Bahrain Grand Prix dogged by night-long clashes

Force India team mulled pulling out of a Bahrain Grand Prix practice session on Friday after a night of clashes between security forces and protesters in Shi’ite villages that left several people wounded.

The team were considering curtailing practice in order to return to their hotel before dark, deputy team principal Bob Fearnley told Autosport magazine.

He said the team might leave early on Friday but would not miss qualification on Saturday afternoon or the race itself on Sunday.

World championship leader Lewis Hamilton topped the times for McLaren in Friday morning’s opening free practice session, while Force India’s young driver Paul Di Resta, a fellow Briton, was third fastest.

Silverstone-based Force India was rattled on Wednesday evening when four of its mechanics, in a car returning to their hotel from the circuit, were caught up in violent incidents involving protesters and the police.

A petrol bomb exploded close to their vehicle and they had to evade tear gas.

The incident prompted one team member, not involved in the incident, and a contractor hired by the team, to return home despite official assurances that Bahrain was safe. Nobody was injured.

Official assurances
Fresh violence broke out overnight in Shi’ite villages located far from the race’s Sakhir circuit where practice sessions started at 7am GMT and rumbled on until early Friday, witnesses said.

“Eighteen people were wounded” when security forces fired buckshot and tear gas to disperse protesters, said the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Mohammed Maskati.

“The people want to topple the regime,” dozens of protesters shouted as they carried pictures of jailed hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. “Down Hamad,” they cried, referring to Bahrain’s king, according to witnesses.

Met by tear gas, sound bombs and buckshot, the protesters hurled petrol bombs at security forces, witnesses said. Maskati said he was a participant in a march in Bani Jamra village where tear gas was fired at activists.

The protests were “a message to those taking part in the F1 race to bring their attention to human rights violations in Bahrain,” Maskati said, adding that “95 people have been arrested since April 14” in the runup to the event.

The protesters burned tyres, briefly blocking several main roads leading to the Sakhir circuit, witnesses said.

They said police cars were deployed in force on roads between the airport and the circuit on Friday. A small armoured police vehicle was seen on the roadside at the entrance to a neighbourhood in Manama.

The February 14 Youth Movement has called on social networking sites for “three days of rage” to coincide with the race.

Greater equality
And Bahrain’s main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, called for a week of daily protests during the Grand Prix to focus media attention on their long-standing demands for greater equality in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

The opposition announced that further protests were scheduled for later on Friday, but the government has banned protests in Manama itself.

Amid unease among GP participants, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg said, “We shouldn’t have been put in this position,” while teammate British driver Paul Di Resta admitted it was an “uncomfortable situation.”

But speaking to reporters at the Sakhir circuit, the chairperson of the Formula One Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Pedro de la Rosa, said Thursday that safety was “not a concern”.

He had full faith in the decision by the International Motoring Federation to go ahead with the event despite mounting tensions in the kingdom.

Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters carrying banners held a demonstration near Bahrain’s international airport as the race teams flew in.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled last year in the wake of a Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy and the brutal government crackdown that followed in which a government commission said 35 people were killed. — Sapa-AFP

Staff Reporter
Guest Author
Advertisting

Salie-Hlophe accuses Goliath of lying and racism

In response to Goliath’s gross misconduct complaint, Salie-Hlophe says Goliath has ‘an unhealthy obsession with my marriage’

Treasury is still seeking SAA funds

The government has committed an additional R2-billion to the airline, but has yet to pay it out

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide
Advertising

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.