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F1 urged to rethink Bahrain Grand Prix as protests continue

updated 9:46 AM EDT, Mon April 9, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Calls for motorsport officials to rethink running of Bahrain Grand Prix later this month
  • British member of parliament says event should not have been scheduled so early in season
  • Former world champion Damon Hill says running race could cause more problems that it solves
  • Race scheduled to take place on April 22

(CNN) -- Formula One bosses are under increasing pressure to review their decision to stage the Bahrain Grand Prix later this month.

A British politician added his voice to the growing chorus of dissent on Friday saying motorsport officials should "rethink" their plans.

"In hindsight, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) should not have scheduled the 2012 race so early in the season," said Richard Burden, a Labor member of parliament.

"It was always going to be too early to know how far things had moved on in Bahrain since last year. F1 can't turn the clock back but, with three weeks to go before the race, it can still rethink. It should do so," he added.

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"In a context where genuine and sustainable reform is taking place, holding a Grand Prix could be a unifying event for the people of Bahrain as well as a positive showcase on the world stage. But things are not at that stage."

The calls come amid continuing unrest in the country with demonstrators and Bahraini authorities continuing to clash.

Burden's words echo those made by former British F1 world champion Damon Hill on Thursday, who said running the race now could create more problems than it solves.

If Formula One go ahead with the race it will give the impression that everything is back to normal when everything is not back to normal
Nabeel Rajab, human rights activist

"It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for Formula One, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race. That is not what this sport should be about," Hill said.

Most recently, Bahraini officials have arrested the daughter of the human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja who is currently on hunger strike to protest the life sentence he received for his alleged role in the ongoing unrest.

In February, the country's Formula One organizers, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) insisted the race would go ahead.

But Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (a group started by al-Khawaja) urged officials to reverse the decision.

"If Formula One go ahead with the race it will give the impression that everything is back to normal when everything is not back to normal. People are dying on a daily basis, Rajab told CNN.

"I say think of the human rights, think of things other than just your profit and your interest. Human rights have to come first," he added.

"We will welcome you back when everything is back to normal, when the killing and arrests have stopped in the streets."

However, the BIC insisted that the race would be safe.

"The BIC is in regular contact with the FIA, FOM (Formula One Management) and the Bahrain government," it said in a statement.

"All of the above continue to state that the grand prix goes ahead, and we are therefore going about our business of ensuring that this sporting event can be enjoyed by a hundred thousand local spectators, as well as hundreds of millions of viewers around the world. We speak to F1 teams regularly, and have received no communication regarding an unwillingness to race.

"With particular reference to travel advice, Bahrain has had a 'green' travel alert (i.e. no travel restrictions) from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office for some months now. This rating is safer than even the first race in 2004."

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