Protesters seeking to highlight Bahrain’s political problems blocked Manama Street in the capital.
And there were sporadic clashes between the significantly increased security forces and protesters, who burned tyres and hurled petrol bombs at government buildings. But the situation was much less volatile than in 2012 when the Bahrain Grand Prix – controversially returned after the Arab Spring of 2011 – had seen heavy-handed treatment of protesters and the deaths of 35 people.
But banners depicting a racing car and proclaiming ‘No for the bloody Formula,’ seem at curious variance with the official line from the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, whose secretary spokesman Sheikh Ali Salman voiced their support for the event when he declared: “We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence.”
Prince Salman bin Hamad Isa Al Khalifa, who was recently appointed deputy prime minister by his father, King Hamad, said: “We know we are not perfect, but we are in a much better position than last year. Let’s not politicise the race. Motor sport has grown in the region and we are heading in the right direction.”