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Bahrain Grand Prix officials quell fears over safety

16 February 11 13:14 GMT

Bahrain Grand Prix officials have promised to deliver a safe race for next month's season opener despite growing unrest in the country.

Two people have died after anti-government protestors clashed with police in the capital Manama as a wave of disruption sweeps the Middle East.

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said the danger was "obvious" and added that he was "watching events closely".

Testing takes place in Bahrain on March 3-6, a week prior to the grand prix.

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain International Circuit chief executive, said everything will be done to ensure the first race of the season goes ahead as planned on March 11-13.

Al Khalifa said: "The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the kingdom and our focus at the present time is on delivering another successful event in the form of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

"We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed, in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments."

Ecclestone admitted it was "hard to establish" what was happening in Bahrain, but hoped talks with Crown Prince Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa would help ease his fears.

"He is a bit busy, as you can imagine, so I don't know yet exactly what is going on," said the 80-year-old. "We're watching events closely. We'll rely on what they think the right thing to do is.

"The danger is obvious, isn't it? If these people wanted to make a fuss and get worldwide recognition it would be easy, wouldn't it?

"You start making a problem on the start grid in Bahrain and it would get worldwide coverage."

Thousands of protestors are expected to gather in Manama, with some saying they will stage a sit-in on the main square until their demands for political reform are met.

The Shia majority in Bahrain has been ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family since the 18th Century.

Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Arabian Business that it would be difficult to bring a quick halt to the protests.

"There'll be lots of journalists, a lot of people looking and the government will react in a stupid manner as they have done, and that will be bloody, but will be more publicised," said Rajab.

"This will not stop, especially now when people have died. I don't think it's going to stop easily."

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner hopes the opening race of the season will not be disrupted and said security in Bahrain has always been good.

"We rely on Bernie [Ecclestone] and the promoter to ensure the facilities are safe," said Horner.

"Hopefully this isn't going to detract or affect the opening grand prix. It will be a great shame if it did. Hopefully it will all be resolved and not threaten the race by the time we arrive there in early March.

"Security, particularly in Bahrain, has always been particularly high, whether that's at the hotels or the circuit itself and the circuit has always done an excellent job to make sure we feel safe, whilst Bahrain has always been an enjoyable place to visit."

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