• Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain Grand Prix threatened by political unrest

ESPNF1 Staff
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Continuing protests in Bahrain are threatening the Bahrain Grand Prix © Getty Images

Concerns are growing the season opener in Bahrain may be cancelled as political tensions inside the state continue to spill over. Protests against the monarchy have escalated recently in the light of events in Tunisia and Egypt, and two people have been killed as the authorities attempt to clamp down.

Bernie Ecclestone is concerned the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix could be used by the country's anti-government protestors to gain publicity for their cause after the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, a campaign group in support of reform, has warned that the grand prix on March 13 could become a target.

"For sure F1 is not going to be peaceful this time," said Nabeel Rajab, vice president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights told Arabian Business. "There'll be lots of journalists, a lot of people looking and [the government] will react in a stupid manner as they did today and yesterday. And that will be bloody but will be more publicised. This will not stop, especially now when people [have] died. I don't think it's going to stop easily."

"We are monitoring the situation very carefully and we know we will have to make a decision very quickly," Ecclestone said. "It is a great shame because Bahrain have worked very hard to get their grand prix, but we have to be aware of what is going on there.

"We will be watching every day so that we can inform the teams as soon as possible when we know whether it is safe to go ahead."

In reality, F1 bosses have less than a fortnight to make a decision as the fourth and final testing session is due to start on March 3 and so teams will start arriving as early as February 28. It is possible the tests could be scrapped and the grand prix still go ahead, but that would only buy Ecclestone another week.

Aside from the possibility of protests, the other issue is security for the teams, media and spectators, although the Bahrain race does not attract the same numbers of tourists as other grands prix.

"There are realities on the ground that we need to accept," an FIA spokesman told Associated Press. "But the FIA is fully confident, with the Bahrain motor federation, that the situation will be resolved amicably."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner acknowledged the threat but said there was no alarming news about the situation emerging from the venue at present - his GP2 team Arden is competing in Bahrain this weekend. "I spoke to the team yesterday and they didn't mention any concerns and hopefully that race will go ahead as planned," he told Reuters.

A GP2 spokesperson told the Guardian: "The teams at the track have reported nothing shocking. There is no concern and GP2 will be running this weekend."