Political unrest in the Middle East is starting to become a cause for concern for Formula One's stakeholders, with the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in the Gulf less than a month away. Organisers are monitoring the situation closely, while F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has not ruled out calling off the race.
Mass protests for political reform in Egypt and Tunisia have recently spread to Bahrain, and campaigners have targeted the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13th to help get their message through to a worldwide audience. Already, two people have been killed in clashes between civilians and police, as tensions run high just 25 days before the race.
“The danger is obvious, isn't it?. If these people wanted to make a fuss and get worldwide recognition it would be bloody easy, wouldn't it?” Ecclestone told The Daily Telegraph.
Ecclestone did not comment on the possibility of cancelling the event should the situation worsen further. “I have no idea [if it will be cancelled]. It's hard to establish exactly what is going on.” he continued. “As I say, I'm speaking with the Crown Prince later on. We're watching events closely. We'll rely on what they think the right thing to do is.”
Late on Tuesday evening, race organisers issued a statement saying they were closely monitoring the unfolding situation, insisting that the safety of all visitors to the race and other track action was a priority.
“The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the Kingdom and, at the Bahrain International Circuit, our focus at the present time is on delivering another successful event in the form of the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix,” said Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) CEO.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments.”
The Bahrain Grand Prix takes place at the BIC between March 11th and 13th, but before then a four-day official test session is due to begin on March 3rd. Of immediate concern to the track will be the impending round of the GP2 Asia Series, which is scheduled for this weekend.