17 February 2011
GP2 Asia hit by Bahrain unrest
Day one of the scheduled GP2 Asia meeting in Bahrain has been postponed due to the effects of civil unrest in the country's capital Manama.
Thursday's track activity at round two of the 2011 GP2 Asia Series has had to be postponed as a result of the wave of civil unrest sweeping Africa and the Middle East.
The event, which follows last weekend's opening round in Abu Dhabi was to have got underway with practice and qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit but, due to protests taking place against the country's ruling party, the medical staff normally stationed at the circuit were called to hospitals in Manama in case of an emergency.
Two people have already been killed in clashes between protesters and the police, with concerns that the situation may escalate beginning to threaten next month's F1 event, at which the GP2 Asia Series was to have culminated.
For obvious safety reasons, GP2 Series organisers decided to postpone today's track activity until tomorrow, and modified the schedule accordingly.
In order to fit practice, qualifying and race one into the same day, the untimed session will now take place at 9am local time, with qualifying following at 10.30am. The weekend's feature race will then take place at 2pm, with the sprint event remaining at its appointed 2pm slot on Saturday.
However, wider developments in this fast-moving situation may affect not only the holding of the GP2 Asia races, but possibly have a serious impact on the upcoming F1 Grand Prix.
According to reports from motorsports journalists on Twitter, reporters now arriving in Bahrain are being refused entry and getting turned away, while those GP2 personnel already in the country are being advised to stay away from large crowds, and teams based in hotels near the Pearl Roundabout - which is a base of the protesters and one of the targets stormed by Bahrain army forces overnight - have been told not to return to their hotels as tanks roll into the Pearl Square and Manama areas of the city.
There are also signs that communications links are being restricted during the crisis, with the CNN rolling news feed to the Bahrain International Circuit media reportedly cut this morning, and journalists saying that the Internet connection has been noticeably "tuned down", restricting some sites while overall running slow - making uploads of photo and video media difficult.
Top of the list of concerns is the possibility of protesters invading the facility during an event, although crowd handling is not normally an issue for GP2 at Bahrain at least. As motorsports journalist Will Buxton wryly said on Twitter: "Government advice is to avoid large crowds in Bahrain. Shouldn't be a problem. Last year about 4 people showed up for the GP2 Asia race."
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