Bahrain GP limps across finish line as lockdown wins the day

Protesting youths burn tyres in streets as organisers go ahead with controversial race

Bahrain

Formula One drivers took to the race track yesterday following days of violent clashes between police and protesters in Bahrain, with organisers defying calls for the controversial Grand Prix to be cancelled.

Heightened security in anti-government strongholds prevented protesters from demonstrating in large numbers. Activists claimed that police used tear gas to stop demonstrations in several Shia villages around Manama after the Grand Prix had finished.

The event was the ruling Sunni monarchy's opportunity to show that life had returned to normal after security concerns over anti-government protests led to the cancellation of last year's race.

Officials put the attendance at yesterday's race at 28,000, in a circuit that can hold 45,000 spectators. Before the race, youths burned tyres and blocked roads in Budaiya, a village outside the capital that saw mass protests this week. As the first cars crossed the finish line in the afternoon, protesters announced plans to gather at the site of the former Pearl Roundabout in the centre of Manama – the focus of last year's clashes – but were hampered by a heavy security presence.

More demonstrations are anticipated after the death of a protester on Saturday. But activists said that many people were reluctant to protest after the recent crackdown.

"There are armoured vehicles at the entrance to every village. If anyone emerges now they will just be shot at. The government has sent a very strong message," activist Dr Alaa Shehabi said. Shortly after speaking to The Independent, Dr Shehabi was detained by police. Her arrest came amid reports that a journalist from The Sunday Telegraph had been taken to a police station in Bahrain. It also later emerged that Jonathan Miller, foreign affairs correspondent for Channel 4 News, and his team had also been arrested while reporting from Bahrain. But as the Foreign Office said it was seeking consular access, Mr Miller said that he had been released and was about to be deported. Channel 4 News said the team's local driver had been "assaulted in front of the team, and then separated from them".

Earlier, opposition parties claimed that a 37-year-old man found dead on Saturday was killed by riot police. Protester Salah Abbas Habib was found sprawled on a rooftop after overnight clashes, providing more outrage among a Shia Muslim majority furious at being marginalised by the ruling Sunnis.

The fate of hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of 14 men jailed for leading last year's uprising, is also stoking anger. His health has entered a critical stage after more than 70 days of protest. Yesterday, he met the ambassador from Denmark, where he is also a citizen.

At least 50 people have been killed since unrest erupted in Bahrain in 2011. Last year's F1 race was cancelled because of the uprising by the kingdom's Shia majority, which is seeking to break the ruling Sunni dynasty's hold on power.

Away from all the street protests, at the Bahrain International Circuit's colourful paddock, there was one overriding sentiment among race organisers and participants following the end of the race: relief.

A few female protesters were reported to have been arrested behind the main grandstand, but there were no demonstrations on the grid, or track invasions.

"From the point of view of the business of motor racing, it was normal Bahrain," McLaren team driver Jenson Button said. "We don't wear blinkers and we know there has been a lot going on outside, not far from our hotel in Manama. But we haven't seen that, and all we know about it is what we have read."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - Dereham

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - OTE £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Recruitment Genius: Audit Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Graduate Opportunities are available at a lead...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project