Despite international calls for the Bahrain Grand Prix to be called off, the race went ahead yesterday amid heightened security.
FIA president Jean Todt and Formula 1 rights holder Bernie Ecclestone were heavily quoted in the run-up to and aftermath of the race. Todt remained positive throughout, saying the image of Formula 1 had not been damaged by the holding of the race and that he was ‘saddened’ by how some of the media had portrayed what was happening in the country.
His stance was challenged during the build-up to the race when the Force India and Sauber teams were caught in incidents. Force India pulled out of the second practice session over safety concerns when they witnessed violence between police and protesters.
Lucy Mart, head of sport at PrettyGreen, said she believed that although FIA and Formula 1 management had ‘ample time’ to ‘prepare and develop robust communications to answer the inevitable media questions’, many questions were left unanswered.
She said: ‘Is it right to legitimise a feuding government and country through sport? Is it right to expect media to operate in a country that will not allow them to write freely? It seems that no one has the answers, the questions asked have been asked too late and that not enough planning went into communications ahead of the race weekend.’
Mart added that the weekend’s coverage showed ‘a picture of mixed messages and confusion from the teams and drivers over the issues in Bahrain and the presence of the Grand Prix.’
The drivers were criticised by the media for dodging questions around the unrest. The eventual winner of the race Sebastian Vettel said in a pre-race press conference that it was time to get back to 'the stuff that really matters, like tyre temperatures' and described the press coverage of the protests as ‘hype’.
MD at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment Jamie Wynne-Morgan said: ‘All the sponsors and teams have played their part by supporting the governing body, which is the right thing to do. But behind closed doors they will all want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.'
Wynne-Morgan added the stance by the majority of drivers to distance themselves from comment was the right move: ‘The majority of the drivers such as Jenson Button stuck to the script of "we’re just here to drive" which was the right strategy to take.’
However, Wynne-Morgan criticised Vettel for his comments, which he said 'don't look very smart on paper'.