The F1 world is holding its breath early on Friday as the sport considers returning to troubled Bahrain later this year.
Bahrain organizers say they are ready to host the race, which was to open the season but was postponed following anti-government protests in February that eventually left at least 30 dead following a brutal crackdown.
A meeting of the sport’s governing body on June 3 could reinstate the race for later this year, but US-based Human Rights Watch has said a heavy crackdown on opposition activists during 11 weeks of martial law should count in the decision.
Former world champion Hill, commenting as an individual and not as a representative of F1, and certainly not in his role as president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, spoke out on behalf of Avaaz.
“This crisis is an opportunity for Formula One to show it cares about all people and their human rights,” said Hill.
“True peace has nothing to do with creating calm through the use of violent repression.
“Bahrain has restored order, but the methods have been questioned by many reliable journalists and human rights organisations.
“If Formula One agrees to race in Bahrain it will forever have the blight of association with repressive methods to achieve order.
“True peace can only be achieved peacefully. The right thing to do, in my view, is to not race in Bahrain until these doubts have been removed.”
Bernie Ecclestone wants the race’s $40 million fee and said recently politics should not influence sport. But that did not stop him hypothesising about the reason for the kind of protests seen in Bahrain and elsewhere in recent months and days.
“Too many overeducated people,” he told CNN earlier this week. “If we can find a way to do something about that then a lot of our problems will disappear.”
The team bosses and drivers, however, are largely keeping quiet — except Australian Mark Webber, who was a lone voice among his peers on Twitter late on Thursday.
“When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than sport. Let’s hope the right decision is made,” he said.
He is referring to Friday’s World Motor Sport Council, and ahead of that Barcelona meeting Spanish official Carlos Gracia travelled to Bahrain to assess the latest situation there, according to Marca sports newspaper.
He will present his report to the FIA members and is understood to have concluded that the situation on the ground in Bahrain is very close to normal.