Bahrain Grand Prix under threat due to anti-government protests

Bahrain Grand Prix officials have vowed to deliver a safe race next month despite growing unrest in the country

The curtain-raiser to the new Formula One season is under threat in the wake of anti-government sentiment this week that has resulted in the deaths of two protesters.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has voiced his concerns, with the 80-year-old due to discuss the situation with the Crown Prince of the island kingdom, Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa.

Bahrain International Circuit CEO Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa has promised everything will be done to ensure the event goes ahead as planned from March 11-13, and as smoothly as possible.

"The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the kingdom and, at the Bahrain International Circuit, our focus at the present time is on delivering another successful event in the form of the Bahrain Grand Prix," said Al Khalifa.

"We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments."

The Formula One circus is due to pitch up in Bahrain in just two weeks' time as the final test is scheduled to run from March 3-6, with all personnel staying on for the race the following weekend.

Expressing his fears, Ecclestone said: "The danger is obvious isn't it? If these people wanted to make a fuss and get worldwide recognition it would be easy, wouldn't it?

"You start making a problem on the start grid in Bahrain and it would get worldwide coverage."

That is clearly the aim, according to Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

As in Tunisia and Egypt recently, where civil protests have led to the resignations of each country's president, the Bahrainis are seeking an end to the 30-year rule of their prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa.

Rajab said: "For sure F1 is not going to be peaceful this time.

"There'll be lots of journalists, a lot of people looking and (the government) will react in a stupid manner as they have done, and that will be bloody, but will be more publicised.

"This will not stop, especially now when people have died. I don't think it's going to stop easily."

Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner is naturally hopeful peace will break out to ensure the start to the new F1 season is not disrupted.

"We rely on Bernie, FOM (Formula One Management) and the promoter to ensure the facilities are safe," said Horner.

"Hopefully this isn't going to detract or affect the opening grand prix. It will be a great shame if it did.

"Hopefully it will all be resolved and not threaten the race by the time we arrive there in early March."