Last week a number of discussions took place in three different motorsports on events which featured on their 2011 calendar which may or may not take place. The most high-profile of these was, of course, F1 and whether to race in Bahrain, while for MotoGP and the Amercian Indycar Series, the debate has been whether to head for the damaged Motegi circuit in Japan.

I’ll deal with the Motegi one first, because it’s simpler. For MotoGP, riders have been voicing fears that the area is still contaminated with radiation following the mind-boggingly devastating earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, and are apprehensive over racing there in October. Well, ok, but how come Indycar has not even thought about that, giving the go-ahead to race in September there, albeit on the road course and not the oval, which remains in a bad way structually. Besides, exactly how much radiation can these MotoGP riders expect from heading over there for a few days and when they do head on to the track, they’ll be wearing helmets and all the protective gear they’d need?

I understand the riders’ concerns- most are like myself, just about old enough to know about the effects Chernobyl had, but I can’t help but feel that in October, the main radiation risk will have subsided somewhat. And for a country that’s trying to get on its feet again, a MotoGP race is a fine way of bringing some much-needed entertainment to the vicinity. After all, a display of sporting fun proved a fantastic tonic at the F1 Indianapolis Grand Prix in 2001, mere days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

For Indycar, the race is scheduled to be the last at that circuit anyway, due to the contract running out, but will be a sort of ‘goodbye, thanks for the memories’ race. Which is quite noble.

But now to the big discussion which is anything but noble. All 26 World Motorsport Council members gave the go-ahead to thoroughly screw up the existing F1 calendar by unnecessarily shoehorning the Bahrain GP in the slot designated for the inaugural Indian GP, which gets shunted to the ridiculous slot of mid-December.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has flatly denied the reinstatement has anything to do with money, but it’s no secret that the sport stood to lose $40m collectively if it wielded the axe on the race for this year.

In advance of the WMSC decision, the FIA President Jean Todt sent Carlos Gracia on a fact-finding mission to see the Bahrain situation. A very thorough investigation which apparently took one whole day, including a visit to see some government officials and a Bahraini-government-backed human rights group.


Mr Gracia returned with an ‘everything’s tickety-boo’ thumbs-up and the WMSC members voted to approve the return of a race no-one would frankly miss from the calendar. Meanwhile, protesters kicked off and there’s now going to be a ‘day of rage’ to coincide with the F1 raceday. Well, if last year’s race was anything to go by, at least it’ll provide some entertainment for viewers…

Seriously though, when this, this and this happening, what the hell were you doing, Mr Gracia? Sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and singing ‘lalalalalala’ for 24 hours?

This should be the teams’ time to strike, as part of their FOTA group. But, for reasons which are all too clear, they’re a bit weak-kneed about making a statement as strong as ‘we’ll boycott this race in the name of justice!’ FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh’s team McLaren, for example, just happens to have a financial stake in the team owned by the Bahrain government, and Ferrari have big connections with Abu Dhabi, so harumph. At least Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn has grumbled about the logistical nightmare the rescheduled calendar will mean for his mechanics, while Mark Webber, ever the most maturely outspoken driver in the field, hits the nail on the head. FOTA are due to discuss things further, but it’s not a very strong sign from them to be so quiet on the issue right now.

This all still depends on whether the race will be even close to taking place, of course. Should further trouble arise (and it’s highly possible), the FIA does have emergency powers to restrike it off the calendar. But it’s too late. They look like buffoons for ever wanting to return to the track this year after all the blood that’s been shed. Jean Todt hasn’t gone too wrong in the first 18 months of his presidency term, but he, the FIA, and Bernie have made a right hash of this.