Journalist sees more police on first day in Bahrain

Wed, 18 April 2012, 08:35

Apr.18 (GMM) A travelling F1 journalist believes this weekend’s controversial Bahrain grand prix could go ahead without problems.

Ahead of the island Kingdom’s highly-contentious return to the F1 calendar this weekend after a two-year absence due to civil unrest, some of the sport’s correspondents have this week been reporting from the scene of often violent protests.

The Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary said he was approached at a protest on Tuesday by a man wearing a Ferrari shirt.

“I love F1,” the man said, “but not over our blood.”

Some other F1 regulars have skipped Bahrain altogether, as only 260 journalists are registered to attend — about 25 per cent down on the usual number.

Writing in the German-language Speed Week, however, Mathias Brunner endeavoured simply to make his way from the airport to his hotel, and on to the Sakhir circuit, where he will spend the week reporting about the grand prix.

“I am a formula one journalist. I travel to countries where grands prix are held,” he began.

“After China, I wanted to get my own idea about what is true: the picture of the (Bahrain) government, where everything is fine, or the picture of the activists, where the entire place is in a state of civil war.”

Brunner said FIA president Jean Todt had “no time” to answer questions about Bahrain when he visited the Chinese grand prix last weekend.

“My job is not to seek out unrest and talk with the opposition, but it’s also not to parrot the slogans of the government. I just want to get an impression about where the grand prix is taking place.

“My first impression is that it’s stiflingly hot. After a quarter of an hour’s drive it is clear that there are more police about than on our last visit two years ago — I have counted more than 50 vehicles, at least.

“Then I saw a burned-out police car on the right of the main road.”

Brunner said he was questioned at a police check-point before reaching the Sakhir circuit, and questioned again when he parked too close to a police car in the media parking lot.

He also said he saw some police inside the circuit, before stopping for a “one stop strategy” at a fast food outlet on the return to his hotel.

“I drove a different route on purpose, and there were a lot of police on the roads there as well,” said Brunner.

“But what is clear is that the view about Bahrain in the Shanghai paddock (last weekend) in no way reflects the true situation in the country,” he concluded.

Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that the race could theoretically still be cancelled as late as Thursday.

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