AUTHORITIES HAVE STEPPED up security ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix in preparation for “three days of rage” from anti-government protesters. Two Force India team members have already returned home after an incident on Wednesday in which petrol bombs were thrown near their car on the way to the circuit.
Mechanics from the team were forced to flee when police clashed with demonstrators along the route to Sakhir, the venue for this weekend’s event.
Last year’s F1 race in Bahrain was cancelled after 35 people, including five police, were killed during protests directed against repressive government policies.
Motorsport’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation, ordered the 2012 edition of the race to go ahead, despite the misgivings of teams and observers. Government officials hope the race will draw attention away from a year of political and social unrest, while protesters appear determined to use the event as a means of popularising their campaign.
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said he had met local race organisers, police advisor John Yates and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s deputy Pasquale Lattuneddu to discuss strengthening security.
“We obviously expect a few more protests in the next few days, so now what we want is for them (team members) to travel as close as possible together,” Fernley said. ” We have security people liaising with the authorities and if anything flares up we get to know about it quickly and we can take appropriate action.”
“So we are coordinating our security with the circuit security. We don’t want our guys getting into a position or a place where they shouldn’t be, so we re-route accordingly.”
Though he empathises with the two team members who opted to leave the region, Fernley maintains that contractual obligations override suggestions from British Members of Parliament that the team should return home.
In addition to encouraging team employees not to wear uniforms while travelling to and from the race venue, security officials have fitted courtesy cars with tracking devices.