Following on from the earlier decision to postpone events scheduled for the opening day of the GP2 Asia meeting at Bahrain International Circuit, it has now been announced the entire weekend is to be scratched from the calendar in the interests of safety.
With Bahrain becoming the latest country in Africa and the Middle East to suffer a wave of civil unrest - following on from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Libya - all of Thursday's planned activities, including practice and qualifying for the second round of the 2011 GP2 Asia Series, were moved to Friday as medical teams were called to local hospitals to treat casualties of clashes during public protests against the ruling party. However, with the unrest showing no signs of abating, event organisers have heeded a request from the Bahrain Motorsport Federation and cancelled the remainder of the weekend, citing force majeure
Violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters have dominated national and international news in the past few days, having left several people dead and hundreds more injured in the hospitals of capital Manama.
"My hotel is just 800 metres away from the centre of the riot and, tonight, I could hear shots of machine guns," Team Air Asia's Davide Valsecchi told 422race.com
, while Racing Engineering team owner Alfonso d'Orleans was preparing for the worst even before the announcement came.
"I think there will be no race," he predicted, "The situation is very complicated. There are Saudi tanks everywhere, during the night we heard shots, and we had to be escorted in hotel for the luggage. We have internet connections just on track, we can't watch CNN, Al Jazeera or BBC, so we just know what we read on the internet. We are putting everything in the containers - should the race be cancelled, we are ready to leave tonight."
The situation, of course, has implications for the opening round of the F1 world championship, which is scheduled to coincide with the final round of the GP2 Asia Series in early March [see story here
], and could result in the race going the same way as this weekend's events.
F1 pit-lane reporter, and former GP2 media man, Will Buxton returned to Bahrain to commentate on this weekend's race and, despite reporting that things appeared quiet on his arrival, revealed that the situation is far from normal.
"There remains an underlying tension in the country and one can feel it keenly," he wrote on his personal website, "Recent pushes towards greater democracy in the Middle East appear to have given the people a voice they perhaps felt they did not have before. Whether in the majority or minority, this is a voice they now want to be heard. Speaking to another local last night, he told me that all the people really want is to have a prime minister who is not a member of the King's family.
"Naturally, we are watching how events unfold, and while as of yet there is no real feeling of fear from our side, the underlying tensions make the atmosphere here quite unsettling."