Force India vow to race despite petrol bomb incident in Bahrain

 

Force India have confirmed they will not be withdrawing from this
weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix despite team members being caught up in a
petrol bomb incident last night.

Drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg have today both voiced their concerns regarding the situation in the wake of what proved to be another violent clash between police and protesters.

A car carrying four team personnel was caught up in traffic as it made its way back from the Bahrain International Circuit to the capital Manama.

In a case of 'wrong place, wrong time', a pitched battle ensued as Press Association Sport understands eight petrol bombs landed in the vicinity of the traffic hold-up, forcing the riot police to respond with tear gas.

None of the four were injured, however the incident has sent a shockwave through the team, and in Formula One in general.

Just six days ago the FIA insisted the sport was safe to travel to Bahrain and that there were no security concerns.

However, it is abundantly clear that F1 personnel could find themselves in harm's way with the number of protests to be ramped up over the next few days.

Such concerns have led to two team members flying home, one a data engineer and the other involved in radio transmission and who was on contract, and who was in the car at the time.

That prompted a high-powered meeting today between deputy team principal Bob Fernley, sporting director Andy Stevenson, John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police currently acting as an advisor to the Bahraini police force, BIC senior consultant Martin Whitaker and Pasquale Lattuneddu, right-hand man to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

A revision of the team's security measures are now in place as Fernley said: "We just want to make sure the right precautions are being taken.

"Up until now we've been quite free with everything, but there are more protests in the next few days, so what we want is for them (team members) to travel as close as possible together.

"We don't want our guys getting in a position or a place where they shouldn't be, so we will also re-route accordingly.

"For us, it's not about having armed people, we don't have that, but we do have trackers on every vehicle just in case one loses its way.

"We have also decided when we go back at night I will go back to their hotel with the last crew member to make sure they have all returned safely before I go back to mine.

"Our concern is absolutely making sure they are all okay. It's sensible things, nothing outrageous, untoward or sinister, just being sensible."

Fernley has insisted there is no danger of pulling out, despite the obvious fears now being sparked.

"There is no chance whatsoever of us withdrawing," said Fernley.

"The main thing is we are quite supportive of making sure this all happens in a proper way.

"Like other teams we've had requests from MPs to withdraw from the race, and I've written back to them.

"We've been quite clear with our programme. The FIA and FOM, who we have contractual obligations with, have said it's safe and correct for us to be here. We've accepted that process.

"We know there are going to be protests, we know there are going to be elements to it, but to make sure everything is minimised from a team point of view.

"As I've said to MPs, Formula One coming to Bahrain, it can be argued it has brought the world press in, it has highlighted some of the issues, and now it is up to them to debate that.

"If they feel other things have to change, then their advice should be accordingly."

However, protests are ongoing, with one demonstration scheduled at 4pm local time tomorrow in an area just two kilometres north of the circuit.

A worried Hulkenberg said: "We are here to race. The F1 business is about entertainment, and these sort of things should not really be happening to us.

"Whether it is right or not, I don't really know. I am not a politician, I am a Formula One driver.

"But it should not really be happening should it? It is not good we have to worry about it."

As for Di Resta, he added: "I've not spoken to everybody within the team, but there is some concern, and some people have felt it a bit more than others.

"As for me, I'm pretty neutral. It's how I've felt for the last couple of weeks, although there is an edge to things at the moment."

PA

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