'We fear most the possibility of some sort of track invasion'

Crown Prince Salman admits there is danger but refuses to consider cancelling the race

Bahrain

As sparks continued to fly around the tinderbox of Bahrain, and as the troubled kingdom's Grand Prix drew ever closer, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa refused to countenance cancelling the event.

Yesterday, amid initial rumours that they might head home, the Force India team did not run in the afternoon practice session, preferring to finish early and rebuild morale after the incident on Wednesday evening in which four team members were momentarily caught up in clashes between police and protesters and had a Molotov cocktail land close to their vehicle.

A Force India team van was also momentarily confronted by a burning tyre that was rolled in front of it.

The deputy team principal, Bob Fernley, said: "We are absolutely committed to racing here. What we are doing is a slight rescheduling to meet the requirements that we need to do – and that will take place. But we will be there for qualifying and for the race.

"We have had issues, as you all know, and we have to make sure that the crew are comfortable in the environment. But the crew are totally committed to delivering qualifying and the race – and if it means a limited or no FP2 [Friday second practice session] in order to achieve that, that is the decision we will have to take.

"We are doing the best we can to make sure the crew are safe. We have assurances and I don't believe there will be any issues. There will be protests and I think it was an unfortunate incident, but unfortunate incidents happen. When it is your team it happens to, you have to deal with it in a proper manner."

An independent poll published yesterday suggested that 77 per cent of the population were in favour of the race going ahead. Crown Prince Salman said: "I genuinely believe that the race is a force for good. All of the people are excited that you are here.

"I guarantee the problems faced by Force India were not directed at Formula One. Cancelling the race would encourage extremists."

Sauber also reported an incident on Thursday evening, when their minibus was approached by masked men as it had to slow down on the motorway. "The mechanics noticed fire on the median strip of the highway," said the team spokesman, Hanspeter Brack. "The traffic was slow, cars had their hazard flashers on. The team members saw a few masked people running over to their lane, where a bottle was burning as well. The minibus moved to the very right side of the highway and went past the situation."

Though no team personnel were injured in any of the incidents, they ratcheted up the tension as more demonstrations were held. The first was on the Zayyaq Highway, close to the Bahrain International Circuit, immediately after the second practice.

Others followed in the wealthy Saar suburb and Banijamrah later in the evening. Both are near the troubled Budaiya Road area in the north-west. The US Embassy leaked information on no-go areas, which include the area to the left of Hamad Road on the route back from the circuit towards Manama, the area to the east by Sanad and Sitra which have previously seen trouble, and the north-west area by Sanabis, not far from the old Pearl Roundabout and the opulent Ritz Carlton Hotel, where a fourth demonstration was held in the vicinity of Karranah and Abu Saiba.

A fifth demonstration is planned near the University of Bahrain, much closer to the Formula One circuit, at 4pm tomorrow, right in the middle of the race.

The Bahraini government has imposed a curfew on the waterways around the kingdom between 6pm and 4am. "Of course we fear most the possibility of some sort of track invasion on Sunday during the race, or some sort of protest on the grid prior to the start," said Crown Prince Salman, who is also chief executive of Bahrain International Circuit, on Thursday evening. "But we have tried to be subtle in our security."

Quizzed on the morality of running the race, team principals Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Eric Boullier (Lotus), Bob Fernley (Force India) and Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari) refused to comment.

But McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh said: "The calendar has been set for some time and we are competitors, so we are here to race. There is a lot of support in all parts of society, but often the majority are not heard on these occasions."

Crown Prince Salman said: "Protests will happen, it's part of the political process in any country. But there's a very big difference between protesting and rioting."

Yesterday the action on the race-track was of secondary importance. Lewis Hamilton headed the first session for McLaren and the Shanghai winner, Nico Rosberg, led the second for Mercedes.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
Extras
indybest
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor