Two mechanics from the Force India Formula One racing team have asked to return home from Bahrain after a vehicle one of them was travelling in was nearly engulfed by a petrol bomb yesterday. Their decision to leave the troubled Gulf kingdom came as fresh violence broke out last night, with police using tear gas and stun grenades to clear demonstrations in the capital, Manama.
The renewed clashes will add to mounting concerns that this Sunday's Grand Prix will be disrupted by the ongoing civil strife that has engulfed the island state for more than a year.
Determined to quash dissent in the run-up the race, Bahrain's security forces have ratcheted up their confrontations with demonstrators, pre-emptively arresting scores of dissident leaders, banning protests in the capital and even allegedly resorting to live ammunition.
Activists circulated a number of unverified pictures showing what they claimed were victims who had been peppered with shotgun pellets throughout clashes on Wednesday.
Renewed clashes broke out once more last night with opposition groups vowing to hold daily protests until Sunday.
Bahrain's Sunni-led monarchy are determined to show the world that their country has turned a path towards reform after more than 50 people were killed in a year of violence which began when the country's Shia majority started agitating for better representation and reforms.
However, human rights groups have accused the regime of being more concerned with its international image than implementing real reform. Both Sky News and Associated Press claim Bahrain has turned down visas for their reporters.
F1 teams began arriving in Bahrain earlier in the week amid concerns about their security. Some have even been advised by their bosses to avoid displaying sponsors' logos in public.
On Wednesday evening, four mechanics from Force India became the first members of the F1 community to get caught up in the protests.
As clashes broke out between police and demonstrators, a Molotov cocktail exploded not far from their van. None of the four members of the Silverstone-based team that supports Scottish driver Paul di Resta were injured, but two unnamed colleagues chose to return to the UK.