Bahrain GP concerns grow amid tension

Concerns about the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and pre-event test have grown on Thursday, in the wake of the deteriorating political situation in the Gulf state reported to have left at least five people dead

Bahrain GP concerns grow amid tension

An overnight move by police to clear protesters from Bahrain's capital Manama resulted in violent clashes, with reports of at least four people being killed. This comes on the back of the deaths of two protesters earlier this week.

With a heavy police and military presence on the streets of Manama amid the government clampdown on the political protests, the mounting tension has prompted questions about whether the opening race of the season, scheduled to take place on March 13, can go ahead.

A leading campaign group in Bahrain said earlier this week that it would target the grand prix to publicise its cause, with Bernie Ecclestone conceding that he was worried about the situation.

Organisers of this weekend's GP2 Asia Series event in Bahrain were forced to postpone the opening day of track action for its event until Friday because medical personnel who should have been stationed at the track were needed to help the injured in Manama.

F1 has just more than one week to decide if the events in Bahrain will force a change of plans, as cars and teams are due to fly to the state for the final pre-season test that is scheduled to take place from March 3-6.

FIA president Jean Todt said on Wednesday, before the latest developments in Manama, that the governing body would wait until after this weekend's GP2 Asia race before deciding whether the governing body needed to take action.

"I always try not to over-react on breaking stories," Todt was quoted as saying by the Irish Independent during a visit to Dublin. "Number one, you have to check what is the reality - which is not always what you hear - and to react without too much emotion and to face properly the problem.

"There has been some movement in Bahrain. I understand things are improving and we have to wait.

"The next step is the GP2 race this weekend... Of course the essence of the FIA is safety; safety on the racing car, safety on the road, safety in our organisation. So that's what we are claiming, but at the moment there is no reason to have unnecessary concern."

The FIA may well have no choice but to act, however, if the situation does not show an improvement.

Bahrain itself may not want the world's media descending on it if there is widespread political trouble. Insurance companies may well baulk at the possibility of star drivers travelling there, and may refuse to cover other F1 staff if foreign consular recommend that their nationals do not go there.

The infrastructure of the event also complicates matters, with the majority of F1 personnel staying in Manama for the duration of the grand prix as there are few hotels elsewhere on the island.

Reports on Thursday suggested GP2 personnel being told not to return to hotels near trouble spots in Manama.

Bahrain Grand Prix chiefs said earlier this week that safety for its visitors remained a priority - suggesting it too would respond to any signs of trouble at the event.

Bahrain International Circuit CEO, Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, said: "The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the Kingdom and, at the Bahrain International Circuit, our focus at the present time is on delivering another successful event in the form of the 2011 Gulf Air Formula 1Bahrain Grand Prix.

"We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments."

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Series Formula 1
Author Jonathan Noble
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