Anti-government protesters in Bahrain are expected to step up their campaign this week which is set to have an impact on Formula One.
A demonstration, declared by one as “a huge rally”, is planned for today in the village of Al Dair on the doorstep of the Gulf kingdom’s international airport.
It is understood the focus will not only centre on pro-democracy rights, but also anti-F1 as the race returns this weekend after a two-year absence.
Tomorrow, when most F1 personnel are due to arrive, what has been described by a risk assessment group as “a vehicular rally” is to take place along the two highways that lead up to the airport.
Although the protests appear to be the latest in a long line of campaigns that have taken place since the protests 14 months ago, the suspicion is the rebels are intent on taking their cause closer to F1 as Sunday’s race looms.
Gatherings are also planned tomorrow in Bab Al Bahrain in north Manama, and Tubli, a village south west of the capital.
Of greater significance, however, is a demonstration scheduled for Thursday in Manama, which has avoided any unrest of late.
The protesters have so far been confined to the villages, which has prompted many to claim Bahrain is peaceful and fit again to host the race.
For the most part that has certainly been the case, with the FIA claiming on Saturday security was not an issue, and the reason why they decided to give the event the green light.
However, whilst the demonstrations mentioned are planned, what is unknown are the actions of a dissident group known as the Coalition Youth of the Feb 14 Revolution.
The Coalition have previously declared ’three days of anger’ over the course of the race weekend, and have vowed to do all they can to disrupt proceedings.
Regardless, FIA president Jean Todt insisted on Sunday there are “good and secure conditions”.
Todt finally broke his silence on Bahrain following the race in China, speaking to German television station RTL.
Todt said: “We have spoken... with representatives of the government, with the embassies and with neighbouring countries, as well as with European foreign ministries.
“We have made an extensive examination with a lot of checks. It is clear the grand prix can go ahead.
“There has been some controversy about it, but the FIA is a sports organisation. We are only interested in sport, not politics.”