Force India miss Bahrain Grand Prix second practice run

Force India chose not to run their cars in the second practice session at the Bahrain Grand Prix so they could return to their hotel before dark.

The decision came after four team mechanics narrowly avoided being hit by petrol bombs during a clash between protesters and police on Wednesday.

Team boss Bob Fernley said: "We have to ensure the crew are comfortable."

Analysis

"It would have been wrong not to go ahead with the race because it would mean in the future when there is any unrest, you would have to do the same thing. I was here in the dark, my sons went to various villages because they wanted to see what was going on, my wife was out shopping. There is so much unrest in other parts of the Middle East, far beyond anything you're seeing here."

In a separate incident on Thursday, Sauber became the second team involved in a roadside incident.

A bus containing 12 of their mechanics took to the hard shoulder after encountering a burning bottle in the road and seeing masked men running towards their lane.

Sauber confirmed that nobody from the team was hurt and they did not regard it as an attack on their vehicle.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said he had offered Force India a police escort from the track following their incident on Wednesday.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Ecclestone said: "I said if they were the slightest bit concerned, whatever time they would normally leave the circuit, I will be here and travel in their vehicle back to the hotel, without any escort or police.

A pragmatic approach - Force India

"If they want an escort, they can have police, I am happy to travel without. I don't think they have any need to be concerned."

Ecclestone and the Bahrain Grand Prix organisers have worked hard to present the Gulf state as safe.

The incident on Wednesday came as the Force India team members were returning from the track to their hotel at about 2000 local time on the main highway from the track to the capital, Manama.

Ecclestone said he did not want to comment on the incident because he was not there.

He insisted it was "absolutely 100%" the right decision to go to Bahrain, pointing to recent riots in Spain and crime in Brazil as examples that other countries had problems.

Bahrain GP factfile

  • First held: 2004
  • Last race: 2010
  • 2010 race winner: Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
  • Circuit length: 5.412km
  • Laps: 57
  • 2011 race: The event was called off because of anti-government protests in the Gulf state
  • 2012 race: A number of teams expected this year's event to be cancelled, but the FIA said the race will go ahead
  • Schedule: First practice began at 0800 BST on Friday, qualifying at 1200 BST on Saturday, race at 1300 BST on Sunday

Asked if he felt Bahrain were blurring the boundaries between sport and politics by using a "UniF1ed" slogan to promote the grand prix, Ecclestone said it was "not for us to decide how somebody wants to use the race. We're not here to give an opinion on how this country should be run - or any other country".

Fernley told BBC Sport Force India fully supported the Bahrain Grand Prix but safety was paramount.

He said: "We are doing the best we can to make sure the crew is safe. There will be protests, it was an unfortunate incident and when it happens to your team you have to deal with it in a proper manner."

Asked how he felt about the teams being told Bahrain was safe, Fernley said: "We all know there is a very slight risk with coming here."

Not all the teams are staying in central Manama - McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes are all in a resort complex about two miles (3km) from the track.