Last year, civil unrest and rioting caused the Kingdom of Bahrain to withdraw from hosting the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix. One year later, Formula 1 returns to Bahrain despite remaining political instability.
Authorities gave their word to assure the safety of the visiting Formula 1 community, promising to provide an enormous security presence for the event.
Unfortunately, the security measures proved insufficient when four mechanics of the Force India F1 team were caught in the middle of an incident as police clashed with protesters while the team’s hire car was stationary in Bahrain traffic after leaving the circuit yesterday.
Amidst the chaos, a firebomb exploded in close proximity to the team before they could escape from the area through a gap in the flames on the road. No team member was hurt during the incident and a Force India spokesman confirmed that Force India was not the target of the attack but were “momentarily caught up in (the) disruption.”
After the team had experienced the volatility in Bahrain first hand, two Force India members opted to return home.
“They weren’t targeted. They just happened to be there,” Bahrain circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani said. “I think it’s unfortunate. It’s an issue of timing. It could happen in any place in the world really, getting caught up in a riot or a fight or anything.”
In the latest news from Force India, team principal Bob Fernley confirmed the team will not pull out. “There is no chance whatsoever of us withdrawing. The main thing is we are quite supportive of making sure this all happens in a proper way. Like other teams, we’ve had requests from MPs to withdraw from the race, and I’ve written back to them. We’ve been quite clear with our program. The FIA and FOM, who we have contractual obligations with, have said it’s safe and correct for us to be here. We’ve accepted that process.”
Challenging the FIA’s decision to host the Grand Prix, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain published an open letter directed to the biggest sponsors in Formula 1. Concerned that a Formula 1 race would be used by the Bahrain government as an endorsement of its policy.
“Should the Bahrain Grand Prix go ahead, the sport and its associates run the risk of looking greedy and out of touch with the reality of the situation. We are most alarmed that you see no grounds to sever your brand and save its reputation from a totalitarian regime,”the letter said.