Force India tightens security after team members caught up in petrol bomb drama
Force India have tightened up their security procedures after petrol bombs were thrown near a car taking staff back to their hotel from the Bahrain Grand Prix circuit.
The team said two staff, one a data engineer and the other a radio contractor, had decided to return home to Britain after the incident but there was no question of pulling out of a race that local rights activists want cancelled.
Although only one petrol bomb was mentioned by a team spokesman, sources indicated there may have been several more that landed on the highway to Manama on Wednesday evening during clashes in a nearby village between anti-government protestors and police.
The protestors have threatened "days of rage" to coincide with the race, the fourth round of the 20-race season, while organisers have ignored calls to cancel a grand prix scrapped last year due to violent demonstrations during the Arab Spring.
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said he had met local race organisers, police advisor John Yates and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone's right-hand man Pasquale Lattuneddu.
"We just want to make sure the right precautions are being taken," said Fernley, who was accompanied by team sporting director Andy Stevenson.
"We know there are going to be protests, we know there are going to be elements to it, but to make sure everything is minimised from a team point of view."
Fernley said the Silverstone-based team, part-owned by Indian aviation and beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, understood the two staff's reasons for wanting to pull out and respected their decision.
He said some British parliamentarians had requested they pull out of the race but government advice was still that it was safe to travel to Bahrain and contractual agreements with the governing body and promoter had to be respected.
"We obviously expect a few more protests in the next few days, so now what we want is for them (team members) to travel as close as possible together," he explained.
"We, as a team, have engaged security here just to give our guys extra comfort and reassurance that we care about them, which as a team is our first priority. So we are co-ordinating our security with the circuit security.
"We don't want our guys getting into a position or a place where they shouldn't be, so we re-route accordingly."
Measures included putting trackers in cars in case they lost their way and not wearing team uniform between the track and hotel in Manama, where the streets have been largely quiet by day before evening protests.
Some teams have also taken to removing parking passes from windscreens, putting them instead on plastic sheets that can be hidden away from the track, so that the cars cannot be identified as race traffic.
"We have security people liaising with the authorities and if anything flares up we get to know about it quickly and we can take appropriate action," said Fernley.
"When we go back at night I will go back to their hotel with the last crew member to make sure they have all got back safely before I go back to mine.
"Our concern is absolutely making sure they are all okay. It's sensible things, nothing outrageous, untoward or sinister, just being sensible."