ran down the Hangar Straight amid cars moving at 200 mph exhorting spectators to read the Bible. He was jailed for two months.

The FIA take such incidents very seriously after the Welsh driver Tom Pryce was killed during the 1977 South African GP at Kyalami. He was hit in the face by a fire extinguisher when he collided with a young marshal who ran across the main straight to deal with the car of Pryce's team-mate, Renzo Zorzi.

David Tremayne

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor