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Will Civil Unrest Disrupt the Season-Opener in Bahrain?

There are growing concerns that the Formula 1 season-opener in Bahrain might be threatened by the civil unrest that has erupted in that country in the wake of the recent events in Egypt.  Yesterday, thousands of demonstrators congregated in Pearl Square in the capital city of Manama.  In the early hours of Thursday morning, they were attacked by riot police, who fired tear gas and concussion grenades to dispel the crowd.

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has voiced his worry that anti-government protesters could stage a disruption of the March 13 grand prix to publicize their cause.  “We are monitoring the situation very carefully and we know we will have to make a decision very quickly,” Ecclestone said, as reported in Arabian Business. “It is a great shame because Bahrain have worked very hard to get their grand prix, but we have to be aware of what is going on there. We will be watching every day so that we can inform the teams as soon as possible when we know whether it is safe to go ahead.”

Meanwhile, Nabeel Rajab, vice president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said of the volatile atmosphere in Bahrain, “For sure F1 is not going to be peaceful this time.  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 publicized. This will not stop, especially now when people [have] died. I don’t think it’s going to stop easily.”

One wonders if this is a threat or a promise.

For his part, Red Bull boss Christian Horner is remaining cautiously optimistic about how events will unfold.  “We rely on Bernie, FOM (Formula One Management) and the promoter to ensure the facilities are safe,” said Horner. “Security, particularly in Bahrain, has always been particularly high, whether that’s at the hotels or the circuit itself.  And the circuit has always done an excellent job to make sure we feel safe, whilst Bahrain has always been an enjoyable place to visit.”

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