Bahrain Grand Prix chief plays down Force India petrol bomb scare
The chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, Zayed R Alzayani, has played down the incident which saw members of the Force India Formula One team caught up in riots between police and protestors, claiming it could have happened anywhere.
The close proximity of civil unrest and danger in Bahrain was made clear on Wednesday night when a firebomb exploded as four mechanics for the F1 team returned from the Sakhir circuit to their hotel.
"They weren't targeted. They just happened to be there," said Alzayani. "I think it's unfortunate. It's an issue of timing. It could happen in any place in the world really, getting caught up in a riot or a fight or anything."
Nobody was injured in the incident which happened as the vehicle was stuck in a traffic jam, but one member of the team, based at Silverstone in England, decided afterwards to leave Bahrain and return home.
The four mechanics, who were in a hire car, were accidentally caught up in a clash between protesters and police on the main motorway from Manama to the circuit at Sakhir. The four in the car returned safely to their hotel and they decided to stay on. The team member going home was not involved.
The Force India incident came despite prolonged assurances from the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA) and Formula One's chief executive and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone that the Gulf state is a completely safe place to host this weekend's race, which was cancelled 12 months ago due to the civil unrest.
The blast took place about 20 minutes car ride from the circuit on the outskirts of the capital Manama at the end of a first day's work for the teams in Bahrain.
They flew in on Monday following last Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix to be greeted by a comprehensive demonstration of security forces with vehicles parked at intervals on all main roads and around the circuit.
Squads of officers have patrolled the paddock and the circuit throughout the week while the teams have arrived to prepare for the event. Many of the teams and their drivers are known to have private misgivings about the wisdom of racing in Bahrain amid ongoing civil unrest, but none have so far publicly questioned the decision.