MANAMA, Bahrain, April 19 – The close proximity of civil unrest and danger in Bahrain was made clear to the Force India Formula One team on Wednesday night when a firebomb exploded as they returned from the Sakhir circuit to their hotel.
The incident happened as the vehicle was stuck in a traffic jam, Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani told Autosport magazine.
Nobody was injured, but one member of the team, based at Silverstone in England, decided afterwards to leave Bahrain and return home.
The four mechanics, who were in a hire car, were accidentally caught up in a clash between protesters and police on the main motorway from Manama to the circuit at Sakhir, Alzayani said.
Force India driver German Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday said it was “not right” that members of his team had been close to an exploding firebomb – but added he felt safe in Bahrain ahead of this weekend’s controversial Bahrain Grand Prix.
A 4×4 hire car without branding, carrying four Force India mechanics, was in traffic that was caught up accidentally in a clash between protesters and police on the motorway from the circuit at Sakhir back to the capital Manama on Wednesday night.
Another member of the Silverstone-based Formula One team, who was not in the car, was more disturbed and flew home.
Hulkenberg, 24, said he lamented the incident, but added that F1 was only in the Gulf state to deliver a sporting event, a race, and not to cause problems.
He told reporters at the circuit: “It is obviously not right that that sort of stuff happens.
“We are here to race. The F1 business is about entertainment, and these sorts of things should not really be happening to us.
“Whether it is right or not, I don’t really know. It’s difficult to say. I am not a politician, I am a Formula 1 driver.
“But it should not really be happening should it? It is not good that we have to worry about it – but that is the way it is now so let’s see and hope that the rest of the weekend is good and calm.”
Asked if he personally felt safe and secure, he said: “Yes, I feel okay, yeah.”