F1 mechanics flee Bahrain after petrol bomb attack during street protest

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Fears grow over Sunday's Grand Prix as police fire stun grenades and tear gas at demonstrators

Two mechanics from the Force India Formula 1 racing team fled Bahrain today after their colleagues were nearly engulfed by a petrol bomb.

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 sporadic 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 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 evening. Al-Wefaq, the main opposition party for the country’s majority Shi’a population, also released a video showing what they claimed were members of the state security forces beating people with iron bars.

Renewed clashes broke out once more last night with opposition groups vowing to hold daily protests up until Sunday. A photographer from Associated Press reported seeing police fire stun grenades and tear gas at a rally in central Manama in which protestors were demonstrating shouting slogans against Formula 1 coming to Bahrain. New pictures posted by activists last night showed thick blankets of tear gas wafting across the city streets. Another particularly graphic image showed a protestor who had been severely injured after being hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

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 Shi’a majority starting agitating for better representation and democratic reform. However human rights groups have accused the regime of being more concerned with its international image than implementing real reform.

The country’s Shi’a opposition is divided over whether the Grand Prix should go ahead. Al-Wefaq, the main opposition party, says it intends to use the international attention gained from coverage of the race to highlight human rights abuses inside Bahrain with daily protests. But many younger activists, who have often borne the brunt of police brutality, are less conciliatory and believe the race should not be allowed to proceed. There are reports that some have used petrol bombs and iron rods to attack police but opposition groups insist that their protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful.

Formula 1 teams began arriving in Bahrain earlier in the week amid concerns that their security would be put at risk from the violent confrontations. Some have even been advised by their bosses to avoid displaying sponsor logos in public. On Wednesday evening four personnel from the Force India team became the first members of the Formula 1 community to get caught up directly in Bahrain’s political problems.

As clashes broke out between police and demonstrators a Molotov cocktail exploded not far from their hired van. None of the four, who work as mechanics for the Silverstone-based team that run Scottish driver Paul di Resta, were injured but two other unnamed team members decided to return to the UK after the incident. The team nonetheless vowed to press ahead with racing come Sunday.

Though the incident is precisely what critics of the decision to go to the troubled Gulf state had envisaged - the innocent getting caught up in clashes not specifically aimed at them – it was quickly dismissed by Zayed R Alzayani, the chairman of the BIC which will host the race.

“It was an isolated incident, and my wife was involved too,” he said, while confirming that he would not be asking for tighter security controls. “The protestors were not targeting the cars, they just happened to be there. Nobody was injured. I don't command the police; they know what to do better than I do. I have a race to run.”

Racing Away: The Cost Of Missing Out

The muted response to alleged human-rights abuses in Bahrain ahead of the Grand Prix has led to accusations from activists that organisers are motivated purely by money. But how much money is at stake? The answer is: a lot.

The cancellation of last year’s event amid a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests is estimated to have cost the oil-rich nation some £250m in tourism losses alone. In addition, the Formula One Group was allowed to keep the £25m paid by Bahrain to host the event.

Bahrain is a country rich in natural resources, but its economy has taken a hit and has struggled to quell large-scale protests over the past 12 months.

If it were to cancel the event, it would face similar losses again this year.

The Formula One Group stands to make around £289m this year in television rights from its two UK broadcasters, the BBC and BSkyB. The money it will make from sponsors is even higher – estimated to be around £480m.

Richard Hall

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn