Protests threaten Formula 1’s season-opener in Bahrain

Bahrain Grand Prix could be disrupted after anti-government protesters threatened to target the race

By Gareth Llewellyn
formula 1

formula 1

The 2011 Formula 1 season-opener in Bahrain could be in doubt after anti-government protesters threatened to disrupt the race.

Nabeel Rajab, vice-president of campaign group Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that the race was being viewed as an opportunity for protesters to publicise their cause on a global scale.

“For sure F1 is not going to be peaceful this time,” Rajab said. “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.”

Riot police have been out in force on the streets in Bahrain with tensions running high after a man was killed at a funeral being held for a protester who died in clashes with security forced on Monday.

Rajab added that the protests could go on for some time: “This will not stop, especially now when people have died. I don’t think it’s going to stop easily.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone admitted to the Daily Telegraph that the protestors could cause a problem, but said it was too early to say if, or how badly the race would be affected.

“The danger is obvious isn’t it? If these people wanted to make a fuss and get worldwide recognition it would be bloody easy, wouldn’t it? You start making a problem on the start grid in Bahrain and it would get worldwide coverage,” said Ecclestone.

“I have no idea. It’s hard to establish exactly what is going on.

“As I say, I’m speaking with the Crown Prince later on. We’re watching events closely. We’ll rely on what they think the right thing to do is.”

“He a very realistic person. I have never had any problems in Bahrain in the past and I’m happy to walk around town there. But we don’t know now. The world is changing.”

Bahrain is also due to host the second round of the GP2 Asia Series this weekend, while F1’s final pre-season test is scheduled to take place in Sakhir on 3 March ahead of the race 10 days later.

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