A dark cloud is lingering above the 2011 season opener. Anti-government protesters in Bahrain are clashing violently with police, with next month’s grand prix specifically targeted by one group and Bernie Ecclestone admitting “danger”.
For formula one, the biggest danger is that the race – scheduled to take place a week after pre-race tests at the same Sakhir circuit – will have to be called off.
“There are realities on the ground that we need to accept,” an FIA spokesman told the Associated Press.
“But the FIA is fully confident, with the Bahrain motor federation, that the situation will be resolved amicably.”
With a round of GP2 Asia taking place this weekend, the spokesman insisted that the situation is being closely monitored.
The Bahrain circuit said its main focus is safety.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments,” said chief executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa in a statement.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner acknowledged the threat to next month’s events but said there is no alarming news about the situation emerging from the venue at present.
The Briton’s GP2 team Arden is competing in Bahrain this weekend.
“I spoke to the team yesterday and they didn’t mention any concerns and hopefully that race will go ahead as planned,” he told Reuters.
A GP2 spokesperson told the Guardian: “The teams at the track have reported nothing shocking. There is no concern and GP2 will be running this weekend.”
Ecclestone told the Times that a decision about the F1 event will have to be taken “very quickly”.
“It’s a great shame because Bahrain have worked very hard to get their grand prix, but we have to be aware of what is going on there,” he said.
“We will be watching every day so that we can inform the teams as soon as possible when we know whether it is safe to go ahead.”
He admitted the very real possibility of cancellation.
“The Middle East is a big growth area and we want to be there but we also want to be safe and make sure that formula one is seen in the best light,” said Ecclestone.
“I have never had any problems in Bahrain in the past and I’m happy to walk around town there. But we don’t know now. The world is changing.”
An FIA spokesman told the Guardian: “The plan is for the grand prix to go ahead but our main concern will always be the safety of the teams and the spectators.”