Fearful Force India skip Bahrain practice as fears grow ahead of troubled Grand Prix
10:46 GMT, 20 April 2012
Force India will duck most of second practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix due to safety concerns surrounding the troubled race.
Deputy team principal Bob Fernley has confirmed Force India plan to leave the circuit before nightfall to avoid any more problems.
Decision: Force India will complete 'limited running' during the second session
Last-minute talks: Ecclestone speaks to Force India Deputy team leader Bob Fearnley
The decision comes in the wake of four team members being caught up in a petrol-bomb incident en route to Manama from the Bahrain International Circuit on Wednesday night.
It means all team members will now leave the track and be back in their hotel before it gets dark, when a number of violent protests are again due to take place across the Gulf kingdom.
Leading the way: Hamilton was quickest in Friday's first practice session
No chances: The security presence was on full display at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday
Asked if the team were pulling out of FP2, deputy team principal Bob Fernley said: 'We're going to limit it.
'We are looking at it from the point
of view of the well being of everybody, and the comfort of everybody is
in place, and that's the key objective for us.
Pointing the finger: The F1 supremo arrived in Bahrain on Friday
'But the team is absolutely fully committed to racing here. We will be there for qualifying and the race.
'We're the only team that were involved in Wednesday night,' added Fernley speaking to Sky Sports.
'Logic and emotions don't necessarily tie up.
Packing up early: Force India will ensure they're back in their hotel before darkness falls
Strength in numbers: Ecclestone has come under pressure for allowing the Bahrain race to go ahead
'We've got all the data we need from this morning. It is not the end of the world and we'll cope with it. We're totally committed to the Bahrain Grand Prix.
'We're talking about emotion not logic. Emotion has to be considered.
'We're just going to look at the programme of what we're going to do now.
'It's possible we may not run at all, or just do half a session or whatever it is.
In the spotlight: Hamilton was quickest during the first free practice session
'We're looking at the engineers'
reports. We did a lot of work this morning as you probably saw, so we
have the data we need, so we can afford, if necessary, to miss out on
Wednesday's incident saw the four team members involved in a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It is understood a pitched battle
ensued between demonstrators and police, with eight petrol bombs landing
in the vicinity of the traffic hold-up in which the Force India car was
caught, forcing the riot police to respond with tear gas.
The show must go on: A Bahraini fan looks on as Sebastian Vettel (below) is pulled back into his garage
None of the four were injured, but the incident has sent a shockwave through the team and Formula One in general.
Two team members, one of whom was in the car at the time, flew home on Thursday citing their fears regarding safety.
Addressing the security concerns again, Fernley added: 'We've had issues, as you all know.
Feel the force: Fernley says the 'risk is worthwhile'
'We have to make sure that the crew are comfortable in their environment, and that's what we are working on.
Hamilton leads the way in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton ended the first practice session for this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix on top of the timesheets.
The McLaren star, who arrives in the Gulf kingdom leading the world championship, clocked the fastest time from Sebastian Vettel with Paul di Resta third quickest.
Chinese Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest, with Jenson Button fifth.
'But the crew are totally committed
to qualifying and the race, and if it means we run limited or no FP2 in
order to achieve that, then that's the decision we'll take.'
Fernley insists the team are not
rattled, but believes they have had to put their own measures in place
in light of what occurred.
'We have a plan which we are totally
comfortable with, and totally committed to, so there are no issues with
that at all,' said Fernley.
'We're doing the best we can to make sure the crew are safe. I don't believe there will be issues, but there will be protests.
'Although what happened was an
unfortunate incident, when it's your team it happens to, you have to
deal with it in a proper manner, which is what we're doing.'
'With all due respect, I don't think the FIA or the Bahraini authorities ever said safety was 100 per cent guaranteed,' added Fernley.
Conflict: Protestors have clashed with police in the run up to this weekend's race
'We all knew there was a slight risk in coming here, and that risk is worthwhile taking if it puts the platform in place for debate, to be able to get Bahrain into a healthy position.
'Our team are very prepared to do that, but we have to do it within the confines of making sure we have a crew committed to our programmes, which we have today.'
Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Coope has called for the race to be scrapped.
Speaking on BBC's Question Time, she said: 'It shouldn't go ahead, I don't think British drivers should go, I think the Formula One should not go ahead in Bahrain.
'You have got demonstrations by democratic protesters who have been violently suppressed and although it should be a matter for the sport to decide rather than for the Government, I do think government ministers can express an opinion.
'That opinion should be it should not go ahead, it would sent the wrong signal, it should not happen.'