| LONDON, April 6
LONDON, April 6 Formula One's governing body
kept a close eye on the situation
in Bahrain on Friday as calls for this month's grand prix to be
postponed gathered pace due to continuing violence.
On a day when protestors clashed with police while more than
5,000 people demonstrated in the north of the capital Manama to
demand the release of a jailed activist on hunger
strike, the International Automobile Federation
(FIA) made clear that it was aware of the latest events.
"The FIA is constantly monitoring and evaluating the
situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain," said a spokesman for the
"We are in daily touch with the highest authorities, the
main European embassies and of course the local promoters at BIC
(Bahrain International Circuit) as well as the international
"The FIA is the guarantor of the safety at the race event
and relies, as it does in every other country, on the local
authorities to guarantee security," added the FIA.
"In this respect we have been repeatedly assured by the
highest authorities in Bahrain that all security matters are
The April 22 race at Sakhir follows the Chinese Grand Prix
on April 15, with teams getting ready to fly to Shanghai after
the Easter weekend.
Last year's race in Bahrain was postponed, reinstated and
then cancelled due to a February uprising and bloody crackdown.
The kingdom has been in turmoil for more than a year with
regular opposition party marches and rallies and clashes between
riot police and youths in Shi'ite districts involving tear gas
and petrol bombs.
Bahrain circuit authorities say the Formula One race, the
country's only global sporting event, contributes some $220
million directly to the local economy and $400-500 million
indirectly and are adamant it should go ahead as a force for
F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone gathered leading
British-based team bosses in a show of support in London last
month with Bahrain officials and the country's ambassador.
However former world champion Damon Hill, who is now a
pundit for Sky Sports television, called this week for a
re-think on the race going ahead and a British
parliamentarian echoed his words.
"In a context where genuine and sustainable reform is taking
place, holding a Grand Prix could be a unifying event for the
people of Bahrain as well as a positive showcase on the world
stage. But things are not at that stage," wrote opposition
Labour MP Richard Burden in a blog.
"Since February last year 45 people have died on Bahrain's
streets. The latest victim was killed by live ammunition only
"F1 teams do race in other countries with unenviable human
rights records. But that does not mean it is right for F1 to
collude in presenting to the outside world a cocooned picture of
normality at the Bahrain International Circuit, when what is
likely to be going on just few miles outside the circuit could
be very different indeed."
Bahrain, the first Middle Eastern country to host a Formula
One race, has a strong presence in the sport. Sheikh Abdulla bin
Isa al-Khalifa sits on the FIA's decision-making motor sport
council while Bahrain also owns 50 percent of McLaren.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)