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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Bahrain bans champagne
Juan Pablo Montoya (left) and Michael Schumacher spray Jenson Button with champagne in Malaysia
Spraying champagne is a traditional part of F1 celebrations
Drivers have been banned from the traditional podium celebration of spraying champagne at Sunday's inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix.

The race is the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East.

Alcohol and scantily-clad "pit girls" would not be appreciated in the Islamic country, said Bahrain's deputy speaker Adel al-Moawada.

"Shaking the champagne and spreading it on people, this is something I don't think people will accept," he said.

"The organisers know how to run this event without contradicting the culture of the place they are in."

Race organisers have created a special non-alcoholic drink for the podium celebrations, a mix of locally grown fruit - pomegranate and trinj - combined with rosewater.

The build-up to the Grand Prix has been overshadowed by security fears, with the British Foreign Office warning about a global terrorist threat to western and UK targets.

Hosting the first Grand Prix in the Middle East is of special importance to the people of Bahrain
Bahrain Interior Ministry

"We are particularly concerned about potential threats to places where westerners might gather," it said in a statement.

Six of the 10 F1 teams are based in Britain.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa has promised security will be extremely tight, with aerial patrols and police surveillance stepped up this week around the country.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry said it has a robust security plan to deal with anything from "low-level vandalism to national disasters and international terrorism".

The ministry added: "The Kingdom of Bahrain takes the issue of national security as a matter of paramount importance and visitors to the kingdom should rest assured that their well-being is being cared for from the moment that they arrive on the island.

"Hosting the first Grand Prix in the Middle East is of special importance to the people of Bahrain.

"We want everyone who visits the kingdom to enjoy their stay with us and to understand that the security plans will be as unobtrusive as possible."

The absence of champagne on the podium after a race does have a precedent.

When the Williams team were sponsored by Saudia Airlines and other Arab sponsors in the late 1970s and early 1980s their drivers were asked to shake bottles of orange juice during their celebrations.




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