Formula 1 is gearing up for a new season. I confess it is one of the very few sports I do not enjoy watching. It seems in so many ways to epitomise the worst excesses of consumption and be associated with the most tasteless displays of wealth and empty-headed celebrity culture. It is just sleazy.
I suppose it is not therefore surprising that possession of a Formula 1 Grand Prix has become de rigeur for every dictator who wants to be socially accepted among the other superyachts. Formula 1 started a new Grand Prix in Bahrain a couple of years ago, where the majority population suffers dreadful suppression, torture and population. This includes the torture of sportsmen, so that even a body as corrupt as FIFA drew the line at the possibility of a Bahraini Prince as President.
In a desperate attempt to find a way to reach still lower, Formula 1 is this year adding the harsh dictatorship of Azerbaijan to its schedule. Azerbaijan has an appalling human rights record and beyond doubt it is getting worse every year. Furthermore, like many economies based almost entirely on oil wealth, it is feeling the pinch at the moment and the consequences of budget cutbacks are falling entirely on the ordinary people, while the lifestyles of their super-rich rulers are immune.
President Aliev has wasted billions on “prestige” projects. Hosting the Eurovision song contest, the European Games and now a Formula 1 Grand Prix. But ordinary people are struggling to get by on incomes which were already at third world standards and whose value has fallen still further with the collapse of the manat. None of which matters to the empty-headed bling merchants of Formula 1.
We should not seek to prevent Formula 1 going to the dictators. We should rather ban it from the democracies.