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Tensions remain high ahead of Bahrain race

Demonstrations on the Demonstrations on the ground, threats from online hackers, protesters in team hotels, savage criticism from politicians and journalists: it's not your average Grand Prix.
There's no denying a state of nervous tension hanging over the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday ahead of qualifying.

While the F1 paddock in Sakhir is a world unto itself, the events surrounding Force India's proximity to a firebombing incident mid-week, and then the Sauber team witnessing another incident the following night brought the reality of the situation outside the paddock boundary uncomfortably close to home for many.

On Friday night, following the practice sessions which saw Force India depart early and the Crown Prince of Bahrain - Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa - refuse to consider postponing or abandoning the event on the grounds that to do so would encourage extremists, there were more demonstrations in the area as a planned "Three Days of Rage" anti-government protest started to crank up.

The first mass demonstration of the weekend took place on the Zayyaq Highway close to the F1 circuit. Two more followed in the Budaiya Road area in the north-west. The US Embassy's leaked list of 'no-go' areas included an area close to the Hamad Road that was the team's main route back to the capital city of Manama, and areas close to the old Pearl Roundabout that was occupied in 2011 as a focus of demonstrations that ended up with the F1 and GP2 events being abandoned at the last minute. Another demonstration is planned for Sunday at the nearby University of Bahrain, timed for the middle of the race.

The protests are not limited to just physical proximity of the F1 circuit, either. Hackers' collective Anonymous said on Friday that it would wage its own war on the event, warning Bernie Ecclestone that they would "turn your web site into a smoking crater in cyber space," adding: "and wreck anything else of yours we can find on the internet."

The Crown Prince has now guaranteed the physical safety of F1 personnel in Bahrain over the weekend, but his earlier admission that a track invasion was possible has hardly reassured the teams and drivers.

"Of course we fear most the possibility of some sort of track invasion on Sunday during the race, or some sort of protest on the grid prior to the start," he said on Thursday evening. "But we have tried to be subtle in our security."

Meanwhile the media criticism of the decision to go ahead with the race is also ramping up in the UK. One of the most respected journalists covering the Middle East - The Independent's award-winning Robert Fisk - insisted that "this ain't no sporting event, folks, it's a political one," and that the proof was right there in how the Bahrain government were allowing sports reporters into the country but turning away reporters including the Sky News' chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay, who is having to file reports from Dubai despite the fact that his Sky Sports colleagues are covering the events from pit lane.

Fisk reserved particular venom for Sebastian Vettel for his comments that the civil unrest in Bahrain was "a lot of hype", going so far as to dub the double world champion "a disgraceful man" and "clueless".




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Cubikrube

April 21, 2012 11:44 AM

Oh how times change on Crash, last year myself and other dissenters had our posts removed by some mods on here as this was "not a forum to discuss politics" despite allowing those in favour of the races to keep their posts visible to all. Now we have copy from highly respected journalists being reported on. Latest news (BBC) is that someone has been shot dead in protests last night. Let's how long this post stays...maybe times have changed for the better on here at least...time will tell



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