Bahrain GP protesters say: 'No to bloody Formula'

Bahrain GP organisers carry on regardless, with Nico Rosberg claiming pole for controversial race

Bahrain

If 10,000 people protested on the streets of London against the staging of the British Grand Prix, media coverage would be frenzied. But perspective is everything. In the days leading up to this afternoon's Bahrain Grand Prix there were similar numbers gathered on the streets of Manama, the Bahraini capital, and in surrounding villages such as Sanabis and Sitra, but the majority were not protesting against the race.

They were using it as an indirect tool with which to focus world attention on the human-rights abuses in the Gulf kingdom. This year's protests echoed the Arab Spring riots of February 14 2011, which led to the cancellation of that year's race and rendered its return last year as an international cause célèbre. Human rights remain an ongoing fight as a slowly moving political process is interspersed with violent action.

This year's race has been notably calmer and stories of tension in the paddock have been widely exaggerated. There has been far less of the violence which last year saw the Force India and Sauber teams caught up in the aftermath of petrol-bomb attacks on policemen as clashes between security forces and extremists became progressively more volatile.

On Friday, Sheikh Ali Salman, of the opposition Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, said: "We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence."

That message has not percolated fully. At Bahrain Bay, the financial centre which carries the hopes for the nation's future, a government poster shows a racing car and a young child playing with a model Ferrari F40 under the headline, "Inspiring future generations". But elsewhere extremists have painted walls with racing car images and the words, "No for the bloody Formula".

Deputy Prime Minister Crown Prince Salman, the son of King Hamad, is responsible for trying to resolve the bitter dispute between the ruling Sunni royal family and the predominant Shia population. "Let's not politicise the race," he said. "Seventy seven per cent of Bahrainis are behind it, and 90 believe that it benefits our economy.

"The demonstrations were largely peaceful, with people expressing their rights to disagree. That is the kind of thing we want to support, not the violent extremists. Little distinction is made between the two.

"The race should be a help in the political process. Keeping Bahrain connected to the international community is very important, as it stops us looking inwards and keeps us looking outward. This weekend is really about sport and transcending our conflicts and celebrating what's great about humanity in the true spirit of noble competition."

There has even been harmony between the sport's rulers. Not since the comradely days of Max Mosleyhave the International Automobile Association (FIA) and Formula One Management (FOM) issued a joint statement. But, despite the much-criticised absence from the race of Jean Todt, the FIA president, the two parties insist that they had no qualms about the race going ahead despite renewed pleas in some quarters for a last-minute cancellation.

"The FIA and FOM strongly believe that sport can often be a force for good and that the staging of the Grand Prix in Bahrain will come some way in helping soothe some of the issues raised," they said.

On the track, Nico Rosberg took pole position for Mercedes – their second in a row and their first back to back since 1955 – ahead of favourites Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Paul di Resta is the best-placed British driver after Rosberg's team-mate Lewis Hamilton incurred a penalty for a changed gear box which dropped him from fourth to ninth on the grid, while Mark Webber's penalty for an incident in last week's Chinese Grand Prix promoted Di Resta from seventh to fifth.

"It wasn't the best of days for me but congratulations to Nico," Hamilton said. "He did a really good job. I couldn't quite find the pace and, with losing five places, we've got a tough challenge. The best chance to gain positions will come at the start, then we'll see how it goes."

Jenson Button, who was 10th, said: "There are positives to be drawn: we out-qualified a Lotus, which was a surprise, and I'll be driving the first car starting on new tyres tomorrow. As in China, that brings a slight strategic advantage, so I'm hoping we can have another decent outing."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on