The Bahrainian government has been working diligently to ensure the best possible performance for the Formula 1 race they are hosting. However, protesters have taken advantage of the attention the race itself is attracting from the Western world. Tensions have remained exceptionally high following the 2011 uprising between the Shiite majority and the ruling Sunni minority. The Human Rights Watch has taken notice and issued a statement outlining their belief that the police will not hesitate to repress any dissident with brutal force. For that reason, the uprising failed to gain the traction of similar movements in surrounding Middle Eastern countries. Bahrain is being judged with extra suspicion this year after canceling their hosting of the 2011 Grand Prix, a move that was made after participants expressed their concerns about the nation’s stability. The sudden cancellation has been estimated to have cost the government as much as $800 million. Last year’s event went on as planned, even as fires were lit in protest on streets directly bordering the racetrack, and the entire scene was viewed as a public relations disaster. Formula 1 management didn’t seem to care, as they viewed the event as a unifying force that would soothe some of the tensions that had previously existed. Regardless, the eyes of the world’s most-watched sport (500 million viewers) are on Bahrain, and the government is in a crucial position either to impress the world with a well-executed event, or to further embarrass themselves with another brutal crackdown on dissidents’ activities.
2012 Champion Sebastian Vettel