Bahrain unrest sees GP2 round cancelled and F1 opener under threat
Norfolk's GP2 teams are heading home from Bahrain early after the country's civil unrest saw their race cancelled – and threw a major question mark over the opening Formula One grand prix of the season.
Griston's Super Nova Racing, Carleton Rode-based iSport and Hingham's Team Air Asia were all preparing to compete in the F1 feeder category this weekend.
However, pro-democracy protesters inspired by the recent scenes in Tunisia and Egypt have taken to the streets this week – a situation that deteriorated on Wednesday night after a number of people were reportedly killed following violent clashes.
It left medical crews usually responsible for safety at the Sakhir circuit helping the injured at hospitals in the Bahrain capital, Manama – enough to turn the initial postponement of Thursday's practice and qualifying sessions into a full cancellation of the series' second round.
It also means the final Formula One pre-season four day test, due to start in less than a fortnight, and the season's opening grand prix the following week, are in serious doubt.
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Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said a decision over the F1 events will be made on Tuesday or Wednesday, while the third and final round of the GP2 Asia Series is also scheduled for three weeks' time.
The GP2 entourage, including Norfolk's teams, are expected to have all flown home by the end of Friday.
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One of the Norfolk GP2 contingent, speaking from Bahrain, said on Thrusday: 'It has been a little bit scary and when you see soldiers with weapons, then it does feel quite real.
'But then again, you've got in the back of your mind that we'll be on a plane out of here – but the people who live here won't be.'
The protests, which had begun peacefully, delayed the arrival of the teams' freight and cars – meaning the equipment that arrived Wednesday morning had been repacked 36 hours later following Thursday's cancellation.
'Most of us haven't seen what has been happening, but we have seen the military presence, a good 50 tanks and armoured personnel carriers, things like that,' the insider added.
'When we drove out this morning there was police all along the intersections of our road with normal riot stuff like rubber bullet guns, and when we were driving out to the track, when you saw the number of tanks and armoured people, it was a bit full on.'