A troubling political climate in Bahrain casts doubt on whether Formula One will take place, in spite of repeated assurances from both the FIA and race promoters that the event will proceed as planned in three weeks’ time.
Speaking at a media luncheon last Wednesday, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone reiterated his support for the Bahrain Grand Prix and panned any speculation that the race won’t go ahead as scheduled.
"Of course the race is going to happen,” said Ecclestone. “People say to me 'There's not going to be a race.' And I say 'Well how do you know?' And they tell me they saw or read something, but it's all nonsense."
"These people were brave enough to start an event in that part of the world, and that's it. We'll be there as long as they want us."
Bahrain International Circuit Chairman Zayed Alzayani echoed Ecclestone’s views, and said the country was ready to move on.
"There's a genuine move towards progress, getting the country back on track," said Alzayani. "Everybody has suffered in Bahrain - the citizens, the businesses - and it's time we find some hope, build on it and move back to where we were."
When asked about the possibility of further attacks, Alzayani replied, "I don't think that will happen."
Nevertheless, despite the votes of confidence, anti-F1 sentiments are growing in the gulf state.
Protesters have taken to social media to further their cause, marking their tweets with the hashtags ‘#BloodyF1’ and ‘#NoF1’, accompanied by messages and cartoons demanding the event be called off.
A video was posted online showing a hooded youth reading out a written statement denouncing Formula One’s presence in Bahrain.
"We (object to) holding a sports race that belittles the sacrifices of our children and ignores our suffering and wounds," said the protester. "Do not tarnish the reputation of the respected auto sport with the blood of Bahrain victims."
Amidst all the uncertainty, some are simply afraid.
"Some of us are still scared." Will Buxton, journalist and roving pit lane reporter for Speed TV wrote about the dilemmas of an F1 race amidst a tenuous political landscape.
"It was always going to be a case of 'Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,'" said Buxton. "It is due to the longevity of the violence, and the continued insistence by protesters that the Grand Prix is part of the problem rather than being part of the solution, that there are still genuine fears that all will not be peaceful."
Meanwhile, teams have taken a discretionary approach and planned contingencies in the event that the race does get cancelled at the last minute.
German publication Auto Motor Und Sport revealed some teams have made flexible travel arrangements for personnel and equipment. The cars and team freight will be flown from Shanghai, China to Dubai instead of Bahrain following the Chinese Grand Prix on 15 April. Flight reservations were also made for team personnel to return to Europe if the Bahrain race does not proceed as planned.
The Bahrain Grand Prix is slated for 20 April to 22 April at the Herman Tilke designed Bahrain International Circuit.