LONDON, April 11, 2013 (AFP) - Former world champion Damon Hill wants FIA president Jean Todt to take an ethical stance over the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix, amid claims of an upsurge in the detention of opposition protesters in the run up to the race.
With just over a week until the race in the Gulf, the Bahrain government and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are in dispute over claims a crackdown has taken place in recent weeks against protesters.
In 2011 the Grand Prix was cancelled after violent clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators resulted in a number of deaths.
The race went ahead last year against an ugly backdrop as police responded to protesters who were throwing petrol bombs by using of tear gas, sound bombs and birdshot.
HRW this week claimed plain clothes policemen had raided towns close to the Sakhir International Circuit and arrested 20 people, raising questions over reform.
British driver Hill, who won the world title in 1996, wants Todt to engage in the debate on the issue rather than staying silent.
"I think Jean's approach is say nothing because otherwise you are being political," Hill said.
"I think that is a mistake because actually he is being political because he's being used, or the sport is perceived as being used, by its engagement in the economy and the reputation of the country.
"He's not said anything that has distanced the sport from things that it would find distasteful and upsetting, which I believe everybody in the sport would actually like to do.
"I think the vast majority of the people in Formula One would like to say 'We don't want to come here to make things worse for people'.
"'We would like you to enjoy Formula One, we think Formula One has lots of positive things to offer, but please don't, on our behalf, round up people up and brutalise them'.
"I don't see that being political. That's more ethical than political."