News : Formula 1 start in Bahrain: the Silver Arrow stays black – sport
Formula 1 is rolling in, as unstoppable as the third wave. But perhaps nowhere are the protagonists of the full throttle business fighting the pandemic as effectively as in the Kingdom of Bahrain. There, where the forces of Formula 1 mix with those of a well-oiled autocratic state apparatus that has specialized in the oppression of the Shiite majority in the country for years.
Manama Airport. Wednesday evening. Just out of the plane, all foreign passengers discover signs with their own name on them. Or at least first name, middle name, no last name. “Hello my friend”, says the friendly Bahraini, who specializes in small talk and is fortunately perfectly masked, who will not leave your side on the way to the Corona test station. It is so huge that it is housed in its own white tent in front of the airport gates.
“Number 421, Counter 7; Number 423, Counter 15; Number 425, Counter 2 …”. It goes zack, zack! There has never been so much orchestrated movement in a German authority. Step behind the curtain. Meeting with a medically fully masked man. A deep stab in the nose. After just 35 minutes, all passengers on the fully booked scheduled flight Gulf Air “GF16” from Frankfurt am Main to Manama are checked out, supplied with suitcases on the parcel tape and freshly tested for Corona. And then shipped one by one in taxis that cart the guest to a hotel, where he waits for the result to appear. On the beautiful blue app “Be Aware Bahrain”. The nightmare of all privacy advocates that has become reality.
Cash is King! More than ever
The app only works if it is linked to the data on the passport. Bluetooth? Running. Location of the cell phone? Around the clock! The app is also nicely clear: on the start page it kindly informs the user that he is not vaccinated. Well, maybe he might even know better himself. And it also reveals the current figures from Bahrain: 7379 active cases, 108 patients in acute medical treatment. 49 critical cases. Bahrain has only 1.5 million inhabitants.
The seven-day incidence? On Thursday it was 304. Despite Orwell’s total surveillance app and outside temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius. So we can start.
Gentlemen, start your engines!
Formula 1 is currently setting an example of how one can dare to pull off a major international sporting event at the mutation-rich turning point of the pandemic. No uninteresting experimental setup in the year of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are at least still planned for the summer. Even though the number of athletes and coaches in Bahrain is much smaller.
A year ago, the then six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was at the center of the planned Formula 1 season opener. At that time, he whispered his concerns that it felt wrong that everyone was now crowded together at a press conference. On a day when the USA had just closed the borders because of the pandemic to shield itself from travelers from Europe. Back then, in March 2020, Hamilton and Formula 1 were in Melbourne, in liberal Australia – and the world was about to start the first wave. “Cash is King,” etched Hamilton when asked why he believed that Formula 1 would still want to get started in contagious times. There was and still is so much truth in this pointed sentence that it shocked the racing community so much that the teams felt compelled to clear their garages and call off the race.
At the end of March 2021, the world has long been in what feels like the second base camp of the third corona elevation. The infection numbers are far higher than in the previous year. As the organizer, Australia has given up the start of the year and moved its own date to November. But hygiene professionals work at Formula 1, especially in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton, now seven-time world champion, is back in focus. But this time not because of his political messages. Because the elaborate hygiene concept of Formula 1 actually proved its worth in the previous year, even though the racing circuit was still mainly concentrated on stations in Europe. So what is Formula 1 doing this season? She just laughs in the face of the epidemic. Plans a year with 23 races on five continents. There have never been so many. Cash is King! More than ever. Because the pandemic almost tore up Formula 1 and especially the smaller teams financially last year. In 2019, the racing series had made a profit of 17 million US dollars. A year later it made a loss of $ 386 million.
So she is now racing with her most important ambassador into a future that is uncertain for both: At the end of the season, Lewis Hamilton could lift his now eighth World Cup. That would make him the greatest racing driver in history by numbers. He would actually have won one more title than Michael Schumacher. And not too many years ago, many people thought that he would still be the record world champion when the nuclear waste in Gorleben no longer emits radiation.
Well, what is Sir Lewis Hamilton doing in 2022?
When he agreed on a new contract with his racing team Mercedes at the beginning of February, after he had been knighted by the Queen on New Year’s Eve, and after a crazy back and forth in negotiations with his racing team, he surprised with a minimum term: the end of the year Enough. Unless he sits down again at the negotiating table with team boss Toto Wolff in the summer.
Foregoing all the races in the rogue states would make Formula 1 more expensive
The short duration of the agreement can easily be explained by the fact that both sides were hoping for an improvement in their negotiating position. Hamilton is likely to have recognized that the otherwise all-round miraculous corona virus does not tend to mutate the salaries of racing millionaires even higher. Wolff and his team boss colleagues on the other hand are not averse to the idea of introducing a cost cap for driver salaries in the foreseeable future. In all other areas, Formula 1 has already imposed savings, salaries are the last remaining adjustment screw.
Hamilton has long since acquired a political repertoire with which he could play on completely different stages after his career than the shimmering asphalt of the Bahrain International Circuit. As the front man of the Black Lives Matter movement, he not only got Mercedes to paint the paint on the Silver Arrows black. He has also increased the political pressure on the traditionally less agile management of Formula 1 so that it couldn’t help but allow a protest choreography against racism devised by Hamilton before the races. However, this gesture does not cost Formula 1 any money. In contrast to another, at least theoretically possible: the renunciation of all the races in the rogue states.
In November, the last time he was driving in Bahrain, Hamilton said he had received mail from three political prisoners in the kingdom, one of whom was sentenced to death. He has not yet dealt with their concerns in detail, but it is clear: “Every sport must use its platform to press for change.” The human rights situation is “a massive problem in so many countries in which we drive”. He promised to use his position and importance to help. When he was asked on Thursday whether he had made any progress in the fight for human rights in Bahrain, he did not want to give any details. He only said that he had spoken to those responsible, but did not want to jeopardize the negotiations.
This year, Formula 1 has even expanded its global tour through the wild villainous country. It holds a stage in Saudi Arabia, where, with the approval of the Prince, critical journalists are known to be cut up with a bone saw. So there is still a lot of work to do for Sir Lewis Hamilton. And experience shows: if he doesn’t say anything, nothing changes.