Calls To Cancel Bahrain Grand Prix













Formula One drivers have started practice runs in Bahrain amid increasing calls to cancel the Grand Prix race because of anti-government protests.

Cars took to the track this morning as activists promised to mark this weekend’s event with “days of rage”.

A number of protesters were arrested over night as Arab Spring demonstrations flared across the Gulf Kingdom.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said British F1 stars Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton should not take part in the three-day event.

“I don’t think British drivers should go and I don’t think F1 should go ahead in Bahrain,” the Labour MP told the BBC’s Question Time.

“You have got demonstrations by democratic protesters who have been violently suppressed and although it should be a matter for the sport to decide rather than for the Government, I do think government ministers can express an opinion.

“That opinion should be very clear – it should not go ahead. It would send the wrong signal, it should not happen.”

Ms Cooper joins a growing number of politicians and human rights campaigners who have called on organisers to pull the plug on the event because of the crackdown on demonstrators.

Respect MP George Galloway said the tracks of the Middle Eastern race circuit were “stained by the blood of the people who are asking for a vote”.

Earlier this week, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said proceeding would “send the wrong signal”.

Anti-government activists hurled petrol bombs at security forces who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

Some members of the British-based Force India race team flew home on Thursday after they were caught up in a petrol bomb attack.

The blast happened when a van carrying four team members got caught up in traffic.

No one in the vehicle was hurt and none of the passengers were Formula One drivers.

The team said that it’s participation in the practice run today would be “limited”.

Meanwhile, Button refused to become embroiled in the issue.

Asked about the situation during an interview, the McLaren driver said: “I’m not going to get into the details of it.

“You are here interviewing me as a driver and that’s exactly what I am going to talk about – motor racing. The outside issues, I’m not going to talk about.”

Last week, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone declared Bahrain safe and decided to go ahead with this Sunday’s race.

Protesters seeking to oust Bahrain’s monarchy have threatened “days of rage” to coincide with the event, while organisers have ignored appeals to call off the event that was cancelled last year due to demonstrations during the Arab Spring.

The organisers’ decision to go ahead with the race has put increased pressure on sponsors, whose critics say they are backing a sporting spectacle taking place against a background of political repression.

While international sports reporters are in Bahrain to cover the race, correspondents from various news organisations – including Sky News – have been denied access.

Bahrain has been in turmoil since a democracy movement erupted more than a year ago after uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Protests were initially crushed with the deaths of dozens of people, but protesters continue to clash with riot police and thousands take part in opposition rallies.