Force India has been given permission for its two drivers to skip the second free practice session at the Bahrain Grand Prix amid concerns that its staff may be caught up in another protest after leaving the circuit.
The sight of Paul di Resta and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg opting to run on both specifications of slick tyre during the opening 90-minute session, and completing more laps than most of their rivals, prompted suggestions that something may be afoot and, when Bernie Ecclestone and circuit representatives were spotted visiting the Force India encampment, it was clear that something was amiss.
The team has every right to be spooked having had several of its engineers caught up in a firebombing as they made their way home from the Bahrain International Circuit on Wednesday night. One of those involved has, along with another team member, had a request to fly home granted by team management, and the move to skip FP2 will hopefully go some way to settling nerves among those remaining. Completing the necessary post-practice debriefs and detailing before and during FP2 will give the team a few hours headstart on the trip back to Manama, which should now be possible before darkness falls. Friday is part of the weekend in Bahrain, and greater pro-democracy protests are expected to take place against the government than at any point over the weekend.
We shouldn't have been put in this position," Hulkenberg told BBC Sport
on Thursday, "It is not good that we have to worry about it - that is the way it is now and let's see and hope that the rest of the weekend is good and calm."
Force India has yet to officially confirm its intentions, and could yet make a token appearance in FP2, but insists that it is committed to seeing out the rest of the weekend, including Sunday's fourth world championship round.
"We're going to limit [participation in FP2]," deputy team principal Bob Fernley told journalists, "We are looking at it from the point of view of the well being of everybody, and the comfort of everybody, [being] in place, and that's the key objective for us. But the team is absolutely fully committed to racing here. We will be there for qualifying and the race.We're just going to look at the programme of what we're going to do now."