By Simon Farnsworth
Anti-government protesters in Bahrain are promising “three days of rage” as the controversial Formula 1 race gets under way today with practice sessions.
Last night saw government forces use tear gas and stun grenades in clashes with anti-government demonstrators in villages around the capital, Manama.
Concerns over the safety of the F1 teams have increased since petrol bombs were thrown at Force India mechanics when they were driving from the capital to the race track in Sakhir. No one was hurt but two mechanics have asked to return home.
The decision to go ahead with the Grand Prix has been condemned by British politicians.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said on Question Time: “I don’t think British drivers should go.
“This should not go ahead, it would send the wrong signal and it shouldn’t happen now,” said Cooper.
Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, agreed and said “it endorses and legitimises the regime.”
Respect MP George Galloway added: “There is blood on the tracks and anyone who drives over them will never be forgiven.”
Former world champion, Sir Jackie Stewart, has agreed with the green light for the race as the sport makes the country a lot of money and brings people together. You can see his views on the Grand Prix here.
Last year’s race was cancelled after 35 people died during civil unrest. The demonstrators are calling for greater democracy in the Gulf state by ending the discrimination against the majority Shia by the Sunni royal family.
The race track itself is set for protests with the demonstrators planning a protest at 16:00 (14:00 GMT) outside the Bahrain International Circuit. The police will have to show restraint with the spotlight of the international media on them.